Yunel Escobar is batting .304 with a five-game hitting streak, but as a team the Nationals are struggling offensively, averaging an MLB-worst 2.17 runs per game through the first week of the season. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Nationals series preview

April 13, 2015 - 8:07 am
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In their first home games of the season, the Red Sox will host the Nationals at Fenway Park for another interleague series. The Sox spent this past weekend in New York, taking two out of three from the Yankees. Boston experienced its worst loss of the year on Sunday night in the series finale when Clay Buchholz surrendered seven runs in the first inning. As Boston only managed four runs on the evening, that was all the Yankees needed and New York took a 14-4 win. So far, the Red Sox have scored four or fewer runs just twice this year: on Sunday night and in the second game against the Phillies. They're also in the top 10 in the league terms of runs scored. This is almost entirely the opposite of what the Nationals are dealing with this season. The Nats have yet to score more than four runs and are dead last in the league in batting average as well as runs scored. However, their pitching is doing well, allowing just the eighth-fewest runs in the league (20) and the fourth-fewest earned runs (14). They also have the fourth-best team ERA in the league at 2.32. Outfielder Jayson Werth is expected to make his return to he lineup for Washington on Monday. He had been on the disabled list for shoulder surgery and is a career .276 hitter. He was fourth on the team in RBIs last year with 82. "I feel good," he told reporters Sunday. "I haven't had a lot of at-bats, but I'm about to get a bunch. It was a tough January, February, March. I was just trying. I'm glad to be back. I felt really good." On the DL for Washington is third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was fourth on the team in batting average, fourth in on base percentage and third in RBIs last season. He isn't due back until late April. The Nats also are missing center fielder Denard Span, who is recovering from core muscle surgery he underwent in March. Span, who could be back late April, was another big part of the Washington's offense last season as he had the second-highest batting average on the team (.302). The Red Sox have not played the Nationals since 2012, when they were swept by Washington in early June. It's of note that none of the pitchers who started those games for the Red Sox (Felix Doubront, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Alfredo Aceves) are still on the team. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Rick Porcello (0-1, 4.50) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 1.50) Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.00) vs. Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 5.06) Wade Miley (0-0, 3.38) vs. Gio Gonzalez (0-1, 4.26) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Brock Holt has five hits in seven at-bats this season. Four of those hits were accounted for in Saturday's game against the Yankees when he went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. -- Xander Bogaerts continues his bull rush into the Red Sox offense with 11 hits in 27 at-bats (.407) and hits in every game but the opener against the Phillies, good for a five-game streak. The shortstop is second on the team in RBIs with six, just one behind team leader Hanley Ramirez, and already has notched a double, a triple, three walks and two stolen bases in as many attempts. -- After earning the win in his first start as a member of the Red Sox, Justin Masterson is working with a 3.00 ERA after he allowed two runs in six innings. Masterson also fanned seven in that time and is holding opponents to a .143 average. He even drove in a run with a multi-hit effort against the Phillies. WHO'S HOT: NATIONALS -- For players with more than 10 at-bats, Yunel Escobar is leading the way for the Nats with seven hits in 23 at-bats, good for a .304 average. Escobar also has a five-game hit streak going and is coming off two consecutive two-hit performances. As the second batter in Washington's order, Escobar has no RBIs and only has scored two runs himself, though he has yet to strike out. -- As the first member of the Nationals staff the Red Sox will see this series, Jordan Zimmermann has been strong, allowing just one earned run in six innings. With a 1.50 ERA, Zimmermann is holding batters to a .217 batting average and has yet to walk anyone. -- The Sox won't face them this series, but Max Scherzer and Doug Fister both have sub-one ERAs, 0.66 and 0.00, respectively. Scherzer has 16 strikeouts through 13 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and just one earned run. He does have an 0-1 record, though, and three unearned runs to his name. Fister has one start and 6 1/3 innings under his belt, allowing six hits but holding his opponent scoreless. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Though he began the year with three hits and two home runs in the opener against the Phillies, Dustin Pedroia has had a tougher time at the plate since. He has three hits in 24 at-bats since that first game, with three walks, two RBIs and four strikeouts. -- Mike Napoli has not extended his spring training success into the regular season. After he recorded 16 hits in 40 at-bats during the preseason, expectations were understandably higher for the first baseman than one hit in 19 tries with five strikeouts. In fact, Napoli didn't register his first hit until Sunday's game against the Yankees. However, he has drawn five walks and crossed the plate four times. -- Like Pedroia, despite recording two hits and an RBI in four at-bats during the first game of the season, Mookie Betts has just three hits in the following 22. He's managed one hit in each of his last three games, which gives him a streak, sure, but also leaves him with a .192 batting average through six games. WHO'S NOT: NATIONALS -- As a whole, Washington's offense leaves a lot to be desired, having not scored more than four runs in any game this season. The Nationals have scored the fewest runs in MLB with 13, averaging 2.17 per game. They also have the worst team batting average in the league at .194, with 39 hits in 201 at-bats. -- A career .269 hitter, Ian Desmond is having issues getting his bat going. He has three hits in 22 at-bats (.136), with two doubles and five strikeouts in six games. -- Having never posted an ERA above 3.20 in his career before, Stephen Strasburg is in unchartered territory with a 5.06 ERA after one start. The righty allowed nine hits and three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, hitting a batter and walking three as well. The Red Sox will see Strasburg on Tuesday and, as it stands now, he is allowing opposing batters to hit .360 off him.

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