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The schedule is not getting any easier for the Red Sox. After consecutive series against legit playoff contenders in the Mariners, Angels, and Yankees, Boston now has to take on arguably the best team in the National League. The Washington Nationals will not be an easy team to beat, as they boast some of the best players in the league. Without further ado, here is the Boston Red Sox vs Washington Nationals Series Preview
Any conversation about the Washington Nationals offense begins with star right fielder Bryce Harper. The young outfielder is one of the best in game, but he’s having a below-average season by his standards. In 80 games, Harper is posting a .219/.366/.482 slash line while striking out 23.3% of the time. He’s still dangerous, as evidenced by his 123 wRC+ and his National League-leading 20 home runs. Basically, Harper either hits the ball incredibly far or not at all.
The MLB is currently stacked with young, talented shortstops, so 25-year old Trea Turner has gone somewhat unnoticed league-wide. However, the young righty has been one of the brightest spots on the Nationals roster. So far, Turner is posting a .270/.354/.410 slash, corresponding to a 109 wRC+. While he doesn’t have explosive power, he’s still a solid hitter.
Washington’s bullpen isn’t much to write home about, as they’re an astonishingly mediocre unit. The unit ranks 13th in the MLB with a 3.86 ERA, 27th in strikeouts, and 28th in innings pitched. Their bullpen did receive an upgrade in recent trade acquisition Kelvin Herrera. Herrera is one of the better relievers in baseball, posting a 1.47 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and an incredibly low 1.17 BB/9 rate. Still, outside of Herrera, this bullpen is a very unremarkable unit.
Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a long time now, and 2018 may be his best season yet. To date, Scherzer owns an otherworldly 2.04 ERA, 2.18 FIP, and a 0.85 WHIP. He’s striking out 37.1% of the batters he faces and walking just 6.1%.
Scherzer has five pitches, and they’re all devastating. While his mid-90’s fastball is his primary offering, he also mixes in a slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup. Each pitch has swing and miss potential, and when all his pitches are on, he’s unhittable.
Rick Porcello is in the midst of a strong season himself, but he’s not nearly the pitcher Scherzer is. The Red Sox best chance of winning this game is if Porcello can keep the game close for the first seven innings. If the Sox can elevate Scherzer’s pitch count, they can then try and tee off against Washington’s average bullpen. In many ways, it’s the same strategy the Sox used against Scherzer in the 2013 ALCS when he was a member of the Detroit Tigers.
Game One will definitely be the toughest matchup for the Red Sox. Tanner Roark isn’t close to being on Scherzer’s level, and the Red Sox strong offense should do some solid damage to the righty. Roarke is the definition of a mid-to late-rotation starter, posting a 4.10 ERA, 4.66 FIP, and a 1.27 WHIP in 16 starts. His 7.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 both rest around the league average.
Roark is primarily a fastball pitcher, throwing the heater roughly 55% of the time. When he mixed in off-speed pitches, he mixes his slider, curveball, and changeup at an equal rate. While each one of his pitches is solid, none are dominating. For an offense as good as Boston’s, they shouldn’t struggle to put runs on the board.
The final match of the series will see Eduardo Rodriguez take on the young Erick Fedde. Fedde has only 42.1 major league innings under his belt, so it’s hard to say exactly what type of pitcher he is. However, most of those 42.1 innings have not gone well for him.
During his limited time in the majors, Fedde owns a 7.23 ERA, 5.85 FIP, and a 1.82 WHIP. He’s been better in 2018, but he’s still not much of a threat. In his 27 innings of work this season, Fedde’s posted a 6.00 ERA, 5.09 FIP, and a 1.63 WHIP. In a perfect world, the Nationals would probably prefer to keep Fedde in the minors for another season or two. Boston should be able to beat up on Fedde pretty easily.
The biggest question in this game is what to expect from Eduardo Rodriguez. The young lefty has been phenomenal for most of the season but has struggled mightily in his previous two outings. In those two matchups, Eddie’s gone a combined 10 innings, allowing 10 runs (nine earned), striking out four while also walking four. This adds up to an 8.10 ERA, 6.39 FIP, and a 1.80 WHIP.
Eddie’s struggled with consistency in the past, but he’s always been able to overcome the bad starts and become a mostly good pitcher. Expect that trend to stick against the Nationals. Washington’s offense isn’t as ferocious as the Yankees, and Eddie should get back on the right page against Washington.
While the Nationals are arguably the best team in the American League, the Red Sox match up pretty well against them. It’s hard to see Boston beating Scherzer, but the Red Sox should have the upper hand in the other two games.
Expect the Red Sox to win two out of the three games. There’s an outside chance at a sweep if the Red Sox are able to keep Game One close until Scherzer comes out. However, asking for a sweep against a team this good feels like asking for too much.