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Series Preview #11: Diamondbacks vs Nationals

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The D-backs' bats o' fire take on the blazing hot Nationals.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Diamondbacks (14-16) vs Washington Nationals (17-15)

Note: I'm trying out a slightly different format for this week's preview, let me know what you think of it down in the comments. Now, let us begin with the 11th preview of the year.

The Week (or two) In Review

The Diamondbacks are coming off a fairly successful week, where they swept a doubleheader with the Rockies, then split a 4 game series with the Padres. They are currently 4th in the NL West, 6 games back of the 1st place Dodgers, and just 2 games below .500. They are still playing competitively 10 days into May, unlike last year when the season was over at the end of April.

The Nationals are very hot, having won 2 out of 3 against the Marlins, then sweeping the Braves in a 3 game series. Due to a slow start to the season, they trail the NL Central-leading Mets by 3.5 games. Over the last 10 games, they have been playing like everyone thought they would when the season started with an 8-2 record. This is gonna be a tough matchup against arguably the best team and starting rotation in the MLB.

Good News
  • The Diamondbacks have scored 6 or more runs in 9 games this season, which should basically guarantee a win every time out. If you can guarantee yourself a win in a third of your games, you're gonna be in a good spot.
  • In the month of May, the D-backs rotation has put up an ERA of 3.51 and is 3-1. If you take out Jeremy Hellickson's 2 starts where he allowed a total of 8 runs over 10 innings, that ERA would drop significantly.
  • The power bats have come alive lately. In the month of May, the D-Backs have hit 13 homers, which is good for 3rd in the majors over that time period.
  • Bryce Harper has the Nationals offense on his back. He has driven in 13 out of 33 of the runs they have scored in May. The next highest RBI total is 7. If he slows down, the Nationals' offense will also see a big drop in production.
Bad News
  • The Nationals' pitchers are amazing. They have the best FIP in the majors, and also lead the league in WAR. It will be tough for Dbacks pitchers to compete with these guys.
  • The Diamondbacks bullpen has been very bad. For the last 14 days, they have had an ERA of 4.63. Yikes. The Nationals' bullpen on the other hand has had an ERA of 2.83 in that same time period.
  • The Nats have been really, really good at everything. I could give you a whole bunch of stats to prove this, but I'll just give you a simple one because I like simple stats: in the last 2 weeks, they have scored the 4th most runs in the majors (73).
Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Max Scherzer RHP (2-3, 2.11 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) vs Josh Collmenter RHP (3-3, 3.40 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)

Collmenter is really turning into the rock the rotation needs him to be. His last start was not great, with him allowing 5 runs in 7 innings, though he did receive 13 runs of support in that win. He should only get better, as his BABIP is about 30 points higher than his career number.

Max Scherzer? That name sounds familiar, but I just can't put my finger on where I've heard it. Weird. He has been fantastic this year for the Nats, having allowed 2 or less runs in 5 of his 6 starts. He's a pretty big flyball pitcher, which should benefit the D-Backs considering they are playing in Chase Field. In fact, Scherzer has not pitched great at Chase, with a 4.03 ERA here, though many of those starts came during his time a few years ago with the D-Backs.

Game 2: Stephen Strasburg RHP (2-3, 4.73 ERA, 1.61 WHIP) vs Rubby de la Rosa RHP (3-2, 4.38 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)

In his last start, we saw the Rubby that we traded for, when he went 7 innings and allowed just 3 hits and no runs. We have seen this level of performance one other time during the season, when he went 7 innings an gave up one run. We know what he can do, now it is just a matter of him doing it more consistently.

Stephen Strasburg has really struggled this year, still yet to have a dominant start all year. He hasn't even had many good starts, with just one quality start all year. One factor in this has been his BABIP, which is a shade below .400. I will be going to this game, so I would love it if that BABIP chooses not to regress but instead go up.

Game 3: Gio Gonzalez LHP (3-2, 3.62 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) vs Jeremy Hellickson RHP (1-3, 5.85 ERA, 1.73 WHIP)

Jeremy Hellickson is bad. If you want in depth analysis on him, read this, an article written a couple days ago by Jim. I will instead tell you a short story about Jeremy. When I told my dad that de la Rosa was pitching at the game we are going to Tuesday, his response was "at least it's not Hellickson." I think that is a good way to live your life. If you're going through tough times, just think to yourself, "at least it's not Hellickson"

Man, my memory is terrible. I thought Gio just started pitching for the Nationals in 2014. Apparently he's been there since 2012. I am smart. Gonzalez has been very consistent this year, going 6 or more innings in 5 of his 6 starts. He is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 3 starts against the D-Backs, which is a little frightening. Oh well.

X-Factors

The X-Factor for the Dbacks is... Nick Ahmed. He needs to figure out how to get on base. Bat lefty, lean into a pitch, bunt, do something. He is so great defensively, but batting well below .200 will have him in AAA really quick.

For the Nationals, the X-Factor is Bryce Harper. If he keeps playing the way he has been, we have no chance at all of beating these guys. That's how good he has been.

Series Prediction

The Dbacks only win one out of three (hopefully the one I'll be at) in this series.