MLB

Nationals vs. Padres preview: Stephen Strasburg, James Shields set to start key series

Joe Nicholson/ USA Today Sports

The San Diego Padres will start their six-game road trip in Washington when they take on the red-hot Washington Nationals. The Nats are 4-2 in their last six games and have outscored their opponents 39-26. The Padres are also on a similar streak, winning five of their last six, and have outscored their opponents, 37-18, during that stretch.

This is an interesting matchup because both teams have a very small chance of making the playoffs, but their recent resurgence have many teams nervous. 

At this point, this game is much more important to the Nats as they are five games behind the NL East leading New York Mets and according to Fangraphs have a 24 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Padres (61-63), on the other hand are not much worse record-wise from the Nats (62-61), but are buried in the NL West and virtually have no chance of making the playoffs even with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ recent skid.

Starting pitching

Stephen Strasburg has a 4.22 ERA on the year, which is a far cry from where fans expect to see  him. But during his last three starts, he has looked phenomenal, going 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA, only allowing three earned runs while dishing out 25 strikeouts over 20 innings pitched.

Similarly, James Shields has also been a huge letdown this season. In his last three starts he is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA, allowing eight earned runs including three home runs while tossing 22 strikeouts over 19 innings pitched.

Players to watch

Bryce Harper has been having a stellar season with a .330 average. Just when it looks like he couldn’t possibly get any better, the youngster has. During the last week, he is hitting .364 with eight hits and one home run. The 22-year old is on fire and maybe it’s a good idea to just walk him.

We all know that Harper is dangerous, but his counterpart in the outfield, Michael Taylor, has been quietly playing well. Taylor, during his first year hasn’t turned any heads with a .242 average but over the last week, he has .261 average with six hits, three home runs and six RBIs.

Taylor is a definitely a player to watch, especially as Shields has been susceptible to giving up the long ball.

Despite Strasburg’s recent success, he needs to watch out for Matt Kemp and Yangervis Solarte who have both been playing lights out.

Kemp is hitting .360 with nine hits, two home runs and eight RBIs. Solarte has been on a similar tear hitting .320 with eight hits, three home runs and seven RBIs.

Overview:

Both teams are playing especially well. It should come down to who wins the pitching duel between the California kids Strasburg and Shields. But because the Nats’ have a higher chance of making the playoffs they may be hungrier to win this series, and Shields has been shaky the last three starts. At this point it doesn’t seem like he can get over the home run bug. The winner of this game will set the tone for the rest of the series.

All in all, the Nats seem to be in a better position to pull out a series victory. 

Travel info

With these two teams still fighting for a playoff position, it’s as good a time as any to cheer on the Padres on the road. Affordable airfare to Washington, D.C can be found on Hipmunk.com, which also offers a Washington D.C. hotel guide for those looking to create a weekend getaway.

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Daiki Sato

Daiki Sato a Southern California native and San Diego State Alumni. Loves all things sports. He covers the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Dodgers for Sports Out West.
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