The Nationals are about to get a serious helping of southpaws, including one of the best baseball has seen in decades.
Beginning with today's series finale in San Diego, the Nationals are scheduled to face four consecutive left-handed starters: the Padres' Drew Pomeranz, then the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir and Julio Urias.
Kershaw, owner of a mere 1.87 ERA over the last four seasons and a 133-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season, looms large Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Stephen Strasburg (10-0) starts that game for the Nationals in what should be one of the most-anticipated pitching matchups of the season to date.
Before that, though, the Nats will take their chances against Pomeranz, once a highly touted prospect who has bounced around but has blossomed in San Diego this year. The 27-year-old enters this start with a 2.88 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 75 innings.
The Nationals have been significantly more successful against left-handed pitching than right-handed so far in 2016. They own a .271 batting average and .819 OPS vs. lefties, compared to a .245 batting average and .728 OPS vs. righties.
Speaking of lefties, the Nationals send their own to the mound this afternoon at Petco Park, and they could really use a quality start out of him. Gio Gonzalez hasn't earned a win since May 19; in five starts since, he's 0-4 with a 7.45 ERA.
Update: Talk about amushing the opposing starter. You can't do it any better than Michael A. Taylor did today, hammering Pomeranz's very first pitch of the game to left field for a leadoff homer. That's now 17 consecutive starts in which Taylor has recorded at least one hit (he added a hustle double in the top of the third today). Gonzalez, though, gave the run right back in the bottom of the first via a pair of singles, including Yangervis Solarte's RBI knock to left field. Gio has otherwise been sharp, and so after three innings, it's a 1-1 game.
Update II: Gonzalez hit a bit of a wall in the bottom of the fourth, giving up two singles, a double, a walk and a hit batter. It all resulted in two more runs, not to mention an elevated pitch count of 78 after only four innings. Fortunately for the Nats lefty, the Nats blasted two more homers off an opposing lefty in the top of the fifth. Danny Espinosa took Pomeranz deep to left-center for his 12th homer of the season (third-most among all MLB shortstops) and then Taylor went deep down the left field line for his second homer of the day. And so this game is tied again, but now by a score of 3-3 in the fifth inning.
Update III: Gonzalez couldn't keep the game tied. He gave both runs right back to the Padres in the bottom of the fifth on a walk, an error (by Gio), a sacrifice fly and a single. Then he was charged with another run in the sixth, though he had already departed before it scored on a single off reliever Matt Belisle. After all that, the Nats trail 6-3 after six innings.
Update IV: And that's all she wrote. The Nats didn't have a rally in them today, so they lost 6-3 and wound up splitting the four-game series. Now it's onto Los Angeles, where Clayton Kershaw awaits tomorrow night.