Jun 9, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
Four games in San Francisco - Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Nationals are starting to look like contenders once again. They are healthy and scoring runs, and their starting rotation is getting stronger by the game.
Monday night they will have quite the test in the San Francisco Giants, owners of the best record in baseball. The Giants are 42-21 with a 9 1/2 game lead in the NL West. They have won 10 of 12 and five straight games.
Monday will mark the first time Matt Williams returns to his first major league home as a manager, which I wrote about this morning. It will also be the first time the Nationals face old friend Michael Morse, who is enjoying a comeback year with the Giants. Morse is their best offensive player this season, leading the Giants in homers (13), RBI (42), doubles (16) and OPS (.879).
Getting some wins in San Francisco could symbolize a small step for the Nats, as last year their trip out there was an unmitigated disaster. They lost two of three in San Francisco last May, the first loss an 8-0 blowout that Zach Duke started, the second an extra innings heartbreaker. The 10-inning game featured Yunesky Maya taking the loss in his only appearance of the season and Rafael Soriano blaming his blown save on Bryce Harper.
The pitching matchups should be fun to watch this week. Monday it is Stephen Strasburg vs. Ryan Vogelsong. Tuesday is Doug Fister vs. Madison Bumgarner. Wednesday is Tanner Roark vs. Matt Cain. Thursday should be Blake Treinen vs. Tim Hudson.
Hudson is also enjoying a renaissance in San Francisco and leads their staff with a 1.97 ERA in 12 starts. He has long tormented the Nationals with a 16-5 record and 2.45 ERA in 29 career starts against the franchise.
Gio to make another rehab start - After getting shelled in Potomac on Friday with eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, Gio Gonzalez will make another rehab start with the P-Nats this Thursday. Sure, they could use him in San Francisco, but as long as Gio gets through this one he could return during the Nats’ next homestand. He’ll likely come back when the Nats are playing the Astros and miss their four-game series against the Braves. That could set him up, however, to begin their series in Milwaukee against the Brewers after Atlanta leaves town.
Nats pitching staff looking good - After seeing their starting rotation hit with injuries and mediocrity over the season’s first two months, the Nationals’ staff has enjoyed quite the rebound in June. Through seven games this month, Nationals starters are 5-1 with a 1.21 ERA and 48 strikeouts to just three walks. Their total ERA as a team is 1.39 in May, nearly a full run better than the second best mark in the majors.
Overall this season the Nationals now have the second-best team ERA in MLB at 3.00. Their rotation is climbing the ranks and now sits seventh in the league at 3.43. Nationals starters are also seventh in strikeouts and have allowed the second least amount of walks. With Gio still out, the worst ERA currently in their rotation is Doug Fister’s 3.19.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Anthony Rendon 6/4 vs. Phillies – 3-for-5, HR, R, 3 RBI, SO
Pitching game of the week: Jordan Zimmermann 6/9 vs. Padres – 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 12 SO, 0 BB, 114 pitches, 83 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Bryce Harper on when he will return from the disabled list:
I’m not going to rush back. I’m not going to do anything stupid.
Tweet of the week:
Rehabbing an injury never sounded so fun:
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) June 5, 2014
MON – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Strasburg)
TUE – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Fister)
WED – 10:15 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Roark)
THU – 3:45 p.m. at San Francisco Giants (Treinen)
FRI – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Zimmermann)
SAT – 7:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Strasburg)
SUN – 2:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Fister)
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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