Washington has gotten off to a much better start this season, running away with the National League East. The Cubs have not yet hit their stride but are still the favorites to claim the National League Central. This is a heavyweight matchup and it will be fun to see two elite rosters face off.
This series will be contested from Monday, June 26 through Thursday, June 29, 2017 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. All four games will be broadcast on MLB Network.
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The Cubs will begin the series by sending Eddie Butler to the mound. He has filled in over the past month in the starting rotation and is 3-2 on the season with a 4.19 ERA. Butler gave up one run in four innings last time out against the Padres. The Nationals will send out Gio Gonzalez. He is 7-1 with a 2.96 ERA, and his peripheral numbers have gotten stronger of late after he was a bit lucky earlier in the season.
In the Tuesday matchup, the Cubs are scheduled to start Jake Arrieta. He is 7-5 with a 4.36 ERA and was strong last time out against the Marlins, allowing only one run in seven innings of work. Arrieta is striking out more than a batter per inning, but his stuff still pales in comparison to Max Scherzer, the Nationals’ projected starter. Scherzer is 8-5 with a sparkling 2.09 ERA this year, with 145 strikeouts in only 107.2 innings pitched. The Cubs have a good lineup, but will be hard-pressed to score consistently against Scherzer.
In the Wednesday game, Chicago is slated to send out John Lackey. The veteran right-hander is 5-8 on the season with a 4.74 ERA. Lackey’s peripheral numbers suggest his ERA will improve moving forward. The Nationals will send out their other ace in this one, as Stephen Strasburg takes the hill. He is 8-2 with a 3.57 ERA, with 109 strikeouts in 95.2 innings pitched. Strasburg was knocked around a bit last time out and is looking to get back on track.
In the series finale the Cubs will start their best pitcher, Jon Lester. He is 5-4 on the season with a 3.83 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 96.1 innings pitched. The Nationals will send out Joe Ross. He is 4-3 with a 5.40 ERA but has good peripheral numbers and gave up only one earned run in seven innings in his last start against the Reds.
Starting Pitching Woes
The Cubs won the World Series last season because their pitching and hitting were both very good. Neither has lived up to that standard this season and the starters hope to pitch better moving forward.
While Lester’s numbers are good, they aren’t quite as dominant as last year. Lackey and Arrieta have ERAs close to the league average, which isn’t what the Cubs are expecting out of them. The good news is that all three hurlers are striking out batters at a solid pace and aren’t walking too many of them.
The long ball has been a problem at times, but if that trio can keep the ball in the year, the ERAs should all go down as the season moves along. Kyle Hendricks is injured right now but is another critical starter. Once he gets back, it will strengthen the group, but the Nationals are fortunate to miss him.
424. That’s how many runs scored the Nationals have compiled this season, which is the most in the major leagues. There have been a couple of superstars in the middle of lineup who have led the way, but the team is getting contributions from all over.
Ryan Zimmerman is having a huge season, batting .350 with 19 homers, 59 RBIs and a 1.049 OPS. Bryce Harper is right behind him, batting .315 with 18 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.011 OPS. Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner are some of the other key hitters.
If the Nationals continue to hit this well and their star pitchers stay healthy, they could finish with the best record in the National League. The Cubs, meanwhile, are simply in a fight to make the postseason, and would love to make a statement by playing well in this road series.
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