The Washington Nationals (20-17) are heading west to play through the West Coast and attempt to quell any momentum the Los Angeles Dodgers (15-21) are gaining before they can build it into a streak.
The Dodgers, who have been one of the bigger disappointments of the 2013 season, underachieving despite their high payroll, just took two games from the Miami Marlins to stop an eight-game losing streak.
The last time the Dodgers snapped an eight-game losing streak was in 2008, according to MLB.com, and they countered that stretch of losing by then putting together an eight-game winning streak, ultimately becoming the NL West champions.
Though the Nationals lost their last two games, they will look to be the team that stifles the Dodgers’ chances at recreating that pattern of success, as they kick off a 10-game road trip through the NL West.
Memories in Dodger Stadium
The Nationals started out 2012 hot, winning all of their first six series. However, their first series loss of the season came at the hands of the Dodgers when they swept the Nats in Los Angeles.
Many Nationals fans remember that particular match-up because it was during that series that Bryce Harper made his debut. Harper will return to Dodger Stadium for the first time since then, after going 2-for-6 with a double, a walk and an RBI in his first two Major League games there.
To say Harper has been a significant contributor to the Nationals since his debut is an understatement, though he is hitting only .120/.233/.240 in May. He returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games with an ingrown toenail with hopes of getting back on track to the pace he set in April, which has his season slash line sitting at .297/.387/.619.
Harper and the rest of the Nationals lineup, who are hitting .223 in May, will look to liven up their bats in California to tilt their 19-28 record against the Dodgers since 2005 more in favor of Washington.
Though the Dodgers were a popular playoff pick in the offseason, a multitude of injuries to key players has hampered their success and reduced them to last place in the NL West.
Ten players from their colossal $220 million payroll currently sit on the disabled list, including pitchers Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, and position players Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez.
However, there is a chance the Dodgers could re-activate Greinke this week to face the Nationals, which would be great news for a team that has already had to use nine starting pitchers this season. Greinke has been on the DL since April 12 with a broken collarbone after he fought with Carlos Quentin in the benches-clearing debacle with the San Diego Padres.
If they do have to face him on Wednesday, the Nationals are well equipped to hit against the pitcher who signed a $147 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason. In 58 at bats against him, current Nationals are hitting an impressive .345/.397/.431.
Injuries have also allowed room for the Dodgers to bring up bench player Scott Van Slyke, who has already bolstered their power-sapped offense. Van Slyke was recalled from the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate on May 10, and proceeded to hit his first three career home runs in two days. He went 9-for-54 in his first 27 major league games with the Dodgers last year. The Dodgers’ offense has hit the fourth-fewest home runs in the majors this season (26).
In The Zone
Adam LaRoche (1B) .448 AVG, .528 OBP, .517 SLG, 6 BB (nine-game hitting streak)
Ian Desmond (SS) .389 AVG, .450 OBP, .833 SLG, 2 HR, 2 2B (last five games)
Matt Kemp (CF) .348 AVG, .360 OBP, .391 SLG, 1 2B (last six games)
Carl Crawford (LF) .333 AVG, .360 OBP, .458 SLG, 1 HR (last six games)
Dee Gordan (SS) .217 AVG, .308 OBP, .348 SLG, 6 SO (last six games)
Jordan Zimmermann (6-1, 1.59 ERA, .181 BAA, 34 SO) vs. Josh Beckett (0-4, 5.13 ERA, .294 BAA, 36 SO)
Dan Haren (4-3, 5.17 ERA, .315 BAA, 27 SO) vs. Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.62 ERA, .177 BAA, 56 SO)
Ross Detwiler (2-3, 2.53 ERA, .296 BAA, 23 SO) vs. TBA