Series #34 Preview: Nats at Tigers

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Nationals fans
are still waiting on the spark that will lead to the streak that will close the
gap between the Braves and them in the NL East. A lot of good things have
happened as of late, the back of the rotation is looking good with Haren
finding his command and Taylor Jordan mastering the slider and with signs that
the offense is starting to show some life.

In a rare two
game series, the Nationals (52-54) head to Comerica Park to take on the Detroit
Tigers (59-45). The two teams met earlier this year for another abbreviated
series at the beginning of May, where Dan Haren and Jordan Zimmermann pitched
their way to two Nats wins. This go around Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez
will have a chance to beat up on the Tigers.

Since the two
teams last met the Nationals bullpen looks drastically different and Scott
Hairston is a member of the bench. The Nats have also gotten healthier with the
return of Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos back in the lineup after lengthy
disabled list stays. Also, the Tiger’s ace, Justin Verlander, does not look as
sharp as he has in the past and has lost some velocity on his fastball.

Jayson Werth,
Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos seem to be hitting their stride offensively,
with Werth batting north of .300 and Zimmerman having four multi-hit games in
his last five starts. Ramos might not be the defense juggernaut that Kurt
Suzuki is, but the pop that he has helped the Nats out since returning to the
lineup on July 4.

Game 1: Tuesday, July
30, Comerica Park 7:08pm, Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 2.68 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (5-8,
2.85 ERA)

The Nationals are
all too familiar with Sanchez due to his long stint with the Marlins before he
was traded to Detroit. Sanchez is kind of like that annoying kid that is in
your class in high school that no matter what you do, he never goes away. Hell,
he went to the American League in a trade and the Nats still have to face him
twice a year. The team has had little luck against Sanchez in the past. In 20
games, Sanchez has an exceptionally low 2.02 ERA against the Nats. He has only
given up 8 homers to the Nats in his career, while striking out 108 and
averaging 7.8 SO/9 innings.

However, the Nats
tagged him with his first loss against the team in his seven year career back
in June. During the game Sanchez lasted six innings, where he gave up eight
hits, two earned runs, while striking out eight. One of the eight hits he
allowed came at the hands of Bryce Harper to right-center field. Ian Desmond
and Wilson Ramos have had the most success against Sanchez in the past, of
players who have had more than 10 plate appearances. Desmond is sporting a .798
OPS and Ramos has a .928 OPS against him. 

Anibal is your
prototypical power pitcher and throws a fastball (88-93 mph), slider (83-88
mph), changeup (82-88 mph) and curveball (75-82 mph). He has thrown more
sliders and changeups since 2009 and his curveball has a big 12/6 break. His
fastball does not have a lot of movement and he tends to get into trouble when his
pitches start to creep up in the zone because he starts to lose control of his
pitch placement. His slider is his moneymaker and causes the most whiffs of any
pitch in his arsenal.

Stephen
Strasburg’s last outing against the Pirates was a thing of beauty. If it was a
painting it would be hanging in a museum somewhere. Over eight innings he gave
up two hits and one run, while striking out 12 batters. Sadly, it was also a
microcosm of his entire season. Strasburg may have pitched masterfully, but the
offense could not back him up, so he recorded the loss.

Strasburg has
never faced the Tigers before, but he has faced both Jhonny Peralta and Anibal
Sanchez in the past. The two combine for six total plate appearances and
neither of them have recorded a hot or have gotten on base while Strasburg has
been on the mound. It will be interesting to see what happens when Miguel
Cabrera and Prince Fielder step in against him. Strasburg does have a little
history against Cabrera. In his first Spring Training appearance with the
Nationals he faced Cabrera and struck him out. Now, I know Spring Training
counts for next to nothing, but it is an interesting fact none the less.

Game 2: Wednesday,
July 31, Comerica Park 1:08pm, Justin Verlander (10-8, 3.99 ERA) vs. Gio
Gonzalez (7-3, 2.97 ERA)

No one with a
fully function brain and a basic knowledge of baseball would ever say that it
is a good time to face Justin Verlander. They guy is the epitome of an ace,
plain and simple. However, as of late he has struggled and given up far more
runs than usual, as well as not striking opposing batters out at his usual
prolific pace. In his last outing Verlander lost for the third time in four
starts. In each of those three losses he has given up at least five runs. He
claims to be tinkering with his mechanics in an effort to get back to his usual
dominant self, but the numbers are not encouraging. In his last eight starts
Verlander has only struck out 31 batters, which is very low for him and, even
more concerning, he is not going deep into games like the Tigers are used to
seeing.

Verlander
commands four above average pitches: fastball (94-96 mph), slider (83-85 mph),
curveball (78-81 mph) and circle changeup (85-88 mph). He only throws his
slider to right-handed batters and he only throws his changeup to left-handed
batters. He likes to go to his curveball when he has two strikes on a hitter.
He is best known for adding and subtracting from his fastball. His average
velocity is around 95mph, but when he has two strikes and is up in the count he
can raise the speed of his fastball as high as the low 100s.

Justin Verlander
has one start against the Nationals in his career and it came in 2010. He
recorded the win after going eight innings and only allowing three earned runs,
while striking out 11 batters. Denard Span and Kurt Suzuki, both former AL
stalwarts have fared well against him in the past. Specifically, Span has a
.357 BA against him, with two doubles and a triple in 42 PA’s. 

For the second
time this season, Gio Gonzalez struck out 11 batters in his last outing against
the Pirates. He left the game with the 4-3 lead, but Rafael Soriano allowed
four runs in the ninth, so Gio did not get the decision. Thankfully, the Nats
scored enough runs to win the game, but if the bullpen keeps doing this to Gio
he will be lucky to win fifteen games. With how well he has been pitching the
majority of the season he should be flirting with another 20-plus win season,
but it appears that has gone out the window.

Gio has faced off
against the Tigers five times in his career. All of his appearances came when
he was with the Oakland A’s. Early on in his career he was shelled by the
Tigers, but when he faced them in 2011 it was a different story. In 2011, he
started two games against the Tigers, where he pitched 13 innings and only gave
up one earned run. The current Tiger lineup has a .250 BA against Gonzalez,
with Victor Martinez and Matt Tuiasosopo all sporting impressive OPS against
him. Miguel Cabrera, on the other hand, has struggled against Gio in the past.
In 14 plate appearances Cabrera has only managed one hit and struck out three
times.


Headed down to the ballpark? Get you Washington Nationals tickets here! 

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