WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals have been at home for a week after a 10-game road trip in which the team went 3-7.
While the Nationals are in the midst of their first three-opponent homestand of the season the schedule has certainly not been routine for the first-place club.
Washington will host the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday morning — an early start for any game and certainly for the first game of a series. The Nationals are 6-1 so far on the homestand.
The early start has become a tradition on July 4 in the nation's capital, affording fans and players alike to make it home in time to be with family and see the fireworks display on the National Mall if they so desire. It just so happens this year July 4 is on a Monday — a typical day for the first game of a series in the majors.
Seeing fireworks in the nation's capital may be more challenging this year as the Metro — the public transportation system in the capital region — has been undergoing maintenance the past few weeks and delays have been the norm.
With that as a backdrop Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (9-5, 3.30) will start on Monday while right-hander Junior Guerra (5-1, 3.25) will go for the Brewers. He is 2-0 with a 3.10 ERA in his last three starts and has never faced any of the current Washington hitters. Guerra did not pitch against the Nationals earlier this month when Washington played in Wisconsin.
He will have to deal with a Washington team that hit six homers on Sunday against the Reds and has 120 this year to lead the National League.
Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.62 ERA in day games since he joined the Nationals to start the 2015 season.
The St. Louis native has had some memorable day game performances at Nationals Park. One of them was his no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, 2015.
The Nationals bullpen got a break Sunday as Stephen Strasburg came off the DL and threw 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball after Washington and Cincinnati played 14 innings on Friday and 10 innings on Saturday. Strasburg was taken out after throwing 109 pitches.
“Our bullpen is beat up, theirs is beat up, it was a tough series. We won the yearly series against them, we won three out of four against them here,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said of facing the Reds.
It will be a quick turnaround for Milwaukee, who played Sunday in St. Louis and had to endure a rain delay as well and that meant delaying a flight to Washington. The Brewers lost in St. Louis 9-8 after scoring four in the top of the ninth in a game that ended around 8:20 p.m. ET.
The Nationals ended their game Sunday against the Reds around 4:45 p.m. ET.
The early start on Monday will continue a pattern of different starting times for Washington on the homestand.
The Thursday game with the Cincinnati Reds began at 7:05 p.m., a normal start time. The Friday game was slated to begin at 6:05 p.m. so fireworks could be displayed after the game. But a rain delay forced a late start and due to a noise ordinance in the nation's capital the fireworks had to be called off.
Saturday's game with the Reds began on time at 7:15 p.m. as a national broadcast on FOX. And Sunday's series finale started on time at 1:35 p.m., the normal first pitch for Sunday home games in Washington.
Baker said getting back to a “normal sleep” schedule played a factor in giving some days off to some of his regulars earlier in this homestand.
After the early start on Monday, the Nationals will go back to a regular first pitch time of 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday before ending the homestand at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday against the Brewers.
The Nationals begin a series on Thursday in New York against the Mets. The Brewers return home to face the Cardinals in a series that starts Friday.
“We're in a little bit of a funk offensively,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. Trying to get out of that funk against Scherzer could be a tough task, especially with little sleep after a flight from St. Louis.