Washington Nationals 2020 Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals works the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game one of a double header at Nationals Park on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin #46 of the Washington Nationals works the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game one of a double header at Nationals Park on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Tampa was a win away from taking down the Astros in the ALDS. With some new additions and players at full health, will 2020 be the year Tampa wins it all?

The Rundown

The Tampa Bay Rays flew under the radar in 2019 and won 96 games. They went on to beat the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card game and pushed the Houston Astros to five games in the ALDS. Tampa has one of the best pitching staffs in the league led by Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow. Charlie Morton had the best season of his career and finished third in the AL Cy Young race. Morton went 16-6, with a 3.05 ERA, and 240 strikeouts. He carried the team while Snell and Glasnow dealt with injuries. When healthy, they have arguably the best trio in the AL.

Tampa’s offense is built around breakout star Austin Meadows. Meadows was acquired with Tyler Glasnow in the trade that sent Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. It is safe to say Tampa won that trade by a landslide. Meadows was called up at the end of 2018 and hit .287, with six homers between the Pirates and Rays. 2019 marked Meadows first full season in the majors and he delivered. The 24-year-old hit .291, with 33 homers, 89 RBI’s, and had an OPS of .922. Now Meadows will look to build on his terrific campaign and get Tampa farther into the playoffs.

Last season Tampa was missing some power in the middle of the lineup so they traded for Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, and Maneul Margot, while also signing Japanese star Yoshitomo Tsustugo. Martinez is projected to be the new DH and is a huge addition. Tampa has had a quiet, but successful off-season and they are now in great position to take on the New York Yankees for the AL East crown.

Tampa Bay Rays 2019 record: 96-66

Washington’s record vs. Tampa last season: Didn’t play each other

Tampa added/resigned: Jose Martinez, Manuel Margot, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Hunter Renfroe,

Tampa lost: Avisail Garcia, Travis d’Arnaud, Eric Sogard, Matt Duffy, Tommy Pham,

Nationals to Watch

Tampa’s big three can match the Nationals pitching staff and make it tough on Washington’s offense. This match up would come down to which pitcher falters first. Patrick Corbin has faced the current Rays lineup the most dating back to his time in the NL West. The third ace of the Nationals is coming off a stellar season in which he went 14-7, with a 3.25 ERA, and 238 strikeouts.

In 59 at bats, the current Rays lineup is hitting .305, with two homers, and 14 RBI’s against the lefty. The key match-up to watch is Corbin vs. Margot. In 24 at bats, Margot is hitting .292 with a homer, three RBI’s, and five strikeouts against Corbin. The 25-year-old has found the most success against Corbin and it will be essential for him to continue his dominance.

2020 Series Breakdown

The two teams won’t play this year unless they meet up in the World Series. Tampa has the pitching staff to go toe to toe with the Nats, and an improved offense. It will be up to the new guys in Tampa to sway the series. On the other side, it will come down to Juan Soto taking over the offense in Anthony Rendon’s absence.

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