Washington Nationals: 5 storylines to watch as Giants visit DC

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 09: (L-R) Denard Span
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 09: (L-R) Denard Span /
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A matchup of two struggling starters

AJ Cole and Matt Moore will match-up on Sunday afternoon, and they have both experienced struggles this season. Cole, a 25-year-old righty, has been used as a spot starter for the Nats over the last few seasons and is currently needed with Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross on the disabled list.

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Cole pitched well against the Phillies in early May for his first start of 2017, but has struggled in his two starts since. He got the nod last week in Miami, his second start of the season, and allowed five runs and four walks in five innings. It wasn’t a great start for Cole and the Nats lost 7-0.

Despite struggling, Cole was given another start on Tuesday. He faced Miami again and didn’t fare much better. He allowed four runs in five innings and the Nats lost 7-3, their only loss of the series.

Both of Cole’s rough starts this year have been against Miami, so maybe pitching against a different opponent will lead to better results. Nick Hundley is the only Giant to ever face Cole, and he’s hitless in three at-bats.

Moore, who was acquired by San Francisco in a deadline deal with Tampa Bay last season, has had a season to forget this year. In 23 starts, he has pitched to a 5.88 ERA, which is by far the highest of his career. He’s also struggled this month, pitching to a 7.36 ERA in two starts.

This start won’t be any easier for Moore, as Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters, and Ryan Zimmerman have all hit over .300 against Moore throughout their careers. Kendrick and Wieters have been especially impressive, doing it in over 20 at-bats.

Cole and Moore have both struggled this season and haven’t shown any signs of improving recently, so this could be a high-scoring affair.

Next: No need to fret over Harper's future

The Nationals have built a huge lead in the NL East, while the Giants are in the middle of a nightmare season and are completely out of the playoff picture. Possible bad blood, Max Scherzer’s start, Denard Span’s return to DC, the Nats’ incredible depth, and two struggling starters on Sunday should all be storylines to watch during what looks to be an entertaining weekend series.

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