Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats vs. Cubs (6/4-6/7)

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May 30, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Arrieta (4-4, 3.18) vs. Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 4.73), 7:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN

Arrieta is one of two pitchers that the Nationals will see this weekend that they did not see at Wrigley Field last week. In his last start against the Kansas City Royals, the 29-year-old right-hander gave up four runs on eight hits over seven innings. He struck out five batters, walked none, and gave up three home runs in a no-decision. Keep in mind that Arrieta had only given up three home runs in his nine previous outings.

During the month of May, Arrieta went 1-3 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts. Last month, his opponents’ batting average went up from .184 in April to .271. He has given up three runs or more in four of his last six starts. Even though his ERA is a bit high, his FIP is 2.90, which is seventh in the National League.

Against the Nats, the former Oriole is 0-1 in six starts against them with a 5.81 ERA, but he has a 1.38 ERA in two starts at Nats Park in his career (2012 and 2014). A hitter to watch in this game is Yunel Escobar. The third baseman is 7-for-18 against Arrieta with a home run.

As for Gio Gonzalez, he was going well against the Reds in his last start on May 30. However, at the plate, he was hit two times by Cincinnati’s starter, Raisel Iglesias. That affected him in the sixth inning, when he have up three runs. In that outing, the lefty went 5.1 innings, gave up four runs on seven hits, struck out six batters, and walked two.

In his last four starts, Gonzalez has given up 16 earned runs and four runs or more in three of those outings. In his start against the Reds, he only had six groundball outs, which was the lowest total of the season. With Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister on the disabled list, the Nats need Gonzalez to go at least six innings everytime out. So far, he’s done that in six of his ten outings.

Gonzalez’s record against the Cubs in his career is 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in six starts. Last season, in two starts against Chicago, he did not give up an earned run in 15 innings. While Anthony Rizzo is 0-for-11 against Gonzalez with four strikeouts, Dexter Fowler, the Cubs’ center fielder, is 5-for-11 with a home run and two RBI’s.

Advantage: This game should be close because Arrieta has been much more hittable in his last six starts. The key for him is going to be keep the Nationals offense from hitting the ball out of the park. This is a one or two-run game, but I am going with the Nats in this one based on Gio’s track record against Chicago and that he has a 3.33 ERA in four home starts this season (5.71 ERA away from Nats Park).

Next: Tomorrow's Game