Series Preview – Diamondbacks Hope to Spoil Bryce Harper’s Home Debut

Coming off a four game losing streak – their longest this season – the Washington Nationals (14-8) are set to face the Arizona Diamondbacks (12-11) back in Washington today to kick off a six-game homestand.

Traditionally, the Nationals have fared well against the D-Backs, having won 7 of 13 games at Nationals Park, and 24 of 46 (.522) overall.

The Diamondbacks, however, come to D.C. carrying a two-game winning streak after their most recent series win over the Miami Marlins.

Comparing the Offenses

Sitting in third place in the National League West, the D-backs have been off to a strong start at the plate. In their last seven games their qualified batters have been hitting between .480 (Jason Kubel) and a solid .273 (B.J. Upton). As a team they are batting .246 with 103 RBI’s and 24 home runs. However, they lead MLB in strikeouts with 192.

Although the Nationals are still in first place in the NL East (tied with the Atlanta Braves), it’s no secret that their offense has been struggling. They are hitting for a combined .226 batting average (the fourth lowest in baseball) and have 173 strikeouts as a team.

With Jordan Zimmermann getting the first start of the series, the superstitious may have cause for concern. Despite their scoring seven whole runs in the last game Zimmermann started, the Nats can’t afford to continue their usual offensive trend of trading their “bats for toothpicks” whenever he is pitching, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post aptly describes it.

With Michael Morse still out and Ryan Zimmerman now joining him on the DL, the remaining Nats need to start hitting to their potential so they can contend with the actively-scoring D-backs, who are used to scoring an average of 4.5 runs per game (versus the Nationals 3.4 runs per game).

Who’s hot?

Jason Kubel (LF) .333 AVG, .528 SLG, 12 RBI, 3 HR

Chris Young (CF) .410 AVG (39 at bats), .897 SLG, 13 RBI, 5 HR

Joe Saunders (LHP) 0.90 ERA, 30.0 IP, 18 SO.

Saunders pitched a complete game shutout his last start, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 4. The Diamondbacks beat the Marlins 5-0.

Who’s not?

Josh Collmenter (RHP) 9.82 ERA, 18.1 IP, 21 R, 25 H, 6 HR

Mike Zagurski (LHP)15. 43 ERA, 2.1 IP, 4 R, 4 H, 2 HR

Ryan Roberts (3B) AVG .159, 14 SO, 1 HR

Probable starters

Zimmermann (1-1, 1.33) vs. Cahill (1-2, 3.70)

Jackson (1-1, 3.16) vs. Saunders (2-1, 0.90)

Detwiler (2-1, 1.64) vs. TBA

Harper, Moore to make their home debuts

After getting called up while the Nationals were on the road due to Zimmerman and Mark DeRosa being placed on the DL, Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore will play at Nationals Park for the first time as Major Leaguers this tonight.

Moore was hitting .286 with seven home runs and 20 RBI’s at Triple-A Syracuse, and went 1-3 in his first Major League game on Sunday. Although he is a first baseman by trade, he handled himself well in left field this weekend.

Harper is hitting .333 after six at bats in two games, with one double and one RBI. He also made several noteworthy defensive plays, with his bullet of a throw from left field to home plate on Saturday, and his leaping catch on Sunday that may have left the centerfield wall in Los Angeles with a permanent imprint of his body.

Harper will most likely draw quite a crowd for his first game in Washington – there is an abundance of people walking around the park with 34’s on their backs when he’s NOT playing, so surely they will turn out for the first opportunity to see the 19-year-old phenom in action as a National.

Despite all the attention Harper has been given, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is “not getting caught in the Harper hype,” according to Diamondbacks’ beat writer Steve Gilbert.

“I’m interested in seeing how I can get him out, just like all the rest of the guys that are going to be playing,” Gibson told MLB.com.

Harper, Moore, and the Nationals will be looking to leave a stronger impression on Gibson by the time the Diamondbacks leave Washington.