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Rockies vs. Nationals series preview: Oh, the pitching mismatches

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This series could get ugly in a heartbeat.

Thearon W. Henderson

The Colorado Rockies, to describe them in a quick and dirty manner, are a .500-caliber team currently playing awful baseball. Their opponent for a three-game series Monday could be classified as a really good team playing .500 baseball. That's the basic way of saying that the Washington Nationals are a much better ball club than the Rockies, a banged-up squad who is reeling from a recent 2-11 stretch.

Another way of stating the obvious is that the Nationals have pitching -- loads and loads of it, in fact -- and that, coupled with an at-times potent lineup that is getting healthy, has all the makings of sending the Rox back to Coors Field mired in a 2-14 rut.

Here's a look at some of the key figures for Washington heading into this series:

The return of the Annointed One

Bryce Harper has not played in a major league game since April 25, but the 21-year-old phenom is expected to be back in the lineup for the Nationals in the series opener after a successful recovery from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Harper went 9-for-14 with four homers in a short rehab stint, so it's safe to say he looks like he's good to go.

... I barely know 'er!

The Nationals' acquisition of right-handed starter Doug Fister is paying huge dividends. After starting the season on the disabled list, Fister has compiled a 2.83 ERA in 10 starts while walking fewer than a batter per nine innings. All that while only giving up basically the equivalent of Tyler Matzek, Chad Bettis and Charlie Culberson during the offseason. Dammit, Tigers and/or Rockies. Editor's note: I might be exaggerating the comparables on that return, but not by much!

I'm telling you, it's that extra 'N'

Jordan Zimmermann has been one of the best, most unheralded pitchers in the NL over the past two-plus seasons. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 3.07 ERA with 7.1 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings during 80 starts spanning that time frame. The only other pitcher in baseball with a sub-3.10 ERA and at least 7.0 SO/9 and fewer than 2.0 BB/9 to make 80 starts since the start of 2012? Felix Hernandez.

Pitching matchups, TV info

Game 1: Monday, June 30 at 5:05 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)

Yohan Flande vs. Jordan Zimmermann

Game 2: Tuesday, July 1 at 5:05 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports, MLB Network)

Christian Friedrich vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 3: Wednesday, July 2 at 4:05 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)

Tyler Matzek vs. Doug Fister