Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats Vs. Dodgers (7/17-7/19)

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Jul 14, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws against the American League during the fifth inning of the 2015 MLB All Star Game at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw (6-6, 2.85) vs. Doug Fister (3-4, 4.08) – 4:05 PM ET, MASN and FOX Sports 1

Even though Kershaw hasn’t had his best season in 2015, he has still put together some good numbers. In his last 25 innings, he has given up a total of three earned runs. His final start before the break against the Phillies on July 8 was where he showed his dominance. He threw a complete game eight-hit shutout and struck out 13 batters on 123 pitches. However, he gave up two runs in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s All-Star Game and was the losing pitcher for the NL.

That win on July 8 was Kershaw’s first win since June 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals (five starts). At times, he has been hittable and the 27-year-old left-hander only has six wins, but he is third in innings pitched in NL and leads the league with strikeouts (160). Plus, his FIP is 2.39, which is second in the NL behind Max Scherzer.

In 11 appearances (10 starts) against the Nats, he is 7-2 with a 2.59 ERA. He has not lost to Washington in his last five starts with his last loss occurring in 2010. Bryce Harper is 1-for-6 against him, but that one hit was a home run (September 2, 2014).

Due to the rain out last Wednesday, this will be first start that Doug Fister will make since July 6 against the Reds. In that outing, he went six innings, gave up two runs (one earned run) on eight hits, struck out two, and walked one on 86 pitches. Even though Fister got the no-decision in that game, he is still allowing hitters to put the ball into the air.

Over his last three starts, Fister has had hitters hit ten or more flyball outs. The command has been better, but since the 31-year-old righty doesn’t get many strikeouts, he needs to induce more groundball outs in order to be more successful in this start. Fister hasn’t pitched in over a week, but he does have a 2.41 ERA in three starts this season on six or more days rest.

Fister has made just one start against the Dodgers, which occurred on September 2, 2014. He went five innings, gave up four runs (three earned runs) on ten hits, struck out two, and walked two in a loss. It would be his last loss of the regular season. Howie Kendrick is 6-for-23 against him with two doubles, a home run, and four RBI’s.

Advantage: While I expect Fister to keep this game close, this is one of those games where the Nats are going to miss having their regular offensive guys. Kershaw has not been his Cy Young/MVP self from last season, but this is a tall order for Fister to beat him. Dodgers get a crooked inning in this one and win the game 7-3.

Next: Sunday's Matchup