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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Nationals series preview

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It’s been a while since the Cubs and Nationals last played.

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

When last we saw the Washington Nationals, they were walking off the field dejectedly at Nationals Park after the Cubs won Game 5 of last year’s division series, one of the wackiest playoff games you’ll ever see. It’s been even longer since the last regular-season game between these teams, which happened August 6, 2017 at Wrigley Field.

The Nats have a new manager, someone we’re quite familiar with, and that was supposed to get them over the hump, win a playoff series and...

Oh, wait. The Nats are in danger of missing the postseason and have had all kinds of trouble winning games in general. And so I asked Patrick Reddington, who runs our SB Nation Nationals site Federal Baseball, to give us an update on his team.

I tried to use the 2017 Cubs as an example for Nationals fans who were convinced that the season was over when the Nats went into the All-Star Break 48-48, noting that the team which eventually beat Washington in the NLDS last October was actually two games under .500 last summer before a 49-25 so-called second half took them back into the postseason.

[ed. note - “All Davey Martinez would say when asked about this is that he saw “some similarities.”]

I’m not sure this Washington team is capable of that sort of run based on what we’ve seen so far this season, however.

They are finally healthy-ish, though Stephen Strasburg is currently unavailable, closer Sean Doolittle is still out, and Kelvin Herrera, who was closing in Doolittle’s absence, just went on the 10-day DL with a rotator cuff issue, but the offense, at least, is finally what the Nationals expected it to be in spring training, player-wise, while they’re still working on the whole getting consistent production thing.

You see flashes of what this team could be, and Juan Soto has been a revelation after starting in Low-A this season.

They are a lot of fun to watch, especially with Bryce Harper all of a sudden hitting like Bryce Harper again, but things haven’t gone the way anyone involved expected them to thus far this season, and with the quicker-than-expected rise of the Braves and first-place Phillies, a return to the postseason for a fifth appearance in seven seasons is in serious jeopardy with two months left.

Fun fact

Nats outfielder Juan Soto is the youngest player in the major leagues, born October 25, 1998. Two active players (Bartolo Colon, Adrian Beltre) made their MLB debuts before Soto was born.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (8-9, 4.07 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 4.37 FIP) vs. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (5-2, 3.56 ERA, 1.098 WHIP, 4.07 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester, LHP (12-4, 3.44 ERA, 1.293 WHIP, 4.82 FIP) vs. Tanner Roark, RHP (6-12, 4.21 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 4.11 FIP)

Sunday: Cole Hamels, LHP (7-9, 4.38 ERA, 1.356 WHIP, 4.95 FIP) vs. Max Scherzer, RHP (15-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 2.72 FIP)

(NOTE: Hamels’ numbers above are his full-season numbers. With the Cubs: two starts, 2-0, 0.82 ERA, 1.182 WHIP, 2.51 FIP)

Times & TV channels

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

Saturday: 3:05 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, FS1 (no blackouts)

Sunday: 7:05 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

The Nationals did a bit better this past week, but are still looking up at several teams in both the division and wild-card races. The numbers that I think matter for this series: Washington is 47-37 against RH starters, 12-19 against LH starters.

That ought to be just the ticket for the Cubs to win two of three in this series.

Up next

The Cubs have Monday off, then host the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in a pair of afternoon games Tuesday and Wednesday.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    3
    (23 votes)
  • 60%
    2
    (126 votes)
  • 25%
    1
    (53 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (7 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now