Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats Vs. Reds (7/6-7/8)

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Jul 1, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Doug Fister (58) reacts after giving up a solo home run to Atlanta Braves third baseman Juan Uribe (2, right) in the fourth inning of their game at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony DeSclafani (5-6, 3.68 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (3-4, 4.34) – 7:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN

When you take a look at this pitching matchup, it looks on paper to be a battle of two groundball pitchers. The Nationals do have some experience against DeSclafani. The 25-year-old right-hander faced the Nats back on May 29, when he went up against Strasburg. He went six innings, gave up two runs on eight hits, struck out one, and walked two in the victory.

In his last start against the Twins, DeSclafani threw 122 pitches (a career high), but gave up six runs on 11 hits in 6.2 innings in a loss. During the month of June, the rookie went 2-2 with a 4.10 ERA in six starts and opponents hit .293 against him.

However, when you put DeSclafani away from Great American Ball Park, he has been solid. In eight road starts, he is 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA and opponents are hitting .198 (.311 at home). In that loss to the Twins, he had 15 groundball outs, the same as he had against Washington in May. Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos each had two hits and a RBI in that game.

While Doug Fister did have 11 groundball outs in his last start against the Braves on July 1, he still gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings and a pair of home runs in a 4-1 loss. Since returning from the disabled list, the 31-year-old right-hander has given up nine runs in three outings and three home runs.

The one inning where the Nats veteran struggled in was the fourth inning when he gave up back-to-back home runs to A.J. Pierzynski and Juan Uribe and a RBI single to the pitcher, Matt Wisler. That being said, Fister still needs to continue to keep his sinker low, especially against a Reds lineup that is second in the NL in home runs (92).

In his career, Fister is 2-0 against the Reds with a 1.29 ERA with both starts taking place last season. Left fielder Marlon Byrd (.244, 14 HR, 32 RBI’s) is 5-for-12 with one home run and three RBI’s against him. Plus, Byrd comes into this series on a ten-game hitting streak, which includes six mult-hit games.

Advantage: The key to this game will be which pitcher can keep the ball down in the zone and keep the damage to a minimum. I expect this one to be close, but the edge goes to the Nats because of DeSclafani’s control. The Reds pitcher has walked 37 batters this season and has walked two or more hitters in nine of his last ten starts. Against this Nats lineup, you can’t afford to keep making mistakes. Washington wins the series opener.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup