By Michael Marzzacco

The Nationals open up a three game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning tonight at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Nats are looking for payback after getting swept by the Dodgers in LA last month.

Reynaldo Lopez, the fifth ranked prospect in the Nationals Minor League system will make his MLB debut tonight. He boasts a fastball that can reach 100 mph, a power curveball to complement that, and a changeup. He pitched for the World in the MLB Futures Game last week in San Diego as part of the All Star festivities where he retired all three batters he faced.

Last time: The Nationals dropped all three games to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in LA last month by scores of 1-4, 2-3, and 3-4 respectively. The first game was supposed to feature an epic pitcher’s duel between Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg but Strasburg got scratched from the lineup with a back injury. In the second game the Nats had a 2-0 lead until a three run bomb in the home half of the eighth by Yasmani Grandal swung the momentum back in the favor of the Dodgers. In the third game, the Nats once again had a lead and blew it in the late innings, this time in the ninth. Michael Taylor misplayed a base hit by Yasiel Puig that allowed Puig to race around the bases for an inside-the-park homer to stun Washington. The Nats would go on to lose seven in a row during that June road stretch. The Nats will look for some payback this week in front of their home fans.

Scouting the Dodgers: The Dodgers carry a 52-42 record and are 5.5 games back of the division-leading Giants in the National League West. They are in first place in the NL Wild Card race one game ahead of the Marlins. The Dodgers are much better on their home turf with a 30-18 record. Away from Dodgers Stadium, LA is two games under .500 at 22-24. The Dodgers opened their second half of the season dropping two of three this past weekend to the D-Backs in Arizona. Joc Pederson will return to the lineup after serving time on the DL with a right shoulder separation.

Scouting the Nationals: The Nationals are coming off a home series win over the Pirates despite dropping an 18-inning affair two days again. Washington carries a 57-36 record, 21 games over .500 and 5.5 games ahead of the second place Marlins. Expect Daniel Murphy to return to the starting lineup today after hitting a pinch hit homer in that tough 18-inning loss on Sunday afternoon. His heroics cameĀ as the Nationals were down to their final strike. Murphy had the day off so he could rest his left hamstring. Anthony Rendon missed Sunday’s contest with flu-like symptoms and the Nats hope he can play today.

Pitching match-ups:

Tonight: Scott Kazmir (7-3, 4.52 ERA) vs. Reynaldo Lopez (0-0) at 7:05

Wednesday: Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-1, 11.57 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (5-8, 4.70 ERA) at 7:05

Thursday: TBD vs. Stephen Strasburg (13-0, 2.51 ERA) at 12:05




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