Winners of four of their last five, the Nationals will begin a short five-game homestand with two games agains the AL Central-leading 19-11 Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are playing extremely well, and are tied for the fewest losses in baseball. They recently swept the Braves, which does not bode well for how the Nationals might fare. They are second in the MLB in runs scored and batting average, and lead in on-base percentage thanks to reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting an incredible .385/.465/.615 with six home runs.
Their pitching is also stellar, coming in at fifth in baseball in ERA at 3.36, fourth in WHIP at 1.19, and second with 22 quality starts. Their horse is, of course, former AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander, who is 4-2 with a 1.55 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. After he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Sunday, the Nationals will fortunately avoid him. The pitchers they will face are no slouches in their own right, however.
Tuesday’s game will pit Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 1.82) against the Nationals’ best pitcher this year, Jordan Zimmermann(5-1, 1.64). Sanchez, a former Marlin, has been great this year, never pitching fewer than five innings and never allowing more than three runs. His most notable performance was his one against Atlanta, in which he pitched eight shutout innings and struck out an amazing 17 Braves. Over the past three seasons, Sanchez is 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in ten starts against the Nationals. Meanwhile, Zimmermann has been incredible for the Nats. He has thrown two complete games in his past four starts, and has not allowed a run in his last 17 innings pitched.
On Wednesday, Dan Haren (3-3, 5.01) will square off against Doug Fister (4-0, 2.48). Fister has allowed five runs combined in his past two starts over 13 innings, with 12 strikeouts and a relatively high 15 hits. However, his WHIP on the season is only 1.13, thanks in large part to his control. He has walked only one batter in his past two starts. Haren had a rough start to the season and was considered the Nats’ worst starter, but changed quite a few minds by pitching eight innings and allowing only one run against Atlanta in his most recent start, which cut his ERA by 1.28 runs.
The Tigers will likely be the toughest opponent the Nats have faced all season, so it will be good to see how well they fare against a team that is elite on both sides of the ball, and whether their recent success on offense against the Pirates will hold up.