After an encouraging four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Washington Nationals take the long flight to Southern California for a two-game set against the long-winded Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They will do so in a state of positive roster flux, with two new relievers — Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson — set to join them at Angel Stadium. They will also be joined by an old friend, Edwin Jackson, who made 31 starts for the Nationals in 2012. Jackson will start in place of Joe Ross, who was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery scheduled for this week.
The Nationals will carry 20 more wins than losses and a 10-game lead in the National League East with them on the cross-country flight. They will be facing the 46-49 Angels, who are fourth in the American League West.
RELIEF REINFORCEMENTS ARE ON THE WAY
The Nationals’ bullpen will look far sturdier Tuesday night when Doolittle and Madson joins the team in Anaheim. They give Dusty Baker a reliable one-two late-inning punch that he can complement with Enny Romero, surging Joe Blanton, Matt Albers and the rest to create a far deeper arsenal than he has had all season.
Though it is not clear which of those two — if either — will close, they will need roster spots. The Nationals have three relievers with options on their active roster: Matt Grace, Trevor Gott and Austin Adams. They will need three spots Tuesday, two for those relievers and one for Jackson. Grace has been pitching well, but Doolittle’s arrival gives the Nationals four lefties.
If those three head back to Syracuse — and Jacob Turner could also head back should the Nationals decide to designate him for assignment again — the bullpen would be composed of Doolittle, Romero and Perez from the left side, Madson, Blanton, Albers and Turner (or TBA) from the right side. The bullpen is, it seems, headed for better days.
JACKSON GETS A CHANCE
With Ross out for the rest of this season, and likely most of the next, the Nationals need a fifth starter. The first audition will go to Jackson, a 33-year-old right-hander who had a 7.20 ERA in five innings with the Orioles this season and a 5.89 ERA in 21 big league appearances with the Padres and Marlins last year.
The Nationals signed Jackson to a minor league deal in mid-June, one of those low-risk, potentially rewarding signings with which they like to fill out their roster. He allowed one earned run in 20 1/3 innings with Class AAA Syracuse, struck out 22 and walked 10. If he pitches well, the Nationals can keep him around until he no longer pitches well. If he doesn’t, they gave him a shot and have Turner, A.J. Cole and potentially even Erick Fedde as internal options. But Tuesday, the gregarious veteran will make his 276th start in the hopes of earning a chance to make more.
OLD FRIENDS ACROSS THE WAY
Angel Stadium has looked a little like Nationals Park West at times this year, with several former Nationals having found homes in Anaheim (. . . or is it Los Angeles?) over the past two seasons. One of the most memorable of those players, Danny Espinosa, will not be with the Angels when the Nationals arrive. The team designated him for assignment Saturday night after Espinosa hit .162 in 228 at-bats with 91 strikeouts.
But enigmatic Yunel Escobar is still a key piece of the Angels’ lineup, hitting .287 in 74 games. Escobar, of course, hit .314 in 139 games with the Nationals in 2015.
Also present is Ben Revere, who suffered an injury on the first day of the 2016 season and was never quite the same. Revere, who was nearly a .300 career hitter entering last season with the Nationals, hit .217 with them and is batting .229 with Los Angeles this season.
Yusmeiro Petit, meanwhile, is enjoying a bounce-back season with the Angels. A year after disuse and inconsistency led to more disuse and inconsistency for the right-hander, the 32-year-old is pitching to a 2.96 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 34 appearances.
Two relievers the Nationals got for Escobar and Espinosa — Gott and Adams, respectively — are currently on the active roster but might not be when the series begins Tuesday night.
RHP Edwin Jackson vs. RHP Jesse Chavez
LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco