With the MLB schedule back in full swing after the All-Star break and the second half of the season underway, the Washington Nationals face the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game series (Game 1: 7pm ET, Tuesday).
Sitting in first place and in much need of Monday’s day off as they are coming off an 18-inning loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nationals are the top team in the NL East. They boast the second best record in all of baseball, just a game behind the San Francisco Giants. At home, they are 29-16 on the season.
They will be facing the Dodgers, who at 5.5 games back of the NL West leading Giants, might find themselves chasing the wildcard as their way to get into the postseason. LA is currently leading that race in the NL by three games over two teams the Nationals know well, NL East foes the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. On the road, they are just 22-24 on the year.
This is the second series the two teams have played this season, with the first going to the Dodgers at home in a sweep with LA covering the run line spread in two of the three games and all three games falling in the under category. In the 15 games the two teams have met in over the past three seasons, LA is leading the head-to-head 9-6.
Washington will surely be looking to avenge that result from earlier this year however and with a variety of weapons in their arsenal and favorable pitching match-ups. So the prediction of this preview could be that they execute a sweep of their own, but we’ll keep you waiting on that as our betting picks will be finalized at the end.
GAME 1: (LAD) Scott Kazmir vs (WAS) Reynaldo Lopez
Game 1 pits the veteran lefty Scott Kazmir (pictured), now in his 11th season and first with the Dodgers, against the Nationals’ top-5 prospect, righty Reynaldo Lopez, who will be making his major league debut.
Ordinarily, this would mean the edge goes to LA but Kazmir has been a mixed bag this season. He is coming off a start in which he managed to last just three innings and threw 85 pitches against the San Diego Padres. However, that was 10 days ago and he should be more than well rested entering into this road contest. A better pitcher at home, Kazmir is posting a 5.40 ERA this season away from LA, despite only allowing opponents to bat .204 against him (.267 at home). Worth noting, he hasn’t lost on the road this season (3-0 in eight starts) but the Dodgers are only 4-4 as a team in those eight games.
There is a lot to like about the Nationals’ young hurler and there is a reason he’s receiving his call-up. Posting a combined line of 109 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched across 16 starts in Double and Triple-A, Lopez is a plus fastball pitcher. He has the ability to touch 100mph on the gun with that pitch. He has a solid secondary pitch in his curveball, which complements the fastball well when thrown consistently, something he has had trouble with in the past.
Lopez has the benefit of facing an offense which is ranked 25th in the league in batting average (.244) and slugging (.396), 20th in on-base percentage (.318) and 19th in runs scored (401). That’s not exactly a tough lineup to face in your debut outing.
Meanwhile, his opponent is tasked with taking on a slightly tougher top nine as the Nationals are 20th in batting average (.250), 13th in on-base percentage (.325) and 11th in slugging (.426) and runs scored (434).
It’s tough for this preview to pick who has the edge in this one given rookie starters are often so unpredictable. That said, Kazmir has to face Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth to name a few of the guys who have had success in limited at-bats against him. Lopez on the other hand, gets a clean slate and does so against a team that has not been hitting well.
The edge goes to Washington, if only barely, in Game 1.
GAME 2: (LAD) Hyun-Jin Ryu vs (WAS) Gio Gonzalez
The second of this three game series will see the Dodgers send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound against Gio Gonzalez. Ryu will be making just his second start since coming off the DL with shoulder surgery and his first start wasn’t great. He labored through 4.2 innings, allowing six runs in the short outing.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez, who has had his ups and downs this season, with eight losses and a 4.70 ERA, is facing a team that has been the bread and butter for him during his career. In four starts, Gonzalez has allowed the Dodgers to hit a paltry .185 against him, while scoring only a handful of runs as his ERA is 1.73 against LA.
Both starters have been struggling, but at home, where the lefty ace has been slightly better and against the team which he has dominated his entire career, the edge goes to the Nationals for this one.
GAME 3: (LAD) Starter TBD vs (WAS) Stephen Strasburg
In a matchup that could have given us Clayton Kershaw against Stephen Strasburg, two of the top pitchers in the NL, we’ll instead have to settle for likely a Dodgers’ farmhand as they continue to adjust without their multi-time Cy Young award winner in the line-up.
Without much to go on in the head-to-head, focusing in on Strasburg’s perfect 13-0 unbeaten record this year, is certainly not going to be easy for anyone to contend with. He has pitched near flawlessly in his last three starts, allowing an ERA of just 0.83 with 20 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched. On the season he has 138 strikeouts in just over 114 innings pitched and carries a 2.51 ERA.
No matter who takes the mound opposite him for Game 3, advantage Washington.
Let’s Talk About Daniel Murphy
Pitching match-ups aside, the biggest thing going for the Nationals is Daniel Murphy, who leads everyone in baseball with his .350 average. Now, Murphy did miss Sunday’s extra inning nightmare against the Pirates due to a day-to-day hamstring injury and could be held out of this series as well.
If he isn’t however, look for every Dodgers pitcher to have the same trouble with Murphy as every NL and AL pitcher he has faced this year has. The man is blazing a trail toward numbers we haven’t seen in quite some time and if he could just get his power up, we could be looking at another Triple Crown.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals Series Preview’s Betting Picks
If my analysis of the match-ups and Murphy’s impact on the game didn’t make it clear enough, for my preview’s betting pick I’m going with the Nationals to win this series in a sweep. At time of writing the USA sportsbooks have not posted their betting lines, so we will have to wait on the odds.