After winning two straight to cap their series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Washington Nationals (53-43) open a nine-game road trip in Denver, and take on the struggling Colorado Rockies (40-58).
These teams have squared off for three games earlier this year, when the Nats swept the Rockies in D.C. in the first three games after Bryce Harper returned. Unsurprisingly, it was the Colorado pitching staff that let them down, as the Nats scored a total of 18 runs over the three games. The Nationals also managed to shut down the normally effective Rockies offense, limiting them to just seven runs for the series.
While both teams will get an offense boost as the matchup shifts to Coors Field, where the altitude softens breaking balls and turns routine fly balls into no-doubt home runs, the Rockies took a pair of big hits to their lineup before the series opener. First baseman Justin Morneau, who has had a career resurgence in the thin air with a .312/.345/.502 line and a 119 wRC+, was placed on the disabled list with a strained neck and will not be eligible to return for more than a week. But more painfully for Colorado, All-Star and MVP candidate shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is out of the lineup for the series opener after leaving the Rockies game in Pittsburgh on Saturday with a thigh cramp and not playing Sunday. It is not known whether he will be available for the rest of the series.
The Nats’ excellent pitching staff will have its work cut out for it, given the atmosphere, but they may have a bonus with Doug Fister on the mound. Fister is a groundball pitcher, which will keep him somewhat safe from the threat of carrying fly balls. However, he and the other Nationals pitchers will still have to contend with the air that prevents their pitches from moving.
Only one pitcher who appeared at Nats Park for Colorado will start in this series: Yohan Flande, who the Nats tagged for three runs in 5.1 IP in a 7-3 win. In addition to the struggling Franklin Morales, the Nats will see arguably the best Rockies pitcher: Jorge De La Rosa, who leads healthy Rockies starters with a 4.39 ERA.
In The Zone
Bryce Harper (LF) .500/.583/.900, 1 HR, 0.3 WAR
Josh Rutlege (SS) .429/.429/.857, 1 HR, 0.1 WAR
Ryan Zimmerman (3B) .500/.500/.833, 1 HR, 0.3 WAR
Corey Dickerson (OF) .500/.600/.500, 2 SB, 0.1 WAR
Anthony Rendon (2B) .071/.071/.071, -0.2 WAR, 28.6% K-rate
DJ LeMahieu (INF) .100/.100/.100, -0.2 WAR, -73 wRC+
Probable Pitchers (full season)
7/21, RHP Doug Fister (8-2, 2.90 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 5.21 K/9) vs. LHP Franklin Morales (5-4, 5.26 ERA, 5.81 FIP, 6.39 K/9)
7/22, RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-5, 3.03 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 8.04 K/9) vs. LHP Yohan Flande (0-2, 7.36 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 4.30 K/9)
7/23, RHP Stephen Strasburg (7-7, 3.55 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 10.77 K/9) vs. LHP Jorge De La Rosa (10-6, 4.39 ERA, 4.60 FIP, 6.21 K/9)