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Interleague Series Preview: Houston Astros at Washington Nationals, June 17-18, 2014

Houston heads to the nation's capital to face the Nats.

Norm Hall

Houston Astros (32-39) at Washington Nationals (35-33)

The Astros face the Nationals for the second time this season, after dropping a two-game set to close out April at Minute Maid Park. The Nationals outscored the Astros that series 11-3.  But, these aren't your month old baby's Astros - Houston is 20-13 since May 12.

Holding ground till reinforcements...

The Nationals will soon be as close to full strength as they have been all season. Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper looks ready to return from the disabled list, Gonzalez will in fact make his first start back against the Astros. The Nats have held their ground with key pieces out of the lineup and are only only a half game back of the Braves for the lead the National League East.

That said, they come into today's game on a four game losing streak. The Cardinals swept the Nats over the weekend, outscoring them ten to three. The Nats offense has struggled this past week across the board. Jayson Werth has the only home run and two of the four extra-base hits Washington has had it's last six games. Nats caveman has done it all for them during this stretch, generating six RBIs, two runs, three walks, and a stolen base. Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman have the two other extra-base hits this past week.

Speaking of Zimmerman, with one n, Ryan is playing his thirteenth game in left field. A move to get both Danny Espinosa and former Rice star Anthony Rendon in the lineup. It's a good problem to have for the Nationals to have to figure out where to play Harper, Zimmerman, Redon, and Espinosa when all in the lineup.

Start a new streak...

The Astros lost their first series since last May over the weekend against the Rays. Three starters were out on Sunday against David Price, they may have waived the white flag in that one.

Jose Altuve is back in the lineup tonight, leading the major leagues in hits with 90 hits after not starting the entire series with the Rays. Follow memeber of the top of the order, Dexter Fowler has done a little bit of everything for the 'Stros, batting .366 (15-41) with nine runs scored in his last 10 games.

In one season the Astros have turned themselves into home run dynamos, currently sitting in fourth place with 77 home runs in the majors. That's up from 19th place in 2013. The Astros youth movement can be blamed from this change, Jon Singleton has two home runs in has last 17 at-bats. He also matched the most home runs in 40+ at bats to start a career at four - J.D. Martinez was the other Astro to reach the mark. Chris Carter while he is still batting around .200, does one job and does it well - hit home runs. He has three in his last 20 at-bats.

On the flipside, George Springer and Jason Castro have struggled this week coming into Nationals Park. Springer is 3-for-17 with nine strikeouts in his last five games. Castro is batting .154 (4-13) with one extra-base hit. Robbie Grossman currently has a four-game hitless streak.

Pitching Matchups

LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (5-4, 2.92 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

What more can be said about Dallas Keuchel, he's been lights out this season. Mr. De Block has been talking up Keuchel since the beginning of the season, and I must say he was right. Keuchel has excited expectations in every way this season. He is sixth in the American League in ERA at 2.38 and fourth in WHIP at 0.99. More importantly to his success, the lefty leads the leads the league in groundball-to-flyball rate at 2.00, forty points ahead of the next pitcher.

The Nationals lineup did well against Keuchel in one previous appearance - Espinosa, Werth, and Zimmerman are 2-for-3 in their careers against the lefty. Scott Hairston is 1-for-3 with a home run. Nate McLouth is 1-for-3 with a double.

Tanner Roark has been solid for the Nationals, posting a quality start in six of his last seven games. He held the powerful Giants lineup to two runs over six innings on June 11. Roark will mix in four-pitches as he faces the Astros lineup for the first time.

RHP Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.98 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 4.62 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Nationals careers vs. Feldman

  • Danny Espinosa: 0-3
  • Scott Hairston: 1-3, 1 2B
  • Adam LaRoche: 1-4
  • Nate McLouth: 1-2, 1 HR
  • Denard Span: 5-17, 1 2B
  • Ryan Zimmerman: 2-3, 1 2B
Astros careers vs. Gonzalez
  • Jose Altuve: 3-9, 1 2B
  • Chris Carter: 0-3, 2 K
  • Jason Castro: 1-2, 1 2B
  • Matt Dominguez: 1-2, 1 2B
  • Dexter Fowler: 4-9, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 K
  • Jesus Guzman: 3-8, 1 2B
  • George Springer: 1-3, 2 K