Opposite dugout: Giants, Nats match up two of baseball’s best pitching staffs

giants-logo.pngManager: Bruce Bochy, eighth year
Record: 42-21
Last 10 games: 8-2
Who to watch: LF Michael Morse (.278/.329/.550, 13 HR, 16 doubles, 42 RBIs); RF Hunter Pence (.290/.363/.468, 8 HR, 14 doubles, 23 RBIs); RHP Tim Hudson (6-2, 1.97 ERA, 0.96 WHIP); LHP Madison Bumgarner (8-3, 2.68 ERA, 90 K)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-3, 24 runs scored, 17 runs allowed

Pitching probables
June 9: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Stephen Strasburg, 10 p.m., MASN2 HD
June 10: Madison Bumgarner vs. Doug Fister, 10 p.m., MASN2 HD
June 11: Matt Cain vs. Tanner Roark, 10 p.m., MASN2 HD
June 12: Tim Hudson vs. Blake Treinen, 3:30 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
Anytime the Nationals take the field, it’s a good bet fans are in store for some good pitching. Those odds are doubled over the next four days in San Francisco, when the Nats and Giants send two of baseball’s best pitching staffs head to head.

The Giants have been the best team in the majors, becoming the first club to reach the 40-win mark with their pitching being the main reason.

San Francisco is a well-rounded club, but it owns the second-best bullpen in baseball (2.39 ERA) - only the Nationals have a better relievers’ ERA - and a strong rotation that is now fully healthy with Matt Cain off the disabled list.

San Francisco has four relievers who have made at least 22 appearances and posted ERAs better than 1.71. That group is led by right-hander Jean Machi, who is 5-0 with a 0.32 ERA in 28 appearances. Machi has permitted just one run in 28 innings.

Known for their comebacks, the Nats will have a tough time if they fall behind by the bay, as closer Sergio Romo has had the ninth locked down, leading the majors with 20 saves (in 22 chances). He holds opponents to a .167 average and has a miniscule 0.77 WHIP.

With a four-game series ahead, the Nats will get to see the Giants’ four strongest starters, only missing right-hander Tim Lincecum, who has a rotation-worst 4.97 ERA.

The teams line up for four duels worth staying up for. Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (4-2, 3.39 ERA) goes up against Stephen Strasburg in Game 1. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (8-3, 2.68 ERA) takes on Doug Fister in Game 2. Cain (1-3, 3.52 ERA) faces Tanner Roark in Game 3. Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (6-2, 1.97 ERA) matches up with rookie Blake Treinen in Game 4.

The Giants have the majors’ sixth-best starters’ ERA (3.41 and just ahead of the Nats), and are third in the National League with a 3.07 team ERA, two spots behind - who else - the Nationals.

Offensively, San Francisco has more than held its own, ranking third in the NL with 278 runs, second with 69 homers and fourth with a .406 slugging percentage, helping to make up for being ninth with a .248 average.

Former Nats slugger Michael Morse has been the Giants’ centerpiece, tying for fourth in the NL with 13 homers and tying for third with 42 RBIs. He leads the Giants with an .879 OPS.

Right fielder Hunter Pence is also having a fine season, batting .290 with an .831 OPS, eight homers and 23 RBIs. Five other Giants have hit at least seven homers, one of which (first baseman Brandon Belt) is out with a broken thumb.

So the games might be late, at least for the first three nights of the series, but this one has the potential to be some must-watch baseball between two NL heavyweights.

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