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Rays vs. Nationals Series Preview

Davey Martinez returns for this two game series

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays just swept the New York Yankees. The good news: A big fly from newcomer Jake Bauers allowed the Rays to complete the sweep with a twelve inning walk-off win (we’re featuring his photo again for this article because you just can’t get enough of the walk-off celebration). The bad news: they used a LOT of pitchers and the bullpen is running on fumes.

The Rays have won five of their last seven while facing the elites of the American League. The Nationals avoided the sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies last night in a rainy drawn-out affair that delayed the team’s arrival in St. Pete.

The Matchups:

Monday 7:10 PM: Gio Gonzalez vs Blake Snell
Tuesday 12:10 PM: Max Scherzer vs Nathan Eovaldi

The Rays get the pleasure of facing Max Scherzer again

Nationals Starters Last 3 Years

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher GS IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Gio Gonzalez 96 557.0 22.7% 8.8% 0.86 3.54 3.66
Max Scherzer 100 663.0 33.3% 6.0% 1.14 2.81 2.99

Gio Gonzalez has taken small steps in lowering a walk rate that found him in trouble quite frequently in Oakland close to a decade ago. The left handed pitcher has been especially tough on left handed batters the past two years allowing wOBAs of .229 and .210. Right handers have fared much better with wOBAs of .296 and .326. In his last start he allowed two runs in 4.0 innings to the Baltimore Orioles.

Max Scherzer is great. He is one of the most dominant starting pitchers in all of baseball. Earlier this month the Rays saw this first hand as he struck out 13 in 8.0 innings while walking none. The Rays did manage to turn their five hits into two runs. In his last outing he allowed two solo shots against the Orioles in 7.0 innings.

The Nationals have added Kelvin Herrera to their pen

Nationals Relievers Last 3 Years

Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Pitcher G IP K% BB% HR/9 ERA FIP
Kelvin Herrera 208 201.2 24.4% 6.2% 0.94 3.12 3.35
Ryan Madson 191 184.0 23.2% 6.0% 0.64 2.89 3.04
Sean Doolittle 140 136.2 31.2% 5.0% 0.99 2.77 2.78
Shawn Kelley 153 130.1 31.1% 6.6% 1.86 3.45 4.15
Sammy Solis 118 106.0 25.7% 11.0% 0.68 3.82 3.41
Justin Miller 82 88.1 28.6% 9.5% 1.02 4.58 3.49
Matt Grace 71 74.2 17.2% 6.7% 0.72 3.98 3.74
Tim Collins 12 7.2 13.3% 6.7% 0.00 0.00 2.85

The Nationals beat teams that aren’t the Seattle Mariners to the reliever market acquiring the hottest rental reliever: Kelvin Herrera, acquired from the Kansas City Royals. Herrera has combined for 28.2 innings of 1.57 ERA and 3.11 ball between the Royals and Nationals.

Sean Doolittle remains the closer with a 1.60 ERA and 2.10 FIP. He’s collected 21 saves.

With the trade, Ryan Madson takes a step back in the pecking order with a 4.05 ERA and 3.18 FIP.

The Nationals bullpen should be able to handle almost any workload in this short two game series.

The Nationals have underachieved offensively

Nationals Batters Last 3 Years

Batter PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Batter PA HR SB BB% K% AVE OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Bryce Harper 1812 90 34 16.7% 20.1% 0.276 0.397 0.521 0.384 139
Anthony Rendon 1770 59 20 11.4% 16.7% 0.281 0.366 0.472 0.358 122
Daniel Murphy 1541 58 8 6.8% 10.5% 0.318 0.367 0.538 0.377 135
Mark Reynolds 1352 58 3 10.5% 27.4% 0.262 0.342 0.460 0.344 102
Adam Eaton 1287 29 30 9.2% 17.9% 0.297 0.376 0.450 0.359 127
Michael A. Taylor 1253 40 62 6.9% 31.1% 0.245 0.299 0.411 0.303 85
Trea Turner 1157 33 102 7.3% 18.5% 0.294 0.348 0.467 0.349 115
Wilmer Difo 684 9 18 7.3% 18.9% 0.263 0.318 0.365 0.293 78
Brian Goodwin 380 14 9 8.7% 27.1% 0.245 0.314 0.457 0.325 98
Pedro Severino 242 2 1 9.5% 21.1% 0.197 0.289 0.282 0.251 52
Juan Soto 121 6 1 15.7% 17.4% 0.324 0.430 0.588 0.429 172
Spencer Kieboom 39 0 0 15.4% 15.4% 0.212 0.333 0.242 0.273 67

The Nationals have put up a .241/.318/.399 line and 92 wRC+ that is good for 21st in the league. Recently the offense has added Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy off the disabled list, so the offense should improve going forward.

Bryce Harper isn’t having the season he was hoping as he heads to free agency this winter. He started off with a hot month of April putting up a 155 wRC+, but in June this has dived to 60 wRC+. He’s hitting 119 wRC+ on the year. He has hit 19 homers.

Anthony Rendon is overlooked, but is very good in own right. He’s put up a 129 wRC+.

Juan Soto has been on fire since his surprise promotion after a week in AA last month. He’s put up 174 wRC+ and six homers in his first 121 plate appearances as a 19 year old.

Trea Turner (105 wRC+) and Adam Eaton (132 wRC+) have complemented the offensive stars.

The Rays look to finish out the month of June on a strong note.

he Rays sit at 9-13 in a month that saw them face the elite teams in baseball.

Is the sweep against the Yankees only the beginning?

The offense is in transition with Willy Adames and Jake Bauers up for good, and looking to establish themselves as MLB starters for the foreseeable future. The pitching is still held together by duct tape but, somehow, seems to be working.