The Washington Nationals embark on a 10-game roadtrip, but get to ease into the stretch with a visit to the woeful Houston Astros. The Nats are holding onto a three-game lead in the NL East, and will try to take advantage of four games against a team with little to play for.
The Astros, at 36-73, have the worst record in baseball, trail by thirty and a half games in the NL Central, and have been outscored by 142 runs this season -- by far the worst in the majors. Houston has been in a freefall for some time, and has lost a stunning 20-of-23 games since the All-Star break.
Washington Nationals at Houston Astros
Monday, August 6, 8:05 p.m. EDT
Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.57) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.77)
Tuesday, August 7, 8:05 p.m. EDT
Ross Detwiler (6-4, 3.02) vs. Jordan Lyles (2-8, 5.95)
Wednesday, August 8, 8:05 p.m. EDT
Gio Gonzalez (13-6, 3.34) vs. Armando Galarraga (0-1, 5.23)
Thursday, August 9, 8:05 p.m. EDT
Season Series: The Nationals took 3-of-4 games from the Astros in April in D.C. This series at Minute Maid Park will complete the season series between the teams.
The upstart Nationals continue to look strong, and only the Atlanta Braves are within a dozen games of the Nats in the NL East standings. The offense is finally on a roll, recently aided by the return of Jayson Werth from the DL. The waiver-wire addition of C Kurt Suzuki bolsters the team's defense. The pitching staff has experienced some unusual inconsistency, but continues to lead baseball with a 3.28 ERA.
The Astros are playing out the string. Gone by the trade deadline were slugger Carlos Lee and starters Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ. And the news only gets worse -- newly acquired closer Francisco Cordero blew three saves in three opportunities and went on the DL on Friday. The offense is lacking any threats, and the decimated pitching staff carries an ERA of 4.81 -- more than a run and a half higher than the Nationals.
The Nationals have won four of their last five games and carry some momentum onto this roadtrip. The Nats hope to pile up a few wins in Houston before moving on to tougher stops in Arizona and San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Astros are reduced to playing for pride and for spots on next season's roster.
The pitching matchups will favor Washington every night. Houston's rotation is in disarray, but the Nats need to watch out for Harrell in the series finale -- he's won his last two starts and hasn't given up more than two runs in each of his last five. But the Astros are struggling, and the Nats need to win three or four games in this series to consider the trip to Houston a success.
KW Rosenfeld is a lifelong baseball fan who visited every major league ballpark in the summer of 1991. A longtime resident of Northern Virginia, he's still thankful that baseball has returned to D.C.