Washington let the face of their franchise walk to a division rival over the winter, but even without Bryce Harper, there was reason enough to believe the Nats could still contend for a playoff spot with the amount of young talent left behind and what seemed like one of the best starting rotations in the National League, especially after adding Patrick Corbin.
The problem has been the pitching has stunk -- Washington is the only NL team with a worse ERA than the Brewers -- and they already fired their pitching coach after the pitchers themselves more or less said Derek Lilliquist was leaving them unprepared for their opponents. On top of that, just about every bat worth anything in their lineup is currently hurt. Ryan Zimmerman, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner will all start this series on the Injured List, with only Rendon possibly able to come back during this series.
The result is a team that’s 5 games under .500, with only the 9-24 Marlins keeping them from last place. By the way, the Marlins took 2 of 3 from the Nationals in the only series they’ve played this year.
Monday, May 6th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Max Scherzer vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Scherzer is off to another ridiculous K/BB start, striking out 62 batters and walking just 7 in 46.1 innings. He has a 2.17 FIP, but the problem for the Nationals are the runs that have actually scored, leading to a 4.08 ERA in his 7 starts -- of which the Nats have lost 6. The former La Crosse Logger didn’t face the Brewers in 2018, but held them to 2 total runs in 2 starts in 2017, covering 11 innings.
Tuesday, May 7th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Stephen Strasburg vs. TBD
No longer the dominant force he was in the first part of the decade in terms of keeping runs off the board, Strasburg is still striking batters out at an elite level, punching out 57 in 44.1 innings so far this year. Like Scherzer, Strasburg’s FIP (3.15) is quite a bit better than his ERA (3.45), although the Nats have been more fortunate in his starts, going 4-3 this year. In his last start, he held the Cardinals lineup to just 1 run over 6.2 innings, striking out 9.
Wednesday, May 8th - 12:10 p.m. CDT
Jeremy Hellickson vs. Brandon Woodruff
After a strong first season in Washington, things have not gone as smoothly for Hellickson to start this year. He has a 5.33 ERA in 6 games this year, including 5 starts. He’s given up 30 hits in 27 innings, though, and still isn’t missing many bats. He did strike out 9 batters in 5.1 innings in his last start on May 3rd, but was coming off back-to-back outings in which he gave up 5 earned runs.
The Brewers took 2 of 3 from the Nationals from August 31st-September 2nd last year, with the lone loss coming in the second game on September 1st, when the bullpen allowed 4 runs in the 8th inning. Joakim Soria was charged for all 4 runs, but it was really a team effort, with Soria allowed a run before loading the bases, Dan Jennings letting in 2 runs on a single, and Jordan Lyles letting the final run to score on a wild pitch. It would be the last time in the regular season that a Brewers reliever would be charged with a loss, and was just one of 7 Brewers losses in September.
Player to Watch
With just about everyone else on the IL, we’re left with Victor Robles as one of the few interesting guys left in the Washington lineup.
One of the top prospects in the game, Robles was part of the reason why the Nationals may have felt comfortable letting Harper walk away. Depending on who you ask, Robles entered the year anywhere between the 5th and 10th best prospect in baseball, and the 22-year-old has showed off both his speed and power potential already this year. While the .258/.298/.476 line in 33 games and the 40 strikeouts in 133 plate appearances this year shows there’s still something to be desired with the plate discipline, but when he’s made contact he’s been exciting with 7 doubles, a triple, and 6 home runs. He also leads the NL in stolen bases with 7 in 8 tries.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference