Manager: Torey Lovullo (2nd season)
Last 10 games: 6-4
Who to watch: LF David Peralta (.317 with 3 HR, 14 RBIs), CF A.J. Pollock (5 HR, 17 RBIs), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (4 HR, 11 RBIs), LHP Patrick Corbin (4-0, 1,89 ERA), RHP Zack Godley (3-1, 3.09 ERA), RHP Brad Boxberger (3.00 ERA, 6 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (2-4 in 2017)
April 27: RHP Zack Godley (3-1) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (2-2), 7:05 p.m., MASN2
April 28: LHP Patrick Corbin (4-0) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (0-0), 4:05 p.m., MASN
April 29: LHP Robbie Ray (2-0) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-2), 1:35 p.m., MASN
Inside the Diamondbacks:
What do the Diamondbacks do for an encore after reaching the postseason - where they won the National League wild card game before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Division series - in manager Torey Lovullo's first season at the helm? How about racing out to the lead in the NL West, which was supposed to be the deep-pocketed Dodgers' domain? The Snakes have won four of five games heading into this weekend's series against the Nationals on South Capitol Street So far, their 17-7 record matches the 2008 team for the best start in club history. They're getting stellar mound work and enough hitting to support what the arms are accomplishing.
Arizona isn't setting the world on fire on offense, and you have to wonder if all that talk about putting the baseballs at Chase Field in Phoenix in a humidifier - a la Coors Field to combat the high altitude - has had a negative effect on the Diamondbacks bats. The offense has been rallying around first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who started slow but has gone 5-for-52 (.384) over his past 14 games. Second baseman Ketel Marte has prospered away from home, netting hits in 14 straight road contests, and Nick Ahmed's four home runs are third-most among NL shortstops. The Diamondbacks have yet to get an at-bat from right fielder Steven Souza Jr., the ex-National who has been sidelined all season with a pectoral strain, and power-hitting third baseman Jake Lamb has been on the disabled list for most of the season with shoulder and elbow problems, but left fielder David Peralta has been hot on the road, posting a .368 (14-for-38) average with two homers and nine RBIs. Souza's absence has been made easier by the presence of free agent signing Jarrod Dyson, who adds speed on the base paths and a strong arm in right field, though he's started the season slowly at the plate.
The D-backs are flourishing on the mound, where they've allowed the lowest opponent slugging percentage (.324) and the second-lowest opponent batting average (2.87) in the major leagues. They'll throw a pair of tough left-handers at the Nats, and as long as Washington struggles against southpaws, expect opponents to try to exploit this edge. Righty Zack Godley draws the start in the opener, and may be the best fifth starter in the majors with a 3-1 record to his credit - though the Snakes are going to rely a lot more on him after losing another member of the rotation, right-hander Taijuan Walker, to season-halting Tommy John surgery. Godley has pitched seven innings in two of his four starts this season and has been stingy with the home run ball, allowing only one in 23 1/3 frames. He's 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in five games (three starts) lifetime against the Nats and 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three games (one start) in D.C. Lefty Patrick Corbin, Saturday's starter, is coming off a pair of excellent outings - he tossed a one-hit, complete-game shutout at the Giants on April 17 and fanned 11 in six innings in a win over the Padres on April 22. He's 4-0, but all of his wins have come at home, so we'll see how he fares in enemy territory. So far, he's yielded a miniscule .140/.182/.228 line to opponents and whiffed 48 in 33 1/3 innings. But he's struggles against the Nationals, posting a lifetime 1-1 record and 5.31 ERA in four lifetime starts, including a 5.40 ERA without a decision in two starts at Nationals Park. Southpaw Robbie Ray starts Sunday's finale against the team that made him a 12th-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft before trading him to the Tigers in the December 2013 deal that netted the Nats Doug Fister. He's a strikeout machine, and has back-to-back 200-whiff seasons and 43 punchouts in 26 1/3 innings this season. Ray has reached six innings only twice in five 2018 starts and has yielded five homers already this season. He's had trouble versus the Nats, with a career 0-5 mark and 6.65 ERA in four starts, including an 0-2 record and 5.91 ERA at Washington.
Arizona's bullpen has credibly backed up its strong starting pitching, posting the best ERA in the bigs, a sterling 1.77 mark. Brad Boxberger is manning the ninth inning, and despite his 0-2 record, he's converted all six of his save chances. His 3.00 ERA is solid, but he could improve his 1.56 WHIP.