How have the Nationals done it? Solid pitching. The Nationals staff as a whole has allowed the fewest runs and hits in the National League, and their team ERA is 3.27, also best in the NL. Gio Gonzalez has been a solid offseason acquisition from Oakland, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler have put up impressive numbers, Jordan Zimmermann has stayed relatively healthy this year (recent inflamation of the shoulder nonwithstanding). And then there's that Strasburg guy (more on him later).
This weekend the D'Backs face the Washington Nationals. You knew this already, but what you also probably knew was that the Washington Nationals were not always the Washington Nationals. Readers under the age of seven may not know that there was a magical purple team known as the Montreal Expos. Long story short, the Expos were killed off by the 1994 strike, Omar Minaya, and Jeffery Loria. Like a really fantatic War of 1812 reinacter, they marched from Montreal to Washington DC. For awhile, they continued the old Washington baseball team tradition of being really really terrible (First in war, first in peace, last in the American League, was the saying for the old Senators). However, with terrible play comes great draft picks, and the Nats hit big on the two biggest and most hyped names coming out of the draft for two consecutive years. Lucky bastards.
Now the Nats are like someone who goes on one of those shallow makeover/plastic surgery extravaganza shows and now they're competing for the best record in the entire Major Leagues with the Reds and everyone is like "DAMN GIRL!", but I remember knowing them in their crumbling Olympic Stadium and Youppi years. The Diamondbacks should use this knowledge as psychological warfare, because they will need all the help offered because, like I said earlier, the Nationals are really good.
Offensively, the Nats aren't nearly as dominiant as their pitching counterparts, but they are still solid. They rank in the top half of the NL in all of the slash line categories, as well as OPS+, home runs, etc. Former Arizona Diamondbacks legend Adam LaRoche is having a solid year, hitting .271/.345/.516 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. Ian Desmond has been possessed by a pod person and has bettered his career averages immensely, however the host body resisted and he tore his oblique, and he has been on the 15 day DL since July 23rd. They also have this rookie outfielder who you may have heard of. He'll probably win National League Rookie of the Year, despite our Wade Miley based objections. Get ready to be angry about that in a few months.
As you might recall, the D'Backs faced the Nats at the start of May, going 1-2 in that series. It could have been a series win, but J.J Putz decided to give up a walk-off homer to Desmond in the second game of the series. It was kind of rude of him, don't you think? It was the beginning of a less than stellar month for Arizona, which the team have only recently recovered from to stay around Mount .500.
1. Stephen Drew, SS
2. Aaron Hill, 2B
3. Jason Kubel, LF
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
5. Justin Upton, RF
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Chris Johnson, 3B
8. Gerardo Parra, CF
9. Pitching Type Person, P
1. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
2. Bryce Harper, CF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Jayson Werth, RF
7. Danny Espinosa, SS
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Pitching Type Person Washington Edition, P
Game 1, Friday, 6:40 AZ Time. Trevor Cahill (9-9, 3.76) vs. Stephen Strasburg (12-5, 2.97)
Commentary that may or may not be insightful: Cahill had two solid starts on the just completed road trip. Unfortunately for him, one of those was the Sunday game in Philadelphia, and he had nothing to show for that. In a vacuum, Cahill's been alright for the D'Backs (just ignore the first inning) and not a weak link on the team, not in a vacuum, he has the unfortunate designation of being the guy traded for Jarrod Parker, and he must suffer for that sin for as long as he's been with the team, but hopefully he can continue being solid if unspectacular (or better, ideally) against the Nats.On the other hand...
Stephen Strasburg has been the most ballyhooed pitching prospect since ever, and he has lived up to that hype in his time in the majors. One would assume that he'd be vital for the Nationals in any playoff run, but, and here's the intrigue, he's been put on a much publicized 160 innings limit for this season, as he's coming off Tommy John surgery and the Nationals want to be careful with their prize. He's currently 79.3% there coming into this series. INTRIGUE.
On one hand, I can understand their view towards the long-term, and they have enough pitching depth that a lack of Strasburg might not hurt them too much the stretch.
Game 2, Saturday, 5:10 AZ Time. Wade Miley (12-7, 2.85) vs. Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.56)
Commentary that may or may not be insightful: Wade Miley is the light and the path to salvation and we should all follow it willingly, oyez, oyez, oyez.
Edwin Jackson is someone you may remember from 2010, and his "technical no-hitter" against the Rays. It's been written before and will be written again: He's played for 7 teams, which technically makes him a journeyman, but he does not have the typical mediocre journeyman profile. GMs just looooove him as a trade chip, it seems.
This is also the game a bunch of unseemly drunken louts will be camped out by the Right Field bullpen. Hide your children.
Game 3, Sunday, 1:10 AZ Time. Patrick Corbin (3-4, 3.53) vs. Ross Detwiler (6-4 2.99)
Commentary that may or may not be insightful: Corbin has had noticeable improvement (SSS) in his second starting stint in the majors. He shut out the Dodgers and had a quality start against Pittsburgh, and those aren't terrible-ish lineups. It would seem the time in Triple-A has done him well.
Ross Detwiler sounds like the name of a villain in an 80s school based comedy, but he has been a solid fifth starter for the Nationals. Devotees may remember a game on May 3rd where Detwiler and the bullpen for Washington held the D'Backs to one run in a 2-1 loss. So, revenge time.
Predictions: Joy, laughter, smiles, and then baseball starts. Normally when somebody asks me to predict a series, I would say "You should ask that query to professional circus workers. The ones in heavy makeup, to be specific, as that question would be relevant to them, brother." Only the Saturday pitching matchup looks close to promising, but I will be in attendance for that game, and the D'Backs have not lost a game I've attended since 2000. So I'm going to say Nationals two games to one and hope I am wrong.
Do you like baseball? Do you want to read about the Nationals? Do you like forms of government where there is a central government as well as smaller individual governments? Then Federal Baseball is for you.