The Washington Nationals are a perfect 4-0 after the first stop of their 10-game, western roadtrip, but the quality of opposition is about to ratchet up. This weekend the Nats make their only visit of the season to Arizona for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks, before traveling to the west coast to face the division-leading San Francisco Giants.
The Nats arrive in Phoenix following a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros -- the team with the worst record in the majors. In the D-backs, the Nats face a solid team that's playing to remain in the playoff hunt.
Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks
Friday, August 10, 9:40 p.m. EDT
Stephen Strasburg (12-5, 2.97) vs. Trevor Cahill (9-9, 3.76)
Saturday, August 11, 8:10 p.m. EDT
Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.56) vs. Wade Miley (12-7, 2.85)
Sunday, August 12, 4:10 p.m. EDT
Ross Detwiler (6-4, 2.99) vs. Patrick Corbin (3-4, 3.53)
Season Series: The Nationals took 2-of-3 games from the D-backs in May in D.C. This series will complete the season series between the teams.
The Nationals took advantage of their trip to Houston and carry a six-game winning streak to Phoenix. Washington now has the best record in baseball, and the Nats hold a four and a half game lead in the NL East over the Atlanta Braves, having buried the rest of the division. The offense is solid, with Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse finally adding some punch to the line-up. The pitching staff leads the majors with a 3.23 ERA.
The D-Backs have been lurking around the .500 level all season and have shown no signs of going away. Arizona is in third place in the NL West, but just four games behind San Francisco and three behind Los Angeles. The offense is led by Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill and newly acquired 3B Chris Johnson. The starting rotation has been surprising, including a stunning rookie season by Miley. The team returns home after splitting four games against a tough Pirates team in Pittsburgh.
The Nationals didn't always look their best during their stop in Houston, but that makes the four-game sweep all the more rewarding. The young Nats have held steady in first place and are finding ways to win games. However, there are no more games on the schedule against the woeful Astros, and the trip to Arizona provides a good test against a team fighting to stay in the playoff race.
The D-backs will have to face Strasburg in the opener, coming off of a dominant outing. The tail end of the rotation doesn't get much easier -- Jackson has been a bit shaky lately, but Detwiler has been outstanding in his past two starts. Arizona counters with a trio of capable starters, headlined by Miley, who's pushing Bryce Harper for Rookie of the Year honors. As a team, Arizona doesn't have many big-name players, but the Nats will have to play well if they want to extend their winning streak
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.