After a three-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins, the Washington Nationals – Major League Baseball’s only undefeated team – will go to Ohio to take on the defending National League Central champions, the Cincinnati Reds. This is a matchup between two contending teams and the two teams that lost in the National League Division Series last season. Both expect to get there again this year.
The story right now is the Nationals pitching staff, but Great America Ballpark is known for being a hitters park, so the offense might have to pick up the slack, especially in the season opener.
I give the three matchups a 1-1 score with one draw. I’m skeptical of Haren until he proves me wrong, and am really excited for Detwiler this season. I think Bailey is primed for a breakout and Leake was moved to the rotation after Aroldis Chapman went back to the bullpen. You can’t go wrong with Strasburg or Cueto. I’m sure at least 95 per cent of Washington fans would choose Strasburg and vice versa with Cincinnati fans and Cueto.
However, both are undoubtedly the face of their teams and are relied on to provide leadership and offense. It has been tough sledding for Votto even going back to the World Baseball Classic. However, where he is struggling with the bat (1/10), he is getting on base (3 BB, .400 OBP). Votto won’t stay asleep for long, though and it will be interesting to see how Nationals pitching attacks him in a lineup of good hitters.
Zimmerman has rebounded from an 0/3 3 K opener. Since then, he is 5/7 with a 2B, 3B and three RBI. If he can continue providing extra base hits scoring the guys in front of him, it will be a nice rebound from an injury plagued 2012 season which really wasn’t bad offensively for the Nationals third baseman.
The Leadoff Men
Denard Span and Shin-Soo Choo are no strangers to facing off, having done it in the American League Central. Both have arrived to shore up their new teams biggest weakness from a year ago and are both off to good starts.
Choo is 4/12 with four runs scored a HR and RBI and one walk (.333/.467 AVG/OBP) while Span is 3/9 with two runs scored, an RBI and three walks (.333/.500). If the two of them can continue that success this will not be the only series preview I will be writing between the two teams. With Ryan Ludwick out for Cincinnati, it becomes even more important for Choo to hit the ball well because while Chris Heisey is good, he’s not Ludwick.
Washington only has Christian Garcia on the 15-day DL and is otherwise healthy. They have not used most of their bench – of their Opening Day starters only Wilson Ramos has sat so far this season. Most managers like to use their bench players in a start during the season’s opening week so we will see what will happen in that regard.