Manager: Dusty Baker (2nd season)
Last 10 games: 7-3
Who to watch: 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.362/.407/.696 with 17 HR, 49 RBIs), RF Bryce Harper (.316/.427/.626 with 15 HR, 45 RBIs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.336/.386/.558 with 10 HR, 41 RBIs), RHP Joe Ross (2-2, 7.34 ERA), RHP Matt Albers (1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 5 holds)
Season series vs. Orioles: 1-2
June 8: RHP Alec Asher vs. RHP Joe Ross, 7:05 p.m., MASN2
Inside the Nationals:
The Nationals return home from a 7-2 West Coast road trip red-hot to face the Orioles in a makeup game from a May 11 rainout. How was the west won? Ask Dusty Baker's club, which swept the Giants and took two out of three from both the A's and Dodgers, outscoring their opponents 47-32 in the process. The Nationals now hold a strong 11 1/2-game lead in the National League East.
Of course, the last time these two teams met Matt Wieters walked off his former team with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. So we'll have to wait and see what drama tonight's game has in store.
Leading the way offensively for the Nats are a few names you could see in the NL starting lineup in next month's All-Star Game. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is enjoying the best start to his career at age 32, ranking near the top of multiple offensive categories for all of baseball. His .362/.407/.696 slash line compliments his 17 home runs and 49 RBIs, the homers already surpassing his totals in each of the past three seasons. Bryce Harper was also enjoying a strong start to the season but cooled off a bit out west (a trip that included a three-game suspension for fighting the Giants' Hunter Strickland). Nonetheless, the right fielder is still slashing .316/.427/.626 with 15 longballs and 45 RBIs. And second baseman Daniel Murphy continues to be one of the best hitters in baseball with a .336/.386/.558 line, 10 homers and 41 RBIs. Third baseman Anthony Rendon has also been strong at the plate, slashing .291/.392/.533 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs.
Joe Ross draws the makeup assignment at Nats Park. The right-hander has had an up-and-down season, literally, having been demoted to Triple-A Syracuse twice. He enters this start with a 7.34 ERA and 1.663 WHIP in six major league starts this year. In his last two starts combined, Ross has allowed 12 runs and 18 hits in just seven innings. Against the Orioles, Ross has pitched just 1 1/3 scoreless innings in one appearance back in 2015. He is 8-5 with a 3.74 ERA at home in his young career.
The Nationals bullpen has actually improved since the last time these two teams met a month ago. Its 4.92 ERA, while still the worst in the league, is better than the 5.50 ERA it was posting at the start of the Baltimore series. After Koda Glover took over the closer role, he converted each of his first seven save opportunities and brought his ERA down to 2.08. And although a rough outing on Sunday against the A's ballooned his ERA to 4.58 when he was charged with five runs while just recording one out, it was an odd situation. That one out was the third out of the eighth inning, after which he sat around for a while watching his teammates score five runs in the top of the ninth before he retook the mound. Since then, he pitched a scoreless ninth against the Dodgers to seal the save on Tuesday. So look for Glover to be more effective under normal closer circumstances.