Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats at Dodgers (8/10-8/12)

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Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It was not the homestand that the Washington Nationals (57-53) and their fans would have hoped to see. Over the course of seven games against the Diamondbacks and Rockies, the Nats went 3-4 and are now 1.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and 4.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second Wild Card spot.

While Nats Park was buzzing Satursay night when Stephen Strasburg made his return to the rotation and struck out 12 Rockies over seven innings and on Sunday, Ryan Zimmerman had two home runs, but the story of the weekend was Drew Storen’s two bad outings in the eighth inning Friday and Sunday, which were the games that the Nats lost.

With the Nationals’ recent struggles, they begin a ten game West Coast trip that has the potential to either make or break the team’s season. It starts tonight in Los Angeles where the Nats will face the Los Angeles Dodgers (62-49). While the Dodgers will send Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw to the mound, Los Angeles has not exactly been dominant lately.

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While Don Mattingly’s club is still three games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, they are only 11-10 since the All-Star Break. This past weekend, the Dodgers were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates, a series in which the Pirates scored 22 runs in three games.

Since the All-Star Break, the Dodgers’ best hitter in their lineup has been first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.298, 22 HR, 68 RBI’s). Gonzalez, who was 7-for-11 with two home runs against the Nats last month, is hitting .359 with four home runs and 13 RBI’s in his last 20 games. Gonzalez leads the team in batting average, home runs, and RBI’s.

One of the players that has been struggling for Los Angeles of late is rookie centerfielder Joc Pederson. Pederson (.222, 21 HR, 43 RBI’s) is hitting a mere .167 this month and has not hit over .240 in any given month since April. If Pederson can boost his average up to go with his .354 on-base percentage, the Dodgers’ offense will get that much better.

At the trade deadline, Los Angeles did not get David Price or Cole Hamels, but they made a three-team trade with the Marlins and Braves where they acquired Mat Latos and Alex Wood to fill out the back of the rotation. The Dodgers also added Jim Johnson to their bullpen, but he gave up eight runs last night in less than an inning.

Last month, in a series that featured a game being suspended due to faulty lights at Nats Park, the Dodgers took two out of three games against the Nats. They outscored the Nationals 14-5 and got dominant performances from both Greinke and Kershaw.

Let’s take a look at who has the edge in these three pitching matchups:

Next: Tonight's Matchup