Washington Nationals: 5 to watch at Dodger Stadium

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Nationals wrap up their road trip with a three game series at Dodger Stadium. Here are our five players to watch in this series.

It wasn’t a pretty end to the West Coast trip, but the Washington Nationals (35-20) found a way to take two out of three games from the Oakland Athletics. In the three games, the Nats scored 28 runs, including two games where they scored ten or more runs.

Most of those runs in the series came via the long ball. During the three games against the A’s, the team hit a total of nine home runs. Michael Taylor and Daniel Murphy each hit two home runs during the series.

Tonight, the Washington Nationals will begin the last portion of their nine game road trip and it will be arguably their toughest test of the season. They will begin a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers (35-23), who are a half game behind the Colorado Rockies for first place in the National League West.

Last postseason, the Dodgers knocked off the Nats in an action-packed five game series in the NLDS. If you include the six regular season games these two teams played against each other last season, there were only three games decided by more than three runs (all three won by the Washington Nationals).

While the Nats lead the league in runs scored, the Dodgers aren’t that far behind. They are fifth in all of baseball in that category (283) and they are second in the NL as a team in on-base percentage at .335 (Nats are first – .348).

Right now, Justin Turner is out of the lineup since he’s on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. But, Los Angeles still has many good players in their lineup. Shortstop Corey Seager has a .OBP of .382 with 55 hits, but the big story is rookie left fielder Cody Bellinger and his 12 home runs.

On the mound, the conversation starts with Clayton Kershaw, who is off to a great start to his 2017 campaign and just surpassed 2,000 strikeouts for his career. The Dodgers are second in the NL in starters’ ERA (3.52), but one of their best pitchers, Alex Wood (5-0, 1.90 ERA) is on the DL as well with joint inflammation in his pitching shoulder.

In the bullpen, the microscope will be on the Nats after they nearly blew a 11-4 lead in the ninth inning yesterday. When you look at Los Angeles’s bullpen, they have one of the best closers in the game in Kenley Jansen and they lead the NL in ERA (2.70) and strikeouts (238).

This is a big litmus test for the Washington Nationals as they try to make a statement that they can win a series on the road against one of the best teams in the NL. They did that in April against the Rockies, but a series win over LA on the road in a series that includes Kershaw would put a great end to this trip.

Here are the pitching matchups in this three game series:

Tonight: Gio Gonzalez (4-1, 3.03 ERA) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-5, 3.91) – 10:10 p.m ET, broadcast on MASN/ESPN

Tomorrow: Max Scherzer (6-3, 2.56) vs. Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 3.38) – 10:10 p.m, MASN2

Wednesday: Stephen Strasburg (7-1, 2.91) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.28) – 3:10 p.m, MASN/MLB Network

Now, here are our five players to watch, starting with a second baseman who is having an excellent west coast trip: