Series Preview: The Capital Cure
Image courtesy of © Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsBrief Overview:
As is to be expected from any National League club, the Nationals are relative strangers to Target Field. This will be their first visit without Bryce Harper, and thankfully for the Twins, Max Scherzer is not scheduled to pitch in this set either. Washington is wrapping up a brief two-city road trip and is just 1-3 after leaving Atlanta with a series loss.
What They Do Well:
You have to start this section with their resolve and resilience. Expected to be a postseason team when 2019 began, the Washington Nationals raced out to an awful 20-31 start. By the beginning of June it looked like Davey Martinez’s squad was left for dead owning a 24-33 record and trailing in the NL East by nine full games.Since that point they have gone 55-30 being one of the hottest teams in the sport, and are now firmly entrenched in the first wild card spot.
It’s not a surprise that a team with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin in its rotation would pitch well. At fifth in overall fWAR as a staff, it’s the rotation that does the heavy lifting on this club. Washington’s starters own the best fWAR in baseball and have generated a full win more than the second-place Dodgers.
Just because they can pitch doesn’t mean they don’t hit as well. Bryce Harper’s departure wasn’t ever going to be inconsequential but the lineup has had plenty of players step up. The lineup has produced a top third fWAR and they’ve scored the seventh most runs in all of baseball.
What They Do Not Do Well:
Technically we could put fielding in this category as the Nationals own the 19th-rated team in terms of defensive WAR. That’s essentially middle of the pack though, and it’s only two spots shy of the Minnesota Twins.
Relief pitching has been atrocious. Washington owns the 25th overall fWAR from a relief perspective, and the poor performances have come from all over the place. Sean Doolittle looked like a lock-down lefty until just shy of the trade deadline, and now he’s got a 4.09 ERA. Tanner Rainey is the only arm with an ERA south of 4.00 to pitch more than 25 innings for the Nationals, and they’ve turned to Oakland Athletics castoff Fernando Rodney as a steadying presence. The bullpen is a hodgepodge of no-names and has-beens, while the group as a whole has hardly lived up to expectations (or performed right on par with them depending on how you look at it.)
Individuals of Note:
You know all about Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin. You probably know that Juan Soto is one of the best young players in the game right now. The outfielder has a .968 OPS through 131 games and he’s making it look incredibly easy. Former divisional foe Yan Gomes is on this club, and previous fan favorite Brian Dozier comes back to town for the first time as well.
The most important individual, and one that flies under the radar most often, is none other than Anthony Rendon. Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger have gotten all of the NL MVP hype in 2019, but you best believe the Nationals third baseman is deserving of consideration as well.
Rendon is just 29, has a 1.047 OPS and has blasted 32 dingers this season. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he does it all while playing a strong third base. If it’s Gerrit Cole being handed a blank check on the bump this free agency cycle, teams should be lining up to pay Rendon whatever he wants to join their lineup.
Minnesota last played Washington in 2016 going 0-3 against them. The last time the Nationals were in Minnesota the Twins still played at the Metrodome. In 2008 the Twins swept the Nats over a three-game series in June.
Minnesota has gone 6-4 over their last ten games but are coming off a dropped series to begin this six game home swing. The Nats are 5-5 in their last 10 and went 1-4 against the Braves to start this trip.
Tuesday: Berrios vs Sanchez
Wednesday: Perez vs Strasburg
Thursday: Gibson vs Corbin
For whatever reason I was convinced that the Twins were scheduled to play the Nationals in 2020. That isn’t the case though, and Stephen Strasburg will be making his Target Field debut this week.
Juan Soto was all of 9-years-old when Washington last came to Minnesota.
This is going to be a clash of two good, likely playoff-bound, clubs. The Twins need to get healthy, and showing a lineup that resembles that during this series is a must. With the starter tipped in their favor just once, the Twins are in an uphill battle, but this team has risen to the occasion often in 2019. I’ll say the Fightin’ Rocco’s take two and keep the train moving.
- Mike Frasier Law likes this