Complete coverage of the 2014 season

Series Preview: Padres vs. Washington Nationals

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Padres offense continues to be as dry as the state’s well reserves after the Friars dropped two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers while scoring a paltry seven runs in the series.

    Now it’s off to the nation’s capital for a weekend set with the Washington Nationals, who have been equally challenged on the offensive side.

    Before Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Angels, the Nats had gone a week without scoring more than three runs. Of course, the Padres can top that. They have scored three runs or less in all but one of their 12 losses this season.

    Fortunately, the Friars have one of the best pitching staffs in the league so far, boasting the fourth best ERA in baseball (2.82) and the fifth best batting average allowed (.221).

    When they play: The four-game set starts today with a  4:05 p.m. game. Same for Friday night, then the teams play a pair of afternoon (morning) games over the weekend – Saturday at 10:05, Sunday at 10:35.

    What’s at stake: Both teams are hovering around the .500 mark (Nats 12-10, Pads 10-12) and staying close – but not too close – in the division races. The Padres hope to tread water on this road trip as the return of big hitters Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin draw nearer.

    Who is pitching: The Padres go with Eric Stults (1-2, 4.35 ERA) in the opener, followed by Robbie Erlin (1-2, 4.15) Then it’s the big guns over the weekend, as Andrew Cashner (2-2, 2.10) looks to bounce back on Saturday from his worst start of the season. Ian Kennedy (1-3, 3.60) goes on Sunday, looking to continue a quietly good season in which he’s given up more than three runs just once all year.

    The Nationals’ big names go early in the series with Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.92) and Steven Strasburg (1-2, 5.33) on Thursday and Friday. They are followed by surprising youngster Tanner Roark (1-0, 3.80) on Saturday. Taylor Jordan (0-3, 6.23) goes on Sunday, having gotten through the sixth inning only once in his four starts.

    Who to watch: Chris Denorfia takes over from Everth Cabrera as hot Padres hitter of the week. He had five hits against Milwaukee, including a homer in the opener, and is hitting .400 over his last 10 games.

    Seth Smith cooled off after his eye-opening homers in his first two at bats with the team, but is back in the zone with a five-game hitting streak that brought his average up 35 points to .274.

    And at some point we’ll have to start talking about Nick Hundley, who has done himself well in the Padres’ three-headed catcher platoon. He has eight hits in 24 at bats and always seems to be doing something clutch when called upon.

    Bryce Harper is the name you’re going to know in the Nationals lineup. But he’s been struggling lately, with just three hits in the last week. He has a lone long ball and just five RBIs on the season.

    Shortstop Ian Desmond is leading the team with four homers but is hitting just .212 on the season.  First baseman Adam LaRoche carries a seven-game hitting streak into the series. Slugging third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list and won’t see any action this weekend.

    What’s next: One more series on the road after this one, as the Padres head to NorCal for three games with the San Francisco Giants before coming home next Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Matthew Wood covers the Padres for #OnFriar. Reach him at matthew.wood@nbcuni.com and follow him on Twitter @mcarloswood.

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