The offense and starting pitching of the Washington Nationals have been among the best in the National League all season long, but their bullpen has consistently let them down in big situations. Washington addressed its biggest shortcoming over the weekend by acquiring a pair of solid relievers from Oakland, and the NL East leaders may look to show them off Monday as they eye a four-game sweep of the host Cincinnati Reds.
The Nationals lead the NL in batting average (.279) and runs scored (515) while ranking third in starters’ ERA (3.57), but 14 blown saves and a major-league worst 5.31 ERA from their relievers may be the only thing that has kept them from completely running away with the East. Washington finally made a move for bullpen help Sunday, trading Blake Treinen and a pair of prospects to the Athletics in exchange for right-hander Ryan Madson and left-hander Sean Doolittle. The Nationals haven’t needed much from their bullpen in this series, however, as they have slugged 10 homers en route to outscoring the Reds 29-11. Scooter Gennett was one of the few bright spots this weekend for Cincinnati, driving in a total of seven runs over the last two contests.
TV: 12:35 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (9-3, 3.43 ERA) vs. Reds RH Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.94)
Strasburg entered the All-Star break on a less-than-ideal note on July 8, surrendering a season-high tying six runs (three earned) over a season-low three innings before leaving the game after getting hit in the hip by a comebacker. The three-time All-Star was coming off one on his more impressive performances of the season in a no-decision five days earlier, yielding only two hits in seven scoreless frames against the New York Mets. Joey Votto is 4-for-13 with two homers against Strasburg, who is 2-1 with a 5.00 ERA in seven starts versus the Reds.
Feldman took the loss for the first time in four turns July 5 at Colorado, surrendering a pair of homers among the four runs and five hits he allowed over five innings. The Hawaii native went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his previous three outings, including a win in Washington on June 25 in which he permitted two runs and seven hits across seven frames. Feldman, who is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts versus Washington, is 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA in nine turns at Great American Ball Park this season.
1. After sitting out the series opener, Washington 2B Daniel Murphy is 5-for-9 with two homers, seven RBIs and four runs scored.
2. Votto, who is tied for the NL lead with 26 home runs, is 0-for-7 with four walks in this series.
3. This weekend marks the sixth time the Nationals have homered 10 times in a series since moving from Montreal in 2005 and the second time this season Cincinnati has allowed at least that many in a series.
PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Reds 3