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

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Jun 28, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) pitches during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99) vs. Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49) – 11:05 AM ET, MASN and MLB Network

Last year’s World Series MVP has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. The 25-year-old Bumgarner has pitched into the eighth inning in each of his last five starts. Plus, he has given up three runs or fewer in nine of his last ten starts.

In his last four outings, the right-hander has given up seven earned runs combined. He has been able to rack up the strikeouts in his outings, recording eight or more K’s in five of his last six starts. This includes a start against the Padres on June 23 when he struck out 14 batters.

Last postseason, the Nationals were the only team to beat the Giants’ ace. In Game 3 of the NLDS, he went seven innings, gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits, struck out six, and walked one in the loss. As for his career as a whole, Bumgarner is 2-3 with a 2.60 ERA in seven starts against the Nats. Bryce Harper is 3-for-9 against him with a home run. Remember, Harper had three home runs in that four game series last October.

In his two starts back from the disabled list, Stephen Strasburg has looked like the Strasburg of old. In 12 innings of work, he has given up two runs, struck out 15 batters, and walked two. Against the Phillies on June 28, he struck out nine batters and gave up two runs to get the win.

For Strasburg, the key for him has been the ability to get his fastball over for strikes and with a higher velocity. According to Brooks Baseball, Strasburg’s average fastball velocity against Philadelphia was 96.7 miles per hour with a high of 99.5. When he is able to get his fastball over for strikes, it allows him to use his curveball and changeup effectively to finish off hitters. In addition, it was good to see that the Nats trusted him to go 113 pitches in his second start back.

In the regular season, Strasburg is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts against the Giants. However, Strasburg lost Game 1 of the NLDS to Peavy last season. In that game, he went five innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on eight hits, struck out two, and walked one on 89 pitches. The problem that day for Strasburg was out of the 25 batters he faced, he only had ten first pitch strikes. Crawford is 3-for-9 against him with four RBI’s.

Advantage: With this game being played on the 4th of July, this should be a great crowd at Nats Park. I don’t expect a lot of offense in this one as both pitchers are performing well heading into this outing. If Strasburg doesn’t get that fastball over for strike one, it could be a long day. I think he will pitch well, but unless the Giants make mistakes in the field, Bumgarner finds a way to win a 4-3 game.

Next: Sunday Night's Matchup