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Series Preview: Reds to visit Uncle Dusty, first place Nationals

Losers of 6 of their last 7, the Reds scuffle into the nation’s capital to visit their old friend, Dusty Baker, and the first place Nationals.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

Game Times and Probable Pitchers

Nationals Park

Thursday, June 30, 2016, 7:05 ET: LHP Brandon Finnegan vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez

Friday, July 1, 2016, 6:05 ET: RHP Anthony DeSclafani vs. RHP Tanner Roark

Saturday, July 2, 2016, 7:15 ET: RHP Dan Straily vs. RHP Joe Ross

Sunday, July 3, 2016, 1:35 ET: LHP John Lamb vs. TBA (Lucas Giolito)

The last time the Reds caught up with Gio Gonzalez, they roughed him up to the tune of nine hits and five earned runs through six innings of play, hanging him with the loss in a game the Reds would ultimately win 7-2.

It’s not gotten any better for Gio since. In four starts since the aforementioned blooping he took at the hands of Cincinnati, Gonzalez has pitched 21.2 innings with a 7.06 ERA and nearly .800 OPS against. The Nats have lost all of those games.

He’s struck out over a batter an inning in that time, while walking only 11, and a .411 BABIP over the stretch seems to suggest that he’s been the victim of a bit of bad luck. Still, it’s obvious he doesn’t have his best stuff, and it’s stuff the Reds have seen just a month ago. They need to jump all over it.

The Reds also banged up Tanner Roark in their early June meeting, even worse than Gonzalez. Roark would only be good for three innings while giving up five himself, though the Reds would cough up five later in the game and end up losing by one run. Roark, however, has bounced back.

In 27.1 innings pitched, Roark has surrendered only seven runs (2.30 ERA), walking only five over the span and striking out 24.

Roark’s start against the Reds on June 5th was his second-worst of the season. Overall, Tanner’s had a very good season, with an fWAR of two before the All Star break. His success is kind of strange, but I’m sure he’ll be looking to get back at the Reds on Friday night.

The Reds missed Joe Ross the last time around, but they’ll take their turn against the 23-year-old right hander on Saturday. The second year former first rounder is having a very solid year for the Nationals. His 3.30 ERA and 129 ERA+ are both third among starting pitching in Washington.

He’s struggled a bit in June, however, posting a 5.22 ERA in 29.1 summer starts. Through May, he’d posted a 2.37 ERA. The 3.57 FIP suggests that not much is amiss, however, and the younger brother of Tyson will look to keep the Reds in check on Saturday night.

The Sunday starter for the Nationals hasn’t been officially announced yet, but barring a miraculous return from Stephen Strasburg (on the 15-day DL dealing with an upper-back strain and 2 dislocated ribs), chances are the starter will be’s number one rated prospect, Lucas Giolito.

Tuesday night, Giolito’s MLB debut was ended prematurely by rain, but the wunderkind lived up to the billing, throwing four innings of 1-hit baseball against the New York Mets. Giolito’s got three legitimate major league pitches and despite not spending a minute in AAA, the Nationals are confident the 21-year-old has the stuff to keep big league hitters at bay.


C Wilson Ramos

1B Ryan Zimmerman

2B Daniel Murphy

SS Daniel Espinosa

3B Anthony Rendon

LF Jayson Werth

CF Michael Taylor

RF Bryce Harper

Since the last time I wrote one of these about the Nationals, Daniel Murphy has batted .268/.341/.500, good for a .841OPS, because sometime around August of last year Daniel Murphy murph’d into the best damn baseball player, apparently.

Bryce Harper is great, obviously, but I think it’s worth noting that he’s so great that he’s reached the point that when he’s anything but great, your mind can’t help but exaggerate the struggle.

For instance, when I looked at his overall slash (.258/.403/.496), I thought it was a touch low. So I thought I’d see what Harper had been up to since the Nationals visited the Reds in early June. After manually tabulating the numbers (and by manually of course I mean clicking the appropriate columns over at Baseball Reference and highlighting the games), the output I received set me back.

“.814 OPS?” I thought, “Bryce Harper is struggling.”

Which is incredibly silly. In 97 PA, Harper has hit .272/.381/.432. There ain’t a damn thing wrong with that. But it’s all about expectations. Remember, Bryce Harper just put up a 9+ WAR season in 2015, winning the National League MVP.

When you set the bar that high, it’s easy for people to be taken aback when your slash is merely good and not transcendent. If Harper has any trouble dealing with that kind of pressure, he should probably just call Joey Votto.

For what it’s worth, Votto’s slashed .310/.456/.479 over that same time period.


Jonathan Papelbon

Felipe Rivero

Blake Trainen

Shawn Kelley

Oliver Perez

Yusmeiro Petit

Sammy Solis

Matt Belisle

Papelbutt is on the DL currently, but he’s on a rehab stint and looks like he could return any day now. Look for him to be suiting up with the Nationals this weekend. Joy.

Much of what I said last time about the bullpen still fits, it’s a generally solid group that doesn’t have to get stressed much due to the good starts it usually gets out of the rotation.

Felipe Rivero has really struggled, despite getting the most innings in relief of the group (DUUUSSTTYY!!!). His 6.09 ERA is by far the worst in the group (70 ERA+). His FIP is nearly half of that number, so it may be mostly bad luck. Regardless, the results he’s gotten would have him fitting right in in the Reds bullpen.

Shawn Kelley’s numbers on the year are good, though he’s faltered a bit since this last piece. Since, shutting down the Reds over 1.2 innings pitched, Kelley has appeared in 10 innings, allowing a 5.40 ERA fueled by a .389 BABIP. He’s still striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings, so he’s certainly still tough to hit.


The Reds will go to Nationals Park mired in their typical “Cubs afterglow” slump, after being bashed yet again by Chicago yesterday. There’s certainly not a lot of shame in getting beat by that team; short of yesterday, the Reds were competitive in each contest, despite the two teams obviously headed in different directions.

But, after going 1-6 on a seven game homestand, it’s hard to know exactly what team you’re going to get as they head into their final road trip until the break. If they’re going to get right, they’re going to have to do it against two of the best teams in baseball.

Yeah, I think the break is going to come at a very fortunate time.

Read Also:

Dusty Baker quotes!

On Lucas Giolito.

The Nationals take a flyer on Mat Latos.