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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Nationals series preview

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The last time the Cubs were in D.C., it rained. A lot.

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin and Brian Dozier as free agents and hoped to move on and continue to contend without Bryce Harper.

That hasn’t happened. Here’s Patrick Reddington of our SB Nation Nats site Federal Baseball to explain some of the reasons why.

It’s been a frustrating start to the 2019 campaign for Nationals fans and players alike. They’ve had a number of injuries strike early and have been forced to go without the likes of Trea Turner (broken finger), Anthony Rendon (bruised elbow), Juan Soto (back spasms), Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis), and Matt Adams (shoulder strain) for extended periods in the first two months. But as GM Mike Rizzo likes to say, no one is going to feel sorry for them.

The bullpen was trash to start the season, like epically bad, but they have (sort of) settled in over the last few weeks, though, of course, the offense has been something of an issue since the relief corps stopped their arson act. Starting pitching has been generally strong, at least from the top three: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, with Jeremy Hellickson struggling recently, and Anibal Sanchez injured in Thursday’s game (hamstring soreness).

The big surprise, for me at least, has been the poor defense, especially after the Nationals spent the entire offseason and spring talking about stressing the little things and focusing on fundamentals.

Heading into play on Friday, the Nats’ 28 errors were the fifth-most among National League teams (what are the Cubs doing atop that list?) their .981 fielding percentage was also fifth-worst (again, surprised to see the Cubs near the bottom. Are they always this bad defensively and I just never realized it? Is this something Joe Maddon passed on to Davey Martinez?), their -29 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) were second-worst in the NL, and their -10 UZR was 15th of 15 in the NL. So bad, bad defense.

It hasn’t been fun to watch. And between the errors costing games, after the bullpen was blowing leads early, and with the offense struggling lately (second-worst NL team BA in May, .213, going into Friday’s game), it’s combined to put Martinez on the hot seat and put the Nationals in a hole they’re going to have a hard time climbing out of over the next few months.

Fun fact

Maybe not so fun for the Nats, though. They were 11-11 on April 23. Since then they’ve lost 14 of 21 and been outscored 105-70.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Cole Hamels, LHP (3-0, 3.08 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 3.79 FIP) vs. Max Scherzer, RHP (2-4, 3.64 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 2.24 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester, LHP (3-1, 1.16 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 2.71 FIP) vs. Stephen Strasburg, RHP (3-3, 3.63 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 2.73 FIP)

Sunday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (3-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.152 WHIP, 3.10 FIP) vs. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (2-2, 6.00 ERA, 1.667 WHIP, 5.80 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT, WGN, MLB Network (outside Cubs and Nationals market territories)

Saturday: 6:15 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional — coverage map)

Sunday: 6:05 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

The Cubs are facing some pretty good pitchers here... but then, so are the Nats. Cubs starting pitching has been outstanding lately and I think this will be good enough for the Cubs to take two of three. Oh, and about the rain? I think they’ll get these games in.

Up next

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field to begin a four-game series against the Phillies Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    3
    (37 votes)
  • 50%
    2
    (94 votes)
  • 21%
    1
    (40 votes)
  • 7%
    0
    (14 votes)
185 votes total Vote Now