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

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.11 ERA) vs. John Lackey (11-8, 2.92) – 8:15 PM ET, broadcast on MASN2

After completing eight innings in a win over the Dodgers on August 10, Gio Gonzalez has struggled to get past the fifth inning in each of his last three outings (all losses). Against the Padres on August 26, Gonzalez went 4.2 innings, gave up five runs (four earned runs) on seven hits, struck out six, and walked two on 86 pitches.

The 29-year-old left-hander has 12 walks in his last six starts and he has given up 14 runs over his 11.1 innings. It was thought Gonzalez had turned the corner after he went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five July starts. However, August has been the exact opposite for him. This month, he is 1-3 with a 5.68 ERA in five starts and opponents are hitting .333 against him.

In four starts against the Cardinals, Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA. One of those starts came on April 21 back at Nats Park. In that game, the Cardinals did get eight hits and drew four walks, but Gonzalez kept them off the board for six innings in a no-decision. Jason Heyward (.291, 11 HR, 48 RBI’s) is 6-for-28 against him with four RBI’s.

The Cardinals have some good young pitchers in their rotation, but Lackey’s success this season has gone under the radar. The 36-year-old right-hander has thrown 172.2 innings, which is the sixth most of any pitcher in the National League and has given up three runs or fewer in nine of his last ten outings.

In Lackey’s last start on August 26 against the Diamondbacks, he went seven innings, gave up one run on seven hits, struck out four, and walked one. In his last eight starts, he is 4-3 with a 2.77 ERA and has struck out 41 batters to just 11 walks. He is the guy in this Cardinals’ rotation that can eat innings at the back end of the rotation and keep his team in the game.

Lackey is 1-0 against the Nats with a 4.58 ERA in three career starts. On April 22, he got the no-decision against Washington. He went 5.2 innings, gave up five runs on eight hits, struck out four, and walked one. Yunel Escobar is 10-for-27 against him with three doubles, four RBI’s, and three walks.

Advantage: When you look at this game, I think this is the one where the Nats have the best chance to win. Lackey has been consistent, but the Nationals’ offense did have success against him in April. If Washington can score runs for Gonzalez, who has a 4.84 ERA away from Nats Park, they will get the win, but the next two pitching matchups do not look favorable to them.

Next: Tomorrow's Matchup