Washington Nationals vs. L.A. Dodgers: Previewing Matchup of Best Teams in NL

Michael NargiSenior Analyst IOctober 29, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 25: Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves on April 25, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Braves won 4-2.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals will face their biggest task of the year when they go to Dodgers Stadium to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers and early-season MVP Matt Kemp.

The Nats enter the series with the best record in the National League and the Dodgers enter with the second-best record.

Both of these teams have great pitching staffs and will need for them to perform in this series. The Nats will desperately try to find a way to tame Kemp.

Kemp is hitting .449 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI. The Nats will have their hands full trying to limit the damage that he does.


Pitching Matchups

The Dodgers send their ace to the mound in Game 1 of this series. Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.61 ERA) will oppose Washington's fifth starter, Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56 ERA), on Friday night.

Kershaw has 22 strikeouts in 22.1 innings so far this season. Detwiler is surprising everyone this season as he has allowed one earned run in three starts and has struck out 15 batters in 16 innings.

Nats ace Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.08 ERA) takes the mound on Saturday to take on Chad Billingsley (2-1, 3.04 ERA).

The Nationals have won each of Strasburg's first four starts this year. He has struck out 25 batters in 25 innings while walking six and allowing three runs. Strasburg is one of the best pitchers in the league this season and will face his biggest task when he meets the MLB's best hitter.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05:  Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs during the opening day game at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Nationals defeated the Cubs 2-1.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Billingsley looked great in his first three starts but struggled in his last game against the Houston Astros, allowing nine runs (five earned) in 3.1 innings.

Sunday's finale will showcase two lefties in Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 1.52 ERA) and Chris Capuano (2-0, 3.52 ERA).

Gio has been equally as impressive as Strasburg this year. He has 27 strikeouts, seven walks and has not allowed a run in his last three starts spanning 20 innings. 

Capuano is off to a solid start for L.A. but will have to out-duel Gonzalez if the Dodgers want to have a chance in this game.


Biggest Differential

The Nationals and Dodgers will send lefties to the mound in Games 1 and 3 of this series.

The Nats' offense as a whole has struggled this season but specifically against lefties. They have hit only .233 against lefties, ranking 20th in the MLB, and have tallied an MLB-low eight RBI.

The Dodgers have hit .265 against left-handed pitchers while accumulating 28 RBI, both are good for second best in the N.L.

HOUSTON,TX - APRIL 21: Pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws against the Houston Astros on April 21, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The weekend series of the two best teams in the league might come down to who handles the southpaws better. 


Keys to Victory

If the Nationals can hang in games and score runs against the bullpen, then they will have a chance to continue their torrid start.

Most importantly, however, Washington will need to cool off Kemp.

Kemp does not have much of a history against the three starters. He is 0-for-3 vs. Detwiler with a walk, 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Strasburg and has never faced Gonzalez.

At the end of the weekend, we will know if the Nationals are legitimate and if Kemp can continue his destruction against the best rotation in the National League.