Originally written on The Nats Blog  |  Last updated 10/27/14
  Two darlings of the 2012 season will face off at Nationals Park this week, but both the Washington Nationals (57-60) and the San Francisco Giants (52-65) find themselves in drastically different positions than they were last year, when the Nats swept the Giants in Washington. The 2012 World Series champions are in last place in the NL West, and are 15.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, an even larger deficit than the 14-game difference between the Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. Though the Nationals have been able to retain their second-place status in the NL East, they still trail the second Wild Card spot by 8.5 games. Among the Nationals’ downfalls in 2013 has been their inability to establish consistent offense. Their offensive stats to open August have been a vast improvement over the rest of the season, but the Nationals will again be tasked with what has previously been an unreachable goal of putting in strong offensive performances in consecutive games. Through nine games in August, the Nationals have a slash line of .274/.342/.431, which ranks eighth, sixth and ninth, respectively, in Major League Baseball. It is a small sample size, to be sure, but it’s also a very encouraging sign for a team that is aiming to finish the season strong. The Giants have been hitting on the opposite end of the spectrum in August. They have a 5-7 record against the Phillies, Rays, Brewers and Orioles to open the month, and have a .224/.281/.318 slash line. Despite the Giants’ recent offensive shortcomings, the Nationals’ newly revived offense will have to take on Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, who has the seventh lowest ERA in the National League (2.75), in the series opener. Bumgarner is tied for seventh most strikeouts (150 - with teammate Tim Lincecum), and has the third lowest WHIP (0.98) and fourth lowest opponent batting average (.194). However, Bumgarner’s strong season has not been able to buoy his teammates’ performances. The Giants have the 10th highest team ERA (4.02) and the 11th highest WHIP (1.30). The Nationals are 5-4 in August, and their sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend helped them move within three games of an even .500 record. A strong showing against the struggling Giants could help the Nats come closer to their goal of retaining a winning record, and possibly allow them to set their sights on moving up in the Wild Card standings. In The Zone Jayson Werth (RF) .529 AVG, .636 OBP, .882 SLG, 2 HR (last five games) Who’s Hot? Brandon Crawford (SS) .389 AVG, .450 OBP, .500 SLG, 2 2B (last six games) Brandon Belt (1B) .364, .417 OBP, .773 SLG, 2 HR (last six games) Who’s Not? Pablo Sandoval (3B) .053 AVG, .217 OBP, .053 SLG, 3 SO (last six games) Buster Posey (C) .067 AVG, .250 OBP, .067 SLG, 3 SO (last five games) Probable Starters 8/13, Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.52 ERA, .226 BAA, 144 SO) vs. Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75 ERA, .194 BAA, 150 SO) 8/14, Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.10 ERA, .236 BAA, 114 SO) vs. Tim Lincecum (6-11, 4.18 ERA, .238 BAA, 150 SO) 8/15, TBA vs. Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71 ERA, .312 BAA, 44 SO) 
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