Washington Nationals vs. Cubs Series Preview (6/13-6/15)

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Jun 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) commits a throwing error against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Turner Field. The Cubs defeated the Braves 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) commits a throwing error against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Turner Field. The Cubs defeated the Braves 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals
Jun 11, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) commits a throwing error against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at Turner Field. The Cubs defeated the Braves 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Tonight, the Washington Nationals begin a three game series against the Cubs. Here’s our preview.

This month, the Washington Nationals (39-24) have been able to have a ton of success offensively. In the nine games they have played this month, the Nats have scored 66 runs (most in the National League) and have six games of seven or more runs scored.

Over the weekend, the Nats swept the Philadelphia Phillies for the second time this season. They did it in dramatic fashion when Jayson Werth hit a walk-off single with two outs and the bases loaded in yesterday’s win. They are now 4.5 games up on the Mets in the NL East, but their toughest challenge comes tonight when the Chicago Cubs (43-18) come into Nats Park.

Last month (May 5-May 8), the Cubs swept the Washington Nationals in all four games at Wrigley Field with every game being decided by three runs or fewer. Both teams look a little different this time around with Ben Revere now having more playing time since that last series as he came back from the oblique injury. On the Cubs’ side, they called up prospect Albert Almora when Jorge Soler went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

One important aspect of that series was the way that the Cubs pitched to Bryce Harper. Harper was walked 13 times in the four games and had only four official at-bats. Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t take advantage of those opportunities he had to drive in runs (2-for-19, five strikeouts). Since that series, Baker switched Daniel Murphy and Zimmerman’s spots in the batting order.

It’s no secret that Joe Maddon’s club is the best team in baseball right now. They have won eight of their last 11, 21 of their last 34 games, and are nine games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central. Their offense has scored the third most runs in the NL and they lead the league in on-base percentage (.351).

In his last 27 games, third baseman Kris Bryant (.280, 15 home runs, 45 RBI’s) has nine home runs and 21 RBI’s while first baseman Anthony Rizzo (.264, 14 home runs, 47 RBI’s) has four home runs and 18 RBI’s in his last 26 games. While the Nats have a strong second baseman in Murphy, Ben Zobrist is hitting .324 with a .431 on-base percentage and he was 6-for-13 against the Nats last month with three home runs and nine RBI’s.

Just like the last visit the Nats made to Chicago (vs. White Sox), the team is avoiding the top two starters in the rotation. This time, it is Jake Arrieta (10-1, 1.86 ERA) and Jon Lester (8-3, 1.89 ERA) who will not be facing Washington. However, Cubs’ starters have the lowest ERA (2.30), the lowest WHIP (0.97), and the third most strikeouts (Nats are first).

As for the bullpen, the Cubs’ 3.42 ERA is fourth in the NL and closer Hector Rondon is 11-for-11 in saves, has a 1.33 ERA, and has 29 strikeouts to only two walks. But, according to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Cubs had a scout looking at the Yankees’ Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman this weekend. If the Yankees do decide to sell, could the Cubs add another potent arm to that ‘pen?

Before the series starts tonight, here is my breakdown of the three pitching matchups:

Next: Tonight's Matchup

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