Washington Nationals vs. Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview (6/15-6/18)

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Jun 7, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) throws the ball against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Archer (7-4, 2.00) vs. TBA – 7:05 PM ET, MASN

 The Washington Nationals have not yet named a starter for Thursday either, but Doug Fister (2-2, 4.31) is throwing a bullpen session today and the Nats will see if he is ready to make that start this week. Fister’s spot has been occupied by 22-year-old Joe Ross, who went eight innings and gave up two runs on seven hits while striking out eight in a win over the Brewers on Saturday.

Fister had a good outing in his final rehab start on Friday for double-A Harrisburg against the Trenton Thunder. He went six innings, gave up no runs on two hits, and struck out four batters on 70 pitche (47 strikes). Even though he doesn’t have a high velocity on his fastball, the key for Fister would be to get that sinker down in the zone and not leave it up like he did in the first couple of months when he gave up five home runs in seven starts.

Regardless of who is pitching on Thursday, it will be tough for that pitcher to beat Chris Archer the way he has been pitching this season. Archer, who has become the temporary “ace” of the Rays rotation, has not lost a start since May 7 against the Texas Rangers (seven starts).

In his last start on June 13, the 26-year-old right-hander went seven innings, gave up three runs on five hits, struck out five, and walked one in a no-decision. His five strikeouts snapped a streak of three straight starts in which Archer had double digit strikeouts in a game. His 113 K’s this season are the most in the American League and his WHIP of 0.94 is second in the AL, behind only Sonny Gray of the A’s (0.93)

Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond do have a RBI against Archer in their careers. Archer made one start against the Nats at Nats Park in June 2012. In his first ever Major League start, he went six innings, gave up one earned run on three hits and struck out seven, but took the loss.

Advantage: Regardless of who gets the start on Thursday for the Nationals, there will be a level of excitement at the ballpark, whether it’s to see Ross in his third outing or Fister make his return. However, with the way Chris Archer has been throwing this season, its tough to predict a Nats win in this one. If Archer’s changeup is dominant and in the zone, it wil be a long night in D.C. for Matt Williams’ offense. In the end, the Nats split the four game series with Tampa, winning one in each ballpark.

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