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Rockies welcome stumbling Nationals to Coors Field

The Nationals have lost their last six games and eight of their last ten including a series loss to the Rockies.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals have struggled to meet expectations most of the season due to various injuries and underachieving players. Their struggles have reached a peak over the last three series, all against NL West foes, dropping their record below .500 and four and a half games behind the New York Mets for the NL East division lead. The Nationals now enter a series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field with their playoff hopes in the balance.

Washington started the year with playoff and World Series expectations behind the best starting rotation in baseball: Max Scherzer,  Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister. The offense wasn't supposed to be a slouch either with Bryce Harper leading the way. Instead, the entire team other than Harper, Scherzer, and Zimmermann has underperformed.

Nationals Power Rankings

1. Pitching: Most teams would be happy with the production that the Nationals have received from their pitching staff, but when you have invested as much into a rotation as the Nationals have and don't even have the best pitching staff in your division, it hurts. (fWAR rankings -- MLB: 6, NL: 5)

2. Offense: Other than Harper this entire offense has been a pretty big disappointment. When you look at a team's fWAR hitting leaderboard and see multiple pitchers in the top 10, that's usually not a good sign this far into the season. Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and most of the Nats' bench players have contributed negative fWAR. (fWAR rankings -- MLB: 22, NL: 10)

3. Defense: After those disparaging comments about the Nationals' offense you might be wondering why the unit is not last in these power rankings. Two answers -- first, Bryce Harper is that good. Second, their defense is that bad. (fWAR rankings -- MLB: 25, NL: 12)

Who to watch: Hitter

Harper probably should be the NL MVP, though the further the Nationals fall out of the race, the less likely that would be. Consider this: Harper has provided a MLB leading 6.8 WAR of offensive production. The rest of the Nationals has combined for 4.3. The Philadelphia Phillies have more offensive WAR than that.

Who to Watch: Pitcher

Scherzer has been the best pitcher for the Nationals this year. However, recently he's run into some troubles, including a big one named Carlos Gonzalez. CarGo went deep twice against Scherzer the last time the Rockies faced Washington and probably has Thursday's game circled on the calendar hoping for a repeat performance.

Over Scherzer's last three starts he's pitched only 15 innings. The 22 strikeouts in those 15 innings sound impressive but are more than negated by the 13 runs he's allowed.

Probable Pitchers:

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 6:40 p.m. MT: Hale (3-4) vs. Zimmermann (8-8)

Wednesday, Aug. 19, 6:40 p.m MT: De La Rosa (7-5) vs. Strasburg (6-6)

Thursday, Aug. 20, 6:40 p.m. MT: Flande (2-1) vs. Scherzer (11-9)

For the best Nationals coverage around, be sure to check out Federal Baseball.