Opposite dugout: Despite injuries, pitching-rich Nats only a game out of first in NL East

washington-logo-small.pngManager: Davey Martinez (1st season)

Record: 29-22

Last 10 games: 5-5

Players to watch: LF Juan Soto (.286), , RF Bryce Harper (.232 with 16 HR, 38 RBIs, 44 BB), SS Trea Turner (.270 with 6 HR, 22 RBIs, 14 SB) LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.38 ERA), RHP Max Scherzer (8-1, 2.13 ERA), RHP Sean Doolittle (1.93 ERA, 11 saves)

Series vs. Orioles: First meeting (2-2 in 2017)

Pitching probables:

May 28: LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-2) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (1-6), 1:05 p.m., MASN
May 29: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-0) vs. RHP Dylan Bundy (3-6), 7:05 p.m., MASN
May 30: RHP Max Scherzer (8-1) vs. RHP David Hess (2-1), 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Nationals:

For the fifth time in the last six years, the Nationals and Orioles renew their interleague rivalry for the Battle of the Beltways with a three-game series in Baltimore, and then again in D.C. from June 19-21. Baltimore leads Washington/Montreal in the all-time series 44-35, with the O’s leading 27-15 at home and trailing 17-21 on the road. But the Nats may be able to put a dent in the overall record as they visit a struggling O’s team this week at Camden Yards. The Nats were the odds-on favorite to win the National League East this season; so far, they’ve battled injuries all season, but are still just a game off the division-leading Braves, thanks in large part to a strong starting rotation.

Nats 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto continues to impress well after slugging a three-run homer in his first career start (on the first pitch from the Padres’ Robbie Erlin). After becoming the first teenager to hit a home run since current teammate Bryce Harper, Soto has contributed to an injury-ridden Nats team with a .286/.571/.400. slash line in his seven games this season. Shortstop Trea Turner is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak, batting .297 with four doubles, a home run and seven RBIs since May 19. Turner leads NL shortstops in on-base percentage (.361), walks (28) and stolen bases (14).

Center fielder Michael. A. Taylor hasn’t completely gotten out of his recent slump, but he may be on the verge of breaking out offensively as he’s come through for the Nats on multiple occasions recently - such as his two-run shot on Saturday to give the Nats a 2-0 lead over the Marlins. Despite the current .192 average, Taylor has six hits in his last five games, with four of them (two doubles, two triples and a home run) going for extra bases. After tallying seven strikeouts during the Nats’ three-game series in Miami, and a frustrating 0-for-4 Saturday night (all four strikeouts), a slumping Harper bounced back on Sunday with his NL-leading 16th home run on a 2-2 fastball from Marlins reliever Jarlin Garcia. The former MVP’s 44 walks this season rank first in the NL and second in the majors.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez has not more than three runs in a start yet this season (a span of 10 starts), a streak he hopes to keep going as he starts this series off on Monday afternoon. Gonzalez is having a stellar season so far, sporting a 2.38 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, but he is 1-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles (his worst record against a team he’s faced 10 or more times) and 1-3 with a 3.79 ERA in six starts at Camden Yards. Jeremy Hellickson, who is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA over seven starts this season, will take on his former team on Tuesday. The right-hander left his last start with a finger blister after 5 1/3 strong innings against the Padres. Righty Max Scherzer (8-1, 2.13 ERA) will finish the series on Wednesday. Scherzer struggled in his last start in Miami, allowing a season-high seven hits, four runs and two walks with only four strikeouts, and failed to hold leads twice. The Nats were still able to take the series opener against the Marlins and Scherzer still picked up his eighth win, but the reigning National League Cy Young winner was nowhere near Mad Max status.

Nats closer Sean Doolittle had little trouble securing the Nats’ 4-1 lead against the Marlins on Saturday and pitched a solid ninth inning to pick up his 11th save of the season. Despite a small blemish when he blew his first save on May 19 against the Dodgers, Doolittle is 11-for-12 in save opportunities and has pitched to a 1.93 ERA. He has not allowed a baserunner since said blown save opportunity eight days ago.

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