Washington Nationals: 5 storylines to watch in trip to Houston

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

All-Star second basemen on display

With all the Washington Nationals injuries lately, you won’t find many head-to-head positions where these two teams have an even edge. One of those exceptions is at second base between Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve.

First, let’s start with Altuve, who is looking like he will win the American League MVP award this year. The three-time Silver Slugger leads the AL in batting average (.362) and stolen bases (29). Plus, he is the top three in runs, slugging percentage, and .OPS.

Since the All-Star break, Altuve has been putting up great numbers. Over his last 34 games, he has a slash line of .396/.433/.612 with 55 hits (leads the league), six home runs, and 17 RBI’s. If you thought those numbers were crazy, the .485 batting average he had last month at-bats) is a number that is absolutely absurd.

It’s a severe understatement that the Washington Nationals pitchers will have a tough time getting Altuve out this week. Against the three starters the Nats will throw in this series, the 27-year-old is 5-for-11 with a triple. In addition, he is 6-for-16 with a home run against Joe Blanton in his career. Dusty Baker needs to keep that stat in mind.

As for Murphy, he did have three RBI’s during the Padres series, but he was also 2-for-14 at the plate. Some of his swings and at-bats were not prototypical of the way Murphy plays, so that set off some concerns and Baker gave him the full night off on Saturday.

This year, Murphy has done some of his best work away from Nats Park. His 80 hits on the road are the most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball (Altuve leads with 97). His 49 RBI’s are tied for fourth in the league with Nelson Cruz and Marcell Ozuna.

Heading into this series’ it’s a mixed bag for Murphy in terms of his career numbers against the first two Astros starter. On the positive side, he does have a home run against Mike Fiers. Meanwhile, he is 4-for-21 with three strikeouts lifetime against Charlie Morton.

It’s rare that a runner up for MVP in one league a year ago gets a chance to face the frontrunner for MVP this year in the other league. Enjoy this position battle.