Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats at Cardinals (8/31-9/2)

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Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals (66-63) just finished up a nine game homestand against the Brewers, Padres, and Marlins, in which they went 6-3 and won each series. The Nats’ offense had a good series offensively against Miami over the weekend. They hit seven home runs against Marlins’ pitching, but more injuries happened as Stephen Strasburg left yesterday’s win after four innings because of tightness in his back.

Despite the Nats starting to play more consistent baseball, they have not been able to gain significant ground on the Mets in the NL East. The Mets did lose two out of three games to the Red Sox this weekend, but they have a 5.5 game lead on the Nats with 33 games left. Plus, the Mets begin a three game series against the Phillies tonight, a team that they are 12-1 against this season.

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As for the Nats, they head on the road for a brief three game trip, but those three games will take place at Busch Stadium against the team with the best record in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals (84-46). Despite that great record, the NL Central is still a race as St. Louis leads the Pirates by 4.5 games. The Nats and Cardinals have not faced each other since April 21-23 at Nats Park, a series that the Cardinals won two out of the three games. St. Louis has won seven of their last eight games, are 18-9 in their last 27 games, and 28-13 over their last 41 contests.

When you talk about Mike Matheny’s team, their strength is their pitching. Even though Adam Wainwright is out for the season with a torn ACL, the Cards have the best starters’ ERA in baseball (2.79) and have the most quality starts in the game (90). They have four pitchers with ten or more wins, including Michael Wacha, who is 15-4 with a 2.69 ERA. In the bullpen, closer Trevor Rosenthal is 41-for-43 in saves with a 1.52 ERA and leads a ‘pen that has the lowest ERA in the game (2.33)

While the Cardinals’ offense does not have one player carrying the team, they do a good job of playing team ball, despite losing players like Matt Adams and Matt Holliday due to injuries. The player to watch is third baseman Matt Carpenter (.262, 20 HR, 69 RBI’s). Carpenter has 11 home runs and 26 RBI’s to go with a .339 on-base percentage over his last 41 games. The Cardinals have a good mix of veterans and youth in their lineup. For example, rookie right fielder Stephen Piscotty is hitting .341 over his last 46 games with three home runs and 23 RBI’s.

Before this series gets underway, let’s look at who has the edge in each of these three pitching matchups:

Next: Tonight's Matchup