For the time since 2017, the Washington Nationals will face the Texas Rangers when their three-game Interleague series begins on Friday at Arlington, Texas.
The Rangers will start right-hander Dane Dunning (1-5, 4.38 ERA), while the Nationals are going with right-hander Paolo Espino (0-1, 2.29)with a pair of fresh bullpens behind them after both teams were off Thursday.
These clubs last met June 9-11, 2017, at Washington, with the Rangers earning the three-game sweep by a combined 16-6 score.
The Nationals welcomed the day off after a rain-shortened 7-0 loss Wednesday night at home against the Baltimore Orioles. The game was interrupted twice by rain delays and eventually was called after six innings.
The Rangers took care of business Wednesday as they finished off a two-game series sweep against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rangers now take on their second-straight National League East opponent.
Now 33-35 on the season, the Rangers are closing in on the .500 mark for the first time since June 2. The have not been over the break-even point all season.
The Rangers outscored the Phillies 11-2 over the two games at Texas this week. Offensively, they had four home runs in Tuesday's win, while three doubles helped contribute in their 4-2 victory Wednesday.
Texas manager Chris Woodward is seeing a more disciplined approach from his hitters, but there remains room for improvement.
"I think the biggest thing is we need to stay disciplined," Woodward said on Rangers' radio network. "We love to swing, and I want our guys to swing. But I want our guys to swing at the right pitches. In the zone. In their area, and the pitch that they're looking for, and I know we can do that. We have the disciplined guys who can do that.
"The best teams in baseball, the best hitters in baseball are very disciplined. At times we get a little swing-happy, and we chase the ball around the strike zone."
Now that MLB has scaled back the maximum number of pitchers clubs can carry to 13, days off to rest relievers is desired.
The Nationals have struggled this season on the mound, and their team 5.26 ERA is one of the worst in baseball. But in their last seven games, they have a 3.05 ERA, and are showing signs of improvement.
"Overall, I like the way we're pitching," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I really do. If we continue to do that, we've just got to get consistent with our bats."
Nationals first baseman Josh Bell has been steady with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .295 batting average, while All-Star outfielder Juan Soto is hitting .214 with 14 homers and 31 RBIs.
Dunning will try to keep the Nationals in check. But the right-hander's lone win came on April 30 against the Atlanta Braves, when he gave up one run in 7 2/3 innings. In four June starts, he is 0-2 with a 4.57 ERA.
Dunning has never faced the Nationals, but in Interleague play, he is 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA over six starts.
For the Nationals, Espino has logged 35 1/3 innings, with 27 strikeouts and a 1.075 WHIP. The right-hander, who has never faced the Rangers, has appeared in 22 games this season and is making his third start.
- Field Level Media