Probable Pitching Matchups from MLB.com

Carlos Silva v. John Lannan

Lannan kept the Nationals in the game in his last start on Wednesday. However, he continued to have problems against left-handed hitters, who went 7-for-9 against him. Carlos Gonzalez had four of the hits, while Brad Hawpe had two and Jason Giambi collected a knock. Lannan threw 107 pitches. Asked why he has been having a tough time getting left-handers out, Lannan said his off-speed pitches are not working. If the pitches are not working, the left-handed hitters are not going to have problems getting on base.

Silva has been stellar so far. The right-hander has given up two earned runs over 19 innings for a 0.95 ERA, and opponents are batting just .152 against him. He also was efficient in his last start, throwing 87 pitches over six innings. If there’s been one problem it’s hitting. Silva has spent the last six seasons in the American League and he injured his right wrist in his first at-bat of his last start Wednesday against the Mets. He says he’ll be fine to face the Nationals, but don’t expect him swinging too much.

Tom Gorezelanny v. Livan Hernandez

It was the long ball that did in Hernandez against the Rockies on Thursday. He gave up a homer to Miguel Olivo in the second inning and another to Ian Stewart five innings later. Hernandez lasted eight innings and gave up the two runs on five hits. Rockies manager Jim Tracy was impressed with Hernandez’s performance. To Tracy, it looked as if Hernandez and catcher Ivan Rodriguez were playing catch in the backyard.

Gorzelanny deserved better in his last start. Against the Mets, the lefty did not give up a hit until there was one out in the fifth. He retired the first 10 batters and should’ve been able to go deeper, but an error in the sixth led to two runs and that was it. For the game, Gorzelanny struck out seven. He has made only one start at Wrigley this year and that was April 17 against the Astros, when he was hit on the left arm by a line drive and knocked out after three innings.

Ryan Dempster v. TBA

Dempster is coming off a win over the Brewers in which he held Milwaukee to one run on seven hits over 7 2/3 innings. The right-hander did not face the Nationals last year, but does know Adam Dunn very well. Dunn has a .364 lifetime average against Dempster, including one home run. So far, Dempster has posted a better ERA on the road than at home. At Wrigley, he’s given up six earned runs over 14 innings; on the road, he’s been charged with two over 13 2/3 innings.


My Take on the Series

I think it’s important to note, after a complete drudging of the Brewers over the weekend, that no team or player is ever as good as they look when they’re on a hot streak or as bad as they look when they’re in a slump. We’ve seen both with this team early and right now we’re in the hot streak. Suddenly the offense is producing and it becomes a little less frustrating to watch this team play.

The key for this series will be to not take the Nats for granted and take care of business at home. Your first inclination when you hear the Nationals are coming to town is to automatically assume a sweep. While that’s entirely possible, we can’t go into the series assuming. This team has a good number of talented hitters that are capable of beating you. I’d like to see no less than 2 of 3, considering we’re at home and hot with a sweep a definite, achievable goal heading into the end of the month.

From a lineup standpoint, I want to see Tyler Colvin get two starts, including one in the series opener. I want to see Geovany Soto moved up from the 8th spot in the order and Ramirez moved to 6th. I want to continue to see Marlon Byrd in the second spot and perhaps even a game with Fukudome hitting leadoff.

Golden Nationals Nuggets

The Nats Blog chimes in with some notes on his team:

The start of the Nationals season has been completely overshadowed by the top ranked Washington Capitals and their journey for a Stanley Cup. With no one in D.C. watching, the Nationals have done something no one would have expected them to do, win more ball games than lose. While setting record lows in attendance along the way, the Nationals have looked like a completely different team than last season while opening to a 10-9 record. What have they changed? The club is hitting .266/.351/.425 as a group, all three of which rank in the top 10 in the National League, and the clubs bullpen has been lights out. While this may all seem very basic…it’s the Nationals.

In all seriousness, the few Nationals fans in D.C. are starting to get very excited. Washington has won 7-of-their-last eleven games and they’ve done it relatively short-handed. Ryan Zimmerman has missed eight games already due to injury, the clubs big off-season acquisition Jason Marquis pitched three terrible starts before the Nationals realized he was hurt, and Ivan Rodriguez has been battling back spasms. Despite the set-backs that normally would have Washington headings towards another 100 loss season, the Nationals have received surprise performances from Livan Hernandez, Craig Stammen, Scott Olsen, and now Luis Atilano. Those starters plus a great start to the season from Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have put the team in position to win games.

At the plate the team is just starting to heat up. After a slow start from Nyjer Morgan and Adam Dunn, the two have rallied in recent games to combine for 13 hits, five runs, and seven RBI in the clubs last four games. Anchoring the line up has been Josh Willingham (.321/.487/.554) and Ivan Rodriguez (.434/.456/.566), and despite his injuries, Ryan Zimmerman has produced while healthy, producing .341/.386/.659. While all of those numbers are well above each players career average, Nats fans are hoping that their hot hitting will maintain until the club picks up Stephen Strasburg, Chien-Ming Wang, and Jordan Zimmermann later this summer.

Nationals Baseball chimes in with the following:

The Nats come into the Cubs series with all the possible good feelings a team 1 game over .500 can have. Can they continue the “dream season” against the Cubbies?

