Washington Nationals Series Preview: Cardinals-Nationals (4/21-4/23)

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Apr 17, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher

Max Scherzer

(31) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday – Max Scherzer vs. Michael Wacha – 4:05 PM ET, MASN

In his last start against the Phillies, Max Scherzer had all of his pitches working. He went eight innings, gave up one run on four hits and struck out nine. He has thrown the most innings of any NL pitcher (21.2 innings) and has 25 strikeouts (8+ K’s in each start).

His last two starts have come against the Phillies, but he has had his fastball velocity on average at about 93 miles per hour, according to Fangraphs. So far, he has been everything as advertised for Matt Williams and company. How about the fact that right-handers against Scherzer are hitting 4-for-37 (.108).

This matchup is intriguing because of the caliber of pitchers facing each other and that this was a matchup in a spring training game down in Jupiter in March. Back on March 25, Scherzer gave up three hits over six innings and struck out nine Cardinals. As for Michael Wacha, he gave up four hits over 5.2 innings, walked one and struck out four.

Scherzer has only faced four batter on St. Louis in his career, with Yadier Molina having a double against him, so his pitch arsenal will be somewhat unfamiliar to St. Louis.

As for Wacha, it is great to see the 23-year old back in the Cardinals rotation after missing most of the 2014 season due to injury. Wacha, who was a key contributor on the 2013 NL pennant team, has given up two runs in 13.1 innings pitched, both via the solo shot against the Cincinnati Reds (Todd Frazier and Joey Votto).

Wacha only has six strikeouts in two games, but he has induced 25 groundball outs. So far, his velocity hasn’t missed a beat as his average velocity of 93 mph is similar to last year (Fangraphs), when he pitched out of the bullpen in October, and in 2013. However, he is using his cutter more often, at about 20%. (10.4% last year).

In two starts against the Nationals, Wacha is 1-1 with a 0.57 ERA. Last season, on April 18, he went seven innings, gave up three runs on five hits, struck out seven, and gave up a homer to Anthony Rendon.

Prediction: This game will be a pitcher’s duel, but this is one that the Nationals gave Max Scherzer the big bucks for. Yes, it is April, but a series win over St. Louis would be big for this team’s confidence after a rough start. Both pitchers will throw great games, but give me the Nats by a score of 3-1 in the series finale.

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