Nats Look To Get Back On Track Against Twins

After being forced to meditate on a frustrating 10-1 loss for two days due to two consecutive rainouts, the Washington Nationals (29-30) should be eager to get back on track against their next opponent, the Minnesota Twins (26-31).

The Nationals have played the Twins on only two occasions since baseball returned to Washington, after leaving with the Twins franchise – formerly known as the Washington Senators – in 1961. The Nationals won one series against the Twins in 2007, and lost one in 2008, going 2-4 overall.

The Twins just lost a series to the Kansas City Royals, and are in third place in the AL Central. The two teams will play a day-night double header on Sunday to make up Friday’s rain out.

Troubles of the Trade

After being traded to the Nationals in the offseason for pitching prospect Alex Meyer, Denard Span will play against his former team for the first time in his six-year career during this series. Span was drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2002 draft, and made his debut with them in April 2008.

Span has a career .354 on-base percentage, and has one of the highest OBP’s of the Nationals (.318), serving as their leadoff hitter. But since Span’s exit, the Twins have struggled with finding an equally effective replacement for him at the top of their own batting order.

The Twins have employed five different players in the leadoff spot without much luck. Brian Dozier (.229 AVG, .281 OBP), Jamey Carroll (.217 AVG, .278 OBP), Aaron Hicks (.177 AVG, .246 OBP), Eduardo Escobar (.217 AVG, .270 OBP) and Darin Mastroianni (.222 AVG, .300 OBP) have all tried the No. 1 spot, and have posted less than impressive stats.

As of Friday, Twins leadoff hitters ranked last in MLB with a .181 batting average and a .230 OBP. During this series, they will face two of the Nats’ toughest pitchers in Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, who have every capability of continuing to squelch Minnesota’s success at the plate.

The Twin’s offense overall has a slash line of .244/.318/.382, which ranks 24th, 17th and 23rd, in each respective category. However, their low numbers are still higher than the Nats’ offense, who have a slash line of  .230/.287/.372 (28th, 30th, 27th).

As this season has shown, the Nationals’ strength lies in their pitching, and the story is no different with this series. The Nats’ pitching staff outpaces the Twins’ with a sixth-place 3.63 ERA and a seventh-place 1.23 WHIP, to the Twins’ 24th-place 4.36 ERA and 29th-place 1.56 WHIP. The Twins also rank last in strikeouts with 327.

In The Zone

Ian Desmond (SS) .324 AVG, .343 OBP, .588 SLG, 2 HR (nine-game hitting streak)

Who’s Hot?

Ryan Doumit (C) .364 AVG, .417 OBP, .955 SLG, 3 HR (last five games)

Brian Dozier (2B) .375 AVG, .474 OBP, .625 SLG, 1 HR (last five games)

Who’s Not?

Pedro Florimon (SS) .167 AVG, .200 OBP, .222 SLG, 3 SO (last five games)

Chris Parmelee (RF) .167 AVG, .318 OBP, .222 SLG, 3 SO (last five games)

Probable Starters

6/8, Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64 ERA, .205 BAA, 67 SO) vs. Kevin Correia (5-4, 4.09 ERA, .296 BAA, 29 SO)

6/9, Jordan Zimmermann (8-3, 2.16 ERA, .214 BAA, 53 SO) vs. Scott Diamond (4-4, 4.66 ERA, .315 BAA, 26 SO)

6/9, Nathan Karns (0-1, 6.00 ERA, .300 BAA, 9 SO) vs. Sam Deduno (2-1, 3.44 ERA, .239 BAA, 9 SO)

Erin Flynn

About Erin Flynn

Erin is the Lead Beat Writer and Copy Editor for The Nats Blog. She is a journalism major at University of Richmond, and spends entirely too much time thinking about baseball.