Despite Pudge singling like it’s 1999, the Nats offense shouldn’t be much of an issue. Outside of a couple players, they don’t walk much or slug much, and their best hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, hasn’t played since Wednesday. Oh, they usually put together couple of runs this way or that, but they haven’t scored more than 8 runs in a game yet this year, so a blowout loss for the Cubs is unlikely. They’ll scratch out runs with singles from Pudge, who leads the league in hitting at .411, Cristian Guzman, and the heating up Nyjer Morgan, but if the Cubs can keep the Adam Dunn from continuing his groove and socking a couple homers, (and Josh Willingham remains cold) then they’ll score 4-5 runs tops.

The pitching on the other hand is where the Nats get you. Well… sometimes get you, but unfortunately for the Cubbies it looks like these three games might be “sometimes”. Livan Hernandez, a guy ANY TEAM could have had, has been fantastic. He’s got a 0.75 ERA and will eat up those innings like he eats up ballpark franks. At some point he’s going to get tired and go back to being just an innings eater but there’s no reason to think that’s going to happen this week. The Cubs get him in game 2. John Lannan, who pitches in game 1, can be gotten, but his weakness is lefties. Which is odd, because he’s a lefty, but that’s just the way it’s always been. Lefites are killing him to the tune of .542 / .538 / .792. But unless I miss my guess the Cubs are pretty right-handed. Those guys hit .265 / .350 / .353 against John. So unless Fukudome and Fontenot (the F&F Connection?) can carry the Cubbies, game 1 might be a problem. Game 3 is a question mark. It’ll most likely be Luis Atilano, a former first rounder who won his last start. Hard to know what he’s going to do. The real key to beating the Nats, other than getting the one out of three horrific starts they put out, is to get into the pen. The Nats only have two guys who have pitched well. The rest have stunk. Knock the starter out before the 6th and get a lead so you can avoid facing Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps (Both have ERAs under 1.00) and you should run away with the game.

Federal Baseball checks in with a preview of the series from his perspective.

There’s a scene in David O. Russell’s 1999 movie “Three Kings” in which Mark Wahlberg’s character, American soldier Troy Barlow is being interrogated by Saïd Taghmaoui’s character, an Iraqi Captain, who unsettlingly begins the conversation by asking Troy, “My main man. Tell me something,OK? What is problem with Michael Jackson?” And that’s all I could think of last night when looking towards Washington’s three-game series in Chicago this week and wondering exactly had happened to former Yankees, Rangers and Nationals’ slugger Alfonso Soriano since he signed with the Cubs. “What did Chicago do to Alfonso Soriano?” The Nationals let their one-year-rental walk after a 41 double, 46 HR and 95 RBI ’06 season in which he hit .277 with a .351 OBP and .560 SLG for a .911 OPS, and ever since his numbers have declined significantly culminating in last year’s .241/.303/.423 campaign in which he hit just 25 doubles, 20 HR’s and collected just 55 RBI’s…Maybe it’s the wind coming in from the outfield in Wrigley, or the simple fact that he’s aged, but thinking that Chicago’s paying Soriano $18M this year while the current Nationals’ left fielder Josh Willingham is making just $4.6 million this season while hitting 29 doubles, 24 HR’s and collecting 61 RBI’s in ’09 with 4 doubles, 3 HR’s and 11 RBI’s, a .321 AVG, .487 OBP and .554 SLG so far this season. Maybe that Jim Bowden guy wasn’t so bad after all…

Bowden sure doesn’t think so, he sent a Tweet out yesterday via his @JimBowdenFMFOX account which asked Nationals fans if they could at long last see fit to to give him “…a little love for the [Luis] Atilano, [Tyler] Clippard, [Josh] Willingham (and) [Scott] Olson [sic],” deals he made while running things in the nation’s capital and the reason he asked is because the Nationals are out to a 10-9 start this season, the first time the Nats have been above .500 this “late” in a season since they were 10-9 April 24, 2005, and they just beat the LA Dodgers in 2 of 3 games this weekend with wins from starters Atilano and Olsen who received help from the Nats’ so-far-untouchable reliever Tyler Clippard and the hard-hitting Hammer. In fact, with Adam Dunn slumping and Ryan Zimmerman recovering from back-to-back injuries to one then the other hamstring it’s been some of the relatively unknown Nationals like Atilano, Clippard, Ian Desmond and Justin Maxwell and their newly-acquired veterans like Pudge Rodriguez and Adam Kennedy who’ve made the difference thus far for DC.

As Adam Dunn told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore last night (@AdamKilgoreWP), as reported, again via Twitter (DC does Tweet a lot), the team headed to Chicago this week is not the same 100-loss team that’s toured the majors the last few seasons, or in Dunn’s own words, “…”All the negative crap is pretty much behind us. This team didn’t [lose] 102 games. That was last year.” Former Cubs’ skipper Jim Riggleman’s running a tight ship in DC, and at the very least he has the Nationals believing in themselves, and the fact that they can compete with any team in the major leagues. The win yesterday over the Dodgers completed a 6-4 homestand for DC against Milwaukee, Colorado and the Los Angeles and it’s back to the top of the rotation with John Lannan due to start game one in Wrigley tonight. Without Jason Marquis in the rotation, as he went on the DL with an elbow injury recently, it’s going to be Lannan, Livan Hernandez and Atilano again in the next three starts. It’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to play as well on the road as they have at home in Washington…

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail