The Padres are heading to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Nationals for the second time this season.
Earlier this month, the Nationals took two of three from the Padres in San Diego. The Padres are 20-28, and fresh off a series win in Pittsburgh. The Diamondbacks just lost their fourth game in a row, putting the Padres only six games behind Arizona in the NL West. The Nats are sitting at 24-21 after losing to the fourth-place Dodgers, and only four games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
The Nationals’ pitching staff is one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball and the focal point of the team this season. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez are three potential aces that the Nats can throw at you on any particular day. Washington has a solid chance to compete for another playoff spot this season.
Meanwhile, the Padres are currently evaluating which pieces on the current team fit in their plans for the future. There are many bright spots on this team, including the lights out bullpen and the youth that will continue to keep us entertained for the rest of the year.
Robbie Erlin will be making his second start of the season in DC, on Monday night. Erlin has primarily pitched as a long relief option, managing to lower his ERA to 3.46 in just 26 innings pitched. His solid start to the season impressed Andy Green enough to earn a start on Monday night.
Jeremy Hellickson has pitched very well so far this season since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles on a minor league deal. In his first start against the Padres, Hellickson was nearly untouchable, throwing six and two thirds shutout innings, only giving up two hits with eight strikeouts and zero walks. Hellickson is 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP across 32 2/3 innings pitched this year. The Nationals have found a very nice pick up for the fifth starter’s job in their rotation.
Game 2 (Tuesday, 4:10 PM PT) Eric Lauer (1-2, 8.14 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA):
Tuesday night’s matchup features a developing rookie and a veteran starter in his tenth season as a pitcher in the Major Leagues. Eric Lauer has shown that he still has lots to learn if he wants to excel as a pitcher in the majors, but his potential remains something to be positive about. In his start last week against the Pirates, Lauer went four innings, giving up six hits, four earned runs, three walks, and only three strikeouts in a no-decision. The former Kent State star and National College Player of the Year has seen that he needs to improve his fastball command. Learning to lock down the movement and location on his off-speed pitches will bring better results for Lauer as well.
Gio Gonzalez may be pitching in his last season with the Washington Nationals as his contract expires at the end of the year. The lefty helped the Nationals to four division titles in six seasons and has consistently proven to be a reliable starter. Last year, he had one of the most dominant seasons of his career, posting a 2.96 ERA and a 3.3 WAR across 201 innings pitched. Gonzalez came into this season hoping to continue his success from last year, knowing that his future with the team is up in the air. He pitched against the Padres on May 9, when he went six innings, with one earned run, five hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts in a no-decision as the Padres won the game 2-1.
Game 3 (Wednesday, 1:05 PM PT) Tyson Ross (4-2 3.45 ERA) vs. TBD
Tyson Ross is off to a fantastic start in his return to San Diego after recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome. The Padres’ pitching coaches have done a brilliant job helping Ross rediscover his all-star form. The 33-year-old right-hander has shown electric movement on his slider and similar velocity on his fastball. In just nine starts this season, Ross is 3-3 with a 3.35 ERA and 55 strikeouts in just 59 2/3 innings pitched. His best start came on April 20th in Arizona, where he pitched 7 2/3 innings before giving up a hit and finished with 10 strikeouts and only three walks in a 4-1 Padres victory. Ross had a rocky start against the Nationals on May 7, when he pitched six innings of five-run ball with three walks and six strikeouts.
Players to keep an eye on:
Christian Villanueva has been one of the most impressive stories of the season for the Padres. The Mexican infielder won the NL Rookie of the Month award in April, but cooled down slightly in the beginning of May offensively. He has begun to get hot at the plate again. Villanueva hit home runs in the last two games of the series in Pittsburgh and now has 12 on the season. His .250 batting average, 26 RBI and .322 On-Base Percentage have been one of the bright spots in the Padres’ lineup this year.
Freddy Galvis has been all the Padres could ask for since taking over the shortstop position. Defensively, many people consider him to be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. His spectacular defense and timely hitting has contributed to many of the Padres’ close victories this year. Galvis is hitting .400 with 10 hits and six runs in his last seven games. Look for Galvis to continue finding solid contact and making outstanding plays at short in this series.
Eric Hosmer has been one of the most consistent bats in the Padres’ lineup this season. Since coming over to the Padres, Hosmer has proven his value with his Gold Glove defense and potent bat. The most impressive part of his season early on is his 16 doubles that puts him on pace to beat out Tony Gwynn‘s all-time franchise record. His leadership skills and offensive abilities are only going to help this team more and more as time goes on.
Franmil Reyes is hitting .118 since being called up on May 14 against the Colorado Rockies. The red-hot slugger needs time to adjust to big league pitching before we can make a judgment on his professional talent level. Reyes only has two hits in his first 14 at-bats since joining the Padres. Look for him to start making solid contact and make a good first impression while starting in right field.
Travis Jankowski and Eric Hosmer are slowly becoming an offensive duo to watch in the Padres’ lineup. Both players are excellent defensively and are the main catalysts for San Diego’s offense. Jankowski is hitting .359 with a .438 OBP in 18 games since being called up from El Paso. If Jankowski can keep up his impressive start and diving plays in the outfield, he has a good chance to be part of this team in the future.
Bryce Harper leads the Nationals in home runs (13), RBI (31), and On-Base Percentage (.387). That right there pretty much sums up his importance to the franchise moving forward and as they attempt to make a playoff run in the near future. He also ranks 1st in the NL in walks (41) and 5th in the NL in runs (51). His batting average (.224) has been the only not-so-good thing so far this year. In the first matchup between the two teams, Harper was hitless in just two games.
Trea Turner already has 47 hits this season to go along with his superb defense at short. The intriguing shortstop is ready to lead this Nationals team to another NL East title and a playoff run. It’s even more interesting to see what Turner does against the franchise that drafted him and struggled mightily to find a long-term shortstop.