The Washington Nationals will be concluding the first half of the season with a three game set against the best team in the National League. Coming off a series against another one of the NL elites, the Padres, the Nats took two out of four. In San Francisco, they look to continue their recent offensive outbursts. On Monday and Wednesday, the team scored a combined 22 runs. Coincidentally, those were both wins for the Nats. Pitching might win championships, but offense wins games. The Nats need the right amount of both in order to end the first half of the season strong before a five day hiatus.
Giants Continue to Roll:
The San Francisco Giants have been the biggest surprise of the 2021 MLB season. Not only have they been winning much more than anyone imagined, but they are doing so with lights out pitching. Kevin Gausman has been phenomenal. He faces the Nats on Sunday with a 1.74 ERA coming into the outing. Behind him are many guys that are not household names, yet effective pitchers. Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood are just some of their starters that have been fabulous this season.
As the Nats found out last month in DC, the Giants are not the most potent offense. They have some sluggers like Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Mike Yastrzemski, and Brandon Belt. However, this team lacks a lot of hitting depth. Guys like Lamonte Wade Jr, a Maryland product, shined bright in DC in the previous series between the two, but still has not been up to par this season.
With their ballpark, though, they do not necessarily have to have the strongest lineup. Oracle Park (formerly known as AT&T Park) is a historically spacious yard and the gaps in right center make it heaven for a rangy outfielder or speedy contact hitter. The Giants do use their home field advantage as they are significantly better when playing at home. Additionally, their pitching staff and team philosophy allows this team to win a lot of games without having the most electrifying offense. As any NL West fan would admit, the moment the Giants are looked past, they will steamroll any team in their past.
Nats Returning to Form:
Following the four game sweep against the Dodgers, the Nats looked to be floundering and injured beyond belief. All that can be said now is “what a difference a few days makes”. The Nats have gone toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league and have done it with some great offensive performances. Josh Bell has been hitting very well lately, getting his average closer to .250. Juan Soto has announced that he is competing in the Home Run Derby and hit a few home runs. Alcides Escobar has been a spark plug for the Nats ever since they acquired him last week.
Then there is the even better news: the reinforcements are here. Daniel Hudson and Kyle Finnegan, two important late game relievers are back in the fold after stints on the IL. Stephen Strasburg appears to be nearing a rehab assignment. Everything is actually looking up in terms of the injury news. However, the team has a big decision ahead of them when Strasburg returns. Jon Lester, their signing from the offseason, has now had a handful of painful starts. His control has not always been present and he has been forcing the bullpen to log many innings. The question becomes: does Davey Martinez roll out a six man rotation because of how good Joe Ross and Erick Fedde have been? The answer remains unseen, but if the Nationals are confident in Fedde and Ross to keep up their recent trends, the team might go ahead and get rid of Lester and eat his cap damage.
All Stars Galore:
Between these two teams, there are six selected All Stars, with three on each team. Now, the Nats are without Kyle Schwarber, but they might get one more. Max Scherzer has been rumored to be a replacement. Nonetheless, the Nats and Giants have talent to boast and it will be on full display this weekend in the Bay Area. After the game on Sunday, these foes turn into teammates for the next couple of days as they will all head onto a charter flight to Denver.
Beyond just the All Star Game, fans have a chance to watch the future stars of both teams shine on Sunday afternoon. The SiriusXM Futures Game is on Sunday on MLB Network. Both teams have their top prospect representing them. The Nationals’ lone representative is Cade Cavali. Nationals fans know him for his ability to cut opposing batters down and the hair of his teammates. The Giants send their top prospect in Marco Luciano and their #3 prospect, Heliot Ramos.
Overall, this weekend series should be a fun one for both teams. These two matched up very well earlier in the year in Washington. They match up now with a little more on the line, but still not a terrible amount as it currently stands. The Nats have quietly made their push to challenge the Padres for the second Wild Card spot, and a few wins against the Giants surely would help.