The Cubs fly to the nation’s capital for a weekend series with the Washington Nationals after losing two out of three to the Cincinnati Reds, their first series loss since the opening road trip. Coming in hot, the offense got shut down by quality Reds pitching and the Cubs bullpen couldn’t cover in the low-scoring affairs. They will look to bounce back quickly and restart their series winning streak against the struggling Nationals.
Typically a strong contender in the NL East, the Nats expected to compete against the young Braves and Phillies. However, their rough start has them seven games below .500 at 18-25, six games back of Philadelphia.
Despite losing out on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes this offseason, the Nationals had a solid offseason and tossed around a good bit of case. They reinforced the top of the rotation by adding Patrick Corbin and replaced some of Harper’s offense with slugging second baseman Brian Dozier. On paper, this team had many DC fans excited about 2019, but a mixture of injuries and poor bullpen performances have proved challenging.
The lineup features a mix of stars in their prime with a flash of the future. Power-hitting third baseman Anthony Rendon bolsters the middle of the lineup and his having another outstanding year with a 1.072 OPS that ranks 4th in the NL. Rising stars Juan Soto (20 years old) and Victor Robles (22 years old) patrol the outfield, but are still getting their feet under them. Speedy shortstop Trea Turner is rehabbing from a broken finger that occurred in early April and is questionable to return for the series.
The top of the Nats’ rotation will strike fear into any lineup with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg serving as perhaps the most imposing 1-2 punch in the game. Scherzer has continued to dominate hitters, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings and sporting a 2.24 FIP. The Cubs will take on those two stars to lead off the series before getting a break against struggling veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to wrap up the series.
The Cubs will be in good shape if they can get to the Nationals bullpen, which ranks last in MLB with a 6.15 ERA. Closer Sean Doolittle has locked down the late innings with a 0.95 ERA and 2.26 FIP, but there are few other trusted relievers for former Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez to call on.
The Cubs should feel confident that they can come away with a series win, but this is a talented Nationals team that should not be overlooked.
TV and Game Info
- Friday, May 17 at 6:05 PM CT on WGN
- Saturday, May 18 at 6:15 PM CT on FOX
- Sunday, May 19 at 6:05 PM CT on ESPN
What to Watch For
- The return of Anthony Rizzo to the lineup has been anxiously awaited since he sat this past Sunday in Chicago. His bat was missed against the tough Cincinnati pitching, and will be needed against the daunting starters they face on Friday and Saturday.
- Jason Heyward has gone ice cold at the plate in May. The Gold-Glove winning outfielder teased Cubs fans with an April reminiscent of his days with the Cards and Braves, but has gone 7-for-55 (.127 BA) so far this month. His season slash line has dropped from an outstanding .329/.438/.529 to a disappointing .235/.338./412. Joe Maddon may rest him against the two elite starters in the opening two games of the series to give him a mental break.
- As a baseball fan, you have to love watching Scherzer. Year after year, he makes some of the best hitters in the league look silly. The Cubs will look to get him out of the game as early as possible to take advantage of the weak bullpen.
- Cubs starters have overcome the initial poor start to put together some of the best pitching in the league over the last month. They currently lead the NL in ERA (3.14), and will look to maintain their form.