Washington Nationals Series Preview: The Colorado Rockies have cooled down

Did the Washington Nationals lose the first two games of a three-game series and then win the series finals to prevent another sweep? Yes they did!

For the third straight series, the Nationals played salvage ball and tried not to get swept, and thanks to a jewel from Erick Fedde and the bullpen, they shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 1-0 win, even if they could thank the dead Ball out of play for the final.

Early in the series, however, it was a familiar story of pitching being shaken up for too many runs for the inconsistent offense to keep up, leaving them in that 2-0 hole in the three-game set.

Next, the Nationals take on the Colorado Rockies for the second time this season.

After their series win over the Nats, the Rockies sat 15-10, the fifth-best record in the National League, and were third in their division. However, they’ve only gone 5-13 since then and appear to be pulling back to where many thought they would be this year.

Here are the facts ahead of the four-game series at Nationals Park…

The schedule

  • game one: Thursday, May 26 at 7:05 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • game two: Friday, May 27 at 7:05 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • game three: Saturday, May 28 at 4:05 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • game four: Sunday, May 29 at 1:35 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable pitchers

  • game one: Patrick Corbin (0-7, 6.60 ERA) vs. Germán Marquez (1-4, 6.14 ERA)
  • game two: Aaron Sanchez (3-3, 7.16 ERA) vs. Austin Gomber (2-4, 4.11 ERA)
  • game three: Joan Adon (1-8, 6.97 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (3-2, 3.67 ERA)
  • game four: Josiah Gray (4-4, 5.44 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (1-4, 4.60 ERA)

who is hot

Paolo Espino: The Secret Weapon™ is back to make The Secret Weapon™ stuff out of the bullpen. Although Espino hasn’t gained a spot in the rotation this season, he continues to be an invaluable asset in any situation manager Dave Martinez needs on the day.

Since a couple of bad games earlier in the season, Espino has posted a 1.17 ERA and 2.92 FIP in 14 appearances. But what Martinez will be most happy about is that his reliever hasn’t walked a batter in those performances, even though he’s hit just 8 batters in 15.1 innings.

With Joan Adon and Aaron Sanchez struggling in the rotation, it’s not out of the question that Espino might get another starter chance. Either way, until that happens, he’ll continue to be stuck in the bullpen in a variety of roles.

Brendan Rodgers: Yes, CJ Cron is still jumping for the Rockies, albeit at a slower pace than when we had him in this segment the last time these two teams went head-to-head. Instead, we’re looking at fellow infielder Rodgers, who’s been hitting the plate well lately.

In May, Rodgers hits a strong .351/.367/.507 with six doubles and two homers, good for a 134 wRC+ this month. With a .403 BABIP and a tiny 1.3% walk rate, it might not be sustainable, but right now his club is hot and the Rockies ride with him.

Who does not?

Maikel Franco: As is often the case in Franco’s career, he can sometimes flatter to deceive a bit in the opening weeks of the season, putting up solid numbers before offensively falling off a cliff as the dog days of summer draw near.

That could happen again, as the third baseman has posted a troubling .204/.200/.296 slash in his last 14 games with just three extra base hits and 12 no-walk strikeouts.

News of Carter Kieboom’s need for Tommy John surgery makes it seem like the third base job will be Franco’s for the foreseeable future. However, if he continues to turn down, the Nationals will have to find another, possibly younger, solution at the hot corner.

Chad Kuhl: After a strong start to the season – with a 1.10 ERA in his first three starts – Kuhl seems to be coming down to earth.

In his last five starts, the right-hander had a 5.33 ERA and a 4.93 FIP, allowing for 15 earned runs in 25.1 innings while striking 18 and walking 10. Perhaps more notable, however, is that Kuhl then allowed four homers in that stretch and did not allow a long ball in his first three starts.

Kuhl will take on that hit-and-miss offense in Game 3 of the series and hopes to put the ship back in order and find the Nationals on one of their bad offensive days.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the best Rockies storylines from our friends at Purple Row…

Something else to look at

The cavalry is on its way. At least that’s what the Nationals are hoping for.

Obviously, the name many will look forward to seeing him back in the big leagues is Stephen Strasburg, who began his rehab with the Fredericksburg Nationals on Tuesday.

“Stephen completed his 60 pitches, 2 2⁄3,” Martinez said. “The good news is that he felt good. He’s sore today but it’s typical soreness but in five days he’ll be ready to throw again.”

The results weren’t great, but that doesn’t matter at this point. Most importantly, Strasburg got off the start with no qualms, especially important as he’s coming back from Thoracic Outlet Surgery, hence the Nats’ caution.

Meanwhile, off-season signing Ehire Adrianza made his first game appearance at Double-A since he went down with a quad strain late in spring practice.

The utility man appeared to be looking good in his first appearance on Tuesday and did so again on Wednesday, posting a combined 4-on-7 with a double and a walk in those two games.

“He hit the ball well, he ran very well,” Martinez said. “So overall he played a good game… We’ll keep playing him, he’ll play, he might get a day off in between, but he’s looking good.”

It wasn’t all good news at Double-A, however, as Joe Ross, who began his rehab stint there Tuesday, walked out of the game after just three innings and 31 pitches, well short of what the Nationals expected of him in this Side trip.

“Joe had to be pulled from the game,” Martinez explained. “Felt a little tightness in his right elbow. So he finished three innings and then couldn’t get out for the fourth. So he’s getting an MRI, we don’t have the results yet.”

The skipper said they were hoping to have results later in the afternoon so there will likely be more on Ross’ status later today, whether it’s just a minor hiccup or something more serious that could derail his rehab.

Sticking to a five-day rotation schedule, Strasburg should be scheduled for another rehab start on Sunday, likely with Fredericksburg for now. If Ross’ injury doesn’t prevent him from missing a turn, then he’s on the same schedule. Adrianza will theoretically be the first to arrive back in the majors, assuming his rehab assignment goes well.

As the Nationals take on the Rockies this weekend, some of the organization’s eyes will be on their minor-league teams to keep an eye on their rehab players.

Series preview trivia

Trivia question from the last series: When the Dodgers last visited Nationals Park, the Nats were in the midst of an infield injury crisis, leading to Alex Avila playing second baseman in the series opener.

But in the second game of the series, starting as a shortstop for Washington and playing his only game for the Nationals before being forced to make way for Alcides Escobar by the DFA the next day?

Answers: Humberto Arteaga

Here’s the trivia question for this weekend’s series featuring the Rockies at Nationals Park…

In this series, Charlie Blackmon is likely to become the leader of the Rockies against the Nationals since the franchise moved to the nation’s capital. But which player will he overtake? This player also leads the Rockies in home runs and RBIs against the Nats.

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