Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats vs. Giants (7/3-7/5)

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Jun 30, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) hits a home run in the third inning in a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

With the exception of scoring four runs in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals (43-36) did not have a great series on offense. In the final two games against two rookie pitchers (Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos), the Nats offense managed only two runs with the series ultimately ending in the Braves favor on a walk-off double by Cameron Maybin that bounced over the third base bag against Max Scherzer in the bottom of the ninth last night.

Even though the Nationals lost two of three to the Braves, they still hold a three game lead on the Mets and a five game lead on Atlanta in the NL East. This weekend, they look to get a little bit of a revenge and bring the fireworks to Nats Park on 4th of July weekend against a team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, the San Francisco Giants (42-38). San Francisco is coming to Nats Park after being swept by the Marlins this week down in Miami.

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Last October, the defending World Series champions knocked off the Nationals in four games in the NLDS, including a 2-1 18-inning win in Game 2 at Nats Park. This season, Bruce Bochy’s club has had to deal with a few injuries, but they are still just three games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead.

Right now, the Giants are without outfielders Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence, who are both on the disabled list. Yes, the offense does not have Pablo Sandoval this year (who is now with the Red Sox), but they are second in baseball in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage. Plus, they still have Buster Posey. The Giants’ catcher is hitting .304 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI’s this season.

While Posey is the centerpiece of their offense, keep an eye on a couple of young players in this series. Second baseman Joe Panik is hitting .316 with six home runs and 30 RBI’s and third baseman Matt Duffy is hitting .294 with eight home runs and 37 RBI’s.

San Francisco has also dealt with pitching injuries this season, but Jake Peavy is returning from the DL tonight after being out since April due to a back strain and Matt Cain made his return to the rotation yesterday against Jose Fernandez. San Fran’s starters’ ERA this season is 4.03, which is ninth in the NL.

As far as their bullpen is concerned, closer Santiago Casilla is getting a couple of days off because of his arm being tired. Casilla has saved 20 games in 24 chances and made 35 appearances this season.

Let’s take a look at who has the edge in these three pitching matchups, starting with tonight’s game, which starts at 6:05 PM ET:

Next: Tonight's Matchup