Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats vs. Padres (8/25-8/27)

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Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

James Shields (9-5, 3.74 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 4.22) – 7:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN

Shields was one of the main acquisitions this offseason for the Padres when San Diego signed him to a four year, $75 million. One thing that the 33-year-old right-hander has done well this season is eat innings. Shields has thrown 158.2 innings (ninth in the NL)  and is fourth in the NL in strikeouts (174).

While he has given up three runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts, one of the main issues for the former Rays and Royals’ pitcher has been his command. He has 56 walks, which his third in the NL and has walked 12 batters in his last six starts. In his last outing against the Braves on August 18, he went six innings, gave up no runs on five hits, struck out seven, and walked two in a win.

Against the Nationals, Shields has a 5.11 ERA in two career starts, but he has not faced Washington since 2009. Denard Span, who is expected to return to the lineup tonight, is 4-for-27 with two doubles against Shields.

As for Strasburg, he put together another dominant outing against the Rockies in his last start. He went seven innings, gave up one unearned run on two hits, struck out five, and did not walk a batter. In that game, he had 11 groundball outs, which is tied for the second most groundballs he has induced in an outing this season.

Even though Strasburg has struggled with numerous injury issues this season, you can make the case he is the most consistent pitcher on the Nats right now. He has not given up more than two runs in any outing since May 23 against the Phillies. Plus, in his last three starts, he has a combined 25 strikeouts to only two walks. If Strasburg can command his fastball, it will help him a long way with his secondary pitches.

In five starts against San Diego, Strasburg is 4-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Back on May 17 at PETCO Park, Strasburg went five innings, gave up three runs on five hits, struck out seven, and walked one in a 10-5 Nats’ win. Justin Upton is 9-for-29 against him with two home runs and five RBI’s. Upton’s brother, Melvin Upton Jr. (formerly B.J. Upton) also has two home runs against Strasburg.

Advantage: With Denard Span back in the lineup for the Nationals, the team should receive a huge boost in this game. Span is the type of hitter who can make Shields work out of the gate and draw some walks. Plus, this season, Shields has a 4.75 ERA in 13 road starts (2.78 ERA in 13 home starts). With Strasburg putting up good numbers since his return, this has the makings for the Nationals to extend their winning streak to three.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup