LA Dodgers Head To DC To Meet The Nationals

By: Willie Bee | Monday, September 17, 2012

October was destined to be a big month in the nation's capital regardless of what transpired on big league diamonds and pro football gridirons.  But with the Washington Nationals heading towards the MLB postseason and Robert Griffin III igniting some hope for the Redskins, perhaps the upcoming election will have to fight for front-page headlines in and around the DC Beltway.

There should be a bit of a postseason ambiance this week in Washington where the Nationals begin a 3-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.  Los Angeles comes to town fighting for its playoff life while the Nats limp home from a 3-3 road trip that saw them swept in Atlanta this past weekend.

Washington still enjoys a fairly comfortable 5.5-game cushion in the NL East over the Braves, but the three games against the Dodgers are followed by four with a suddenly dangerous Milwaukee Brewers bunch that is gaining steam in pursuit of a postseason slot.  The Dodgers, who have to travel to Cincinnati this weekend, are a game behind the Cardinals for the second National League wild card while the Brewers are just 1.5 south of LA.

Tuesday's series opener at Nationals Park finds Jordan Zimmermann on tap for the home team against Aaron Harang for the Dodgers.  Washington went out on a -145 price according to the Don Best Pro Odds with an 8-run total that was equally split high/low.

Harang's last four starts have gone into the loss column for the Dodgers, and the big righty failed to make it through the sixth in any of the outings.  Control has been one issue for Harang who has a weak 11:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the four LA defeats, but he has strangely been a better hurler on the road this season than at pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine.  His ERA is about a half-run lower away from home where the Dodgers have compiled an 8-7 record in Harang's starts compared to 4-9 in Los Angeles.

The former San Diego State star missed facing the Nats earlier this season but owns a 2.19 ERA in his last four assignments against them while his teams have split the decisions.

Zimmermann has helped the Nationals to wins last two trips to the hill, and owns a 5-2 mark on his personal ledger since the all-star break despite his ERA more than a run higher than in the first half.  After a brilliant 4-0 July with a 0.97 ERA, the league seems to be catching up with the right-hander his last eight starts with his ERA at 5.31 in that span.

He is also seeing the Dodgers for the first time this season and for only the second time in his career.  His other appearance came in LA more than three years ago when he was roughed up for six runs over six innings, though his offense eventually bailed him out with an 11-9 triumph.

Los Angeles got some bad news over the weekend with ace Clayton Kershaw out indefinitely due to a hip condition.  The Dodgers are expecting to get closer Kenley Jansen back for Tuesday's opener, however, after he missed the past three weeks with his recurring heart condition.

Washington is minus a few key players for this series as well, including Stephen Strasburg who was shut down for the season a little more than a week ago.  The Nationals are also expected to be without both 2B Danny Espinosa (shoulder) and OF Michael Morse (wrist) for this series.

This cross-country collision doesn't happen too often on the schedule.  The clubs have played just 12 games at Nationals Park since it opened in '08, and Washington has the slight 7-5 advantage.  They met in LA back at the end of April when the Dodgers swept three from the Nats, two of the contests staying 'under' the total.

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