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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Nationals series preview

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Or should I say “playoff preview?”

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The four-game series between these two teams in Washington in late June was quite odd. The teams split the four games. The Cubs won one game 5-4 by nearly blowing a ninth-inning lead, and won another 5-4 by staging a four-run ninth-inning comeback. The Nats wins were blowouts, 6-1 and 8-4.

What fun do we have awaiting us this weekend? I asked Patrick Reddington, who runs our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball, to update us on the Nats.

Dusty Baker is always quick to qualify, whenever he talks about the injury issues his players are dealing with, that no one is going to feel sorry for you, so you just have to get over it and move forward. Everyone deals with injury issues, of course, and the organizational depth you’ve accumulated as a team goes a long way in determining who survives the grind of a 162-game schedule.

The recent injury concerns with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer are just the latest to hit the Nationals, who have been without Jayson Werth, Trea Turner, and Michael A Taylor for quite a while now. They also lost Adam Eaton for the season just when fans in the nation’s capital were starting to understand why GM Mike Rizzo was willing to deal away three prospects (Lucas GIolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning) to acquire the veteran outfielder this winter, and lost Joe Ross to a torn UCL and Tommy John surgery.

Every team can list all the injuries that have impacted their roster, but depending on how a few things fall, the effect they’ve had on the Nats’ rotation could be obvious in the three-game set with your Cubbies. Strasburg is dealing with a nerve impingement in his right elbow. Scherzer is dealing with a neck issue which ended his last start just one inning in, and Gio Gonzalez will potentially be away from the team for the birth of his second child this weekend (not an injury, I know).

Two of the three would likely have started this weekend. Who will start instead? As of now, the Nationals have only announced Friday’s starter, Tanner Roark.

Fun fact

The Cubs walked Bryce Harper 13 times in the four-game series the teams played at Wrigley in May 2016, including nine times in the last two games. Joe Maddon had decided he wouldn’t let Harper beat the Cubs and it worked, as the Cubs swept the series.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (4-3, 3.80 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 4.11 FIP) vs. Tanner Roark, RHP (8-7, 4.93 ERA, 1.399 WHIP, 4.14 FIP)

Saturday: John Lackey, RHP (8-9, 4.87 ERA, 1.326 WHIP, 5.60 FIP) vs. TBD

Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (8-6, 3.96 ERA, 1.231 WHIP, 3.93 FIP) vs. TBD

I don’t think I’ve ever written one of these where either team hadn’t announced a couple of starters on the morning of the first game. Here’s where the Nats’ rotation stands, with Scherzer’s status also in question due to neck problems:

Baker said Stephen Strasburg will "probably not" be an option to pitch this weekend, but Edwin Jackson probably will. And Gio Gonzalez's wife is set to give birth soon, so he could be headed to paternity leave at any moment.

Edwin Jackson. Well, that could be fun.

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, TBS (outside Chicago and Washington markets)

Prediction

Without knowing who the Nats pitchers are Saturday and Sunday, this is a tough call. On the other hand, Hendricks, Lackey and Lester are all throwing well and if the Cubs do get to face Edwin Jackson...

Also, the Nats have lost four of their last six and will likely be without useful lefty Enny Romero, who was injured Wednesday and is likely headed to the DL.

The Cubs will win two of three.

Up next

The Cubs travel to San Francisco to begin a three-game series against the Giants Monday night.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    3
    (39 votes)
  • 53%
    2
    (83 votes)
  • 14%
    1
    (23 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (10 votes)
155 votes total Vote Now