Manager: Don Mattingly, fourth year
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.292/.374/.592, 9 HR, 9 doubles, 25 RBIs); RF Yasiel Puig (.309/.397/.500, 11 XBH, 21 RBIs); LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.35 ERA); RHP Zack Greinke (5-0, 2.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 5-1, 22 runs scored, 12 runs allowed
For the only time this season, the Dodgers visit Nationals Park, giving D.C. fans quite a treat over the next three days.
Not only does Los Angeles bring one of the National League’s top offenses to town, but also one of the best pitching staffs, a group that will get a big boost while in Washington with the return of its featured starter.
Ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw will make his 2014 U.S. debut on Tuesday against the Nationals, having only pitched the Dodgers’ March 22 season opener in Australia. The 26-year-old hasn’t started since because of a back issue.
Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, has led the league in ERA in each of the last three seasons. So his return to the mound will be a welcome addition to a Dodgers rotation that has performed well without him, ranking fifth in the majors with a 2.99 starters’ ERA.
The Dodgers will open the series by starting right-hander Zack Greinke against Jordan Zimmermann. The undefeated Greinke is having an exceptional year, leading the league with five wins while posting a 2.04 ERA and striking out 46 in 35 1/3 innings.
Former Nationals right-hander Dan Haren is also slated to start in the series, taking on Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. Haren has been a key to helping the Dodgers stay a factor in the NL West with Kershaw out, going 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in six starts.
Gonzalez has posted a .966 OPS while leading the club with nine homers and 25 RBIs. Puig has an .897 OPS with 11 extra-base knocks and 21 RBIs. But he’ll be a question mark at the outset of the series after crashing into the wall hard and taking Jeff Baker’s walk-off double off his face in Sunday’s loss to the Marlins.
With or without Puig, the Dodgers bring a lot of firepower to D.C., both in terms of arms and bats, for what will certainly be a thrilling weekday series between World Series contenders.