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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Nationals series preview

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This series will be a good test for the Cubs.

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals have had a good season so far. The Cubs have struggled. Yet, the Cubs enter this series “only” seven games worse than the Nats.

Patrick Reddington of our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball updates us on his team:

A few things you should know about the Nationals? One, not all Nats fans believe the narrative that Joe Maddon broke Bryce Harper last season by walking him 13 times in 19 plate appearances in Wrigley Field. Dusty Baker noted after the series that Harper was struggling before the walk-fest with the Cubs, starting in late April really, before he even went to Chicago.

What really hurt in that series was that Maddon was able to do what he did because Ryan Zimmerman didn’t make the Cubs pay for putting Harper on in front of him over and over.

Zimmerman is a different player this year. He’s starting the series with a .350/.391/.657 line on the year, 21 doubles, and 19 home runs in 67 games and 275 plate appearances, after he put up a .218/.272/.370 line, 18 doubles, and 15 home runs in 115 games and 467 PAs in 2016.

Also, both Harper (.315/.420/.591, 17 doubles, 18 HRs, 305 PAs) and Zimmerman are healthy now, though Harper has never admitted to actually being injured last season.

Two to watch who you might not expect: Michael A. Taylor and Brian Goodwin have been hitting the ball out of the yard in the last few weeks.

Daniel Murphy (.342/.393/.576, 22 doubles, 13 HRs, 305 PAs) is continuing to hit like the 2015 postseason never ended.

Also: Nationals’ pitchers started the day on Sunday leading the majors in strikeouts and they were second in the NL in WHIP and opponents’ batting average.

Oh, and no one really trusts anyone in the Nats’ bullpen. But really: I don’t want to have to endure four days of people talking about Maddon walking Harper that whole series.

Fun fact

Speaking of the Nats’ bullpen, this series could turn on how well the teams’ bullpens do. The Cubs rank fourth in MLB in team relief ERA at 3.28. The Nationals rank 26th at 4.88.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Eddie Butler, RHP (3-2, 4.19 ERA, 1.422 WHIP, 4.48 FIP) vs. Gio Gonzalez, LHP (7-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 4.28 FIP)

Tuesday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (7-5, 4.36 ERA, 1.287 WHIP, 4.09 FIP) vs. Max Scherzer, RHP (8-5, 2.09 ERA, 0.808 WHIP, 2.78 FIP)

Wednesday: John Lackey, RHP (5-8, 4.74 ERA, 1.305 WHIP, 5.54 FIP) vs. Stephen Strasburg, RHP (8-2, 3.57 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, 3.19 FIP)

Thursday: Jon Lester, LHP (5-4, 3.83 ERA, 1.246 WHIP, 3.71 FIP) vs. Joe Ross, RHP (4-3, 5.40 ERA, 1.482 WHIP, 4.74 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 6:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Tuesday: 6:05 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Wednesday: 6:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Thursday: 3:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Prediction

I’m going to be an optimist here. The Nationals are a good team, but since June 6 they have the same record as the Cubs: 8-10. A lot of that is due to bullpen failure. Cubs starting pitching has been very good over much of that period, so if the starters can hold down Washington’s strong offense, the Cubs should be able to stick with them. I’ll call for a split.

Up next

The Cubs travel to Cincinnati to complete their long road trip. A three-game series against the Reds begins Friday night.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    4
    (15 votes)
  • 19%
    3
    (42 votes)
  • 36%
    2
    (78 votes)
  • 28%
    1
    (61 votes)
  • 7%
    0
    (17 votes)
213 votes total Vote Now