San Francisco Giants: Why the Nationals-Giants Series Is an NLCS Preview

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San Francisco Giants: Why the Nationals-Giants Series Is an NLCS Preview
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Giants-Nats series will be a measuring stick for both teams.

The San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals currently have the two best records in the National League.  Both teams have ample pitching staffs and players who can put the ball in play. 

The Giants start a seven-day, six-game road trip in Washington, D.C. and go up against one of the up-and-coming teams in the National League.  The Nats are highlighted by rookie outfielder Bryce Harper and a dominant pitching staff led by former-Athletic Gio Gonzalez and flame-thrower Stephen Strasburg.

I know it is early, but the Giants really need to take on this challenge as if they are preparing for the playoffs.  No, they will not be using a short rotation, using their fifth starter as a reliever or matching up against the three top Nats pitchers. 

They will be getting a good look at the Nats lineup, though.

The Giants will run into a roadblock of sorts as they play an Independence Day game at 11:05 a.m. EDT.  That would be an 8:05 a.m. game in our time zone, even earlier than they start the local little league games. 

North Carolina native Madison Bumgarner will get the start that day versus Edwin Jackson. 

They will also be playing in one of the hottest stretches of the summer. They'll play the initial game of the series on a projected 96-degree day with 42 percent humidity. 

The teams will be sweating through their uniforms by the second or third inning and will lose three to four pounds by the end of the game.

Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Rookie Bryce Harper has given the Nats some sizzle.

The biggest benefit of the series is that the Giants will miss the Nats' two All-Star starters, Gonzalez and Strasburg. 

However, they will face three other strong pitchers in Jordan Zimmerman (2.77 ERA), Edwin Jackson (3.57 ERA) and Ross Detwiler (3.30 ERA).  They don’t have dominant win-loss records, but they hold teams to few runs.

The Giants will probably have their first three pitchers in playoff rotation with the revived Lincecum, Bumgarner and Cain throwing against the Nats.  They face an offense that has scored the 11th-most runs in the league (316) and has a batting average of .248.

The Nationals pick their spots, though, resulting in the best record in the National League (45-32).  The Nats have the most doubles (158) in the league and the fifth-highest home run total (80).  Their team ERA is 3.19, the best in the majors. 

The Giants are close, with the third-best ERA at 3.37.

The Giants' last trip to the nation’s capital resulted in a 1-3 record, in 2011.  The Giants scored a total of three runs in that four-game series, but that was when the team had little or no offense. 

Cabrera, Posey and Belt look to take their hot bats into the hot air and provide some offense. 

How will the Giants finish the Series with the Nats?

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The Giants will have to watch out for Adam LaRoche, who famously turned down a Giants contract offer in 2010 because he wasn’t comfortable with the hitting conditions at AT&T Park.

The Giants should also keep a close eye on 2012 All-Star SS Ian Desmond and Final Vote candidate Harper.

This series will be a great midpoint measuring stick for the ballclub.  If the Giants can come out with a winning record on the road, it shows their lineup is progressing. 

If they lose the series or get swept, they are not yet there.

Follow me @ScottInTheBay

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