- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2017

By now, the strength of the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation is no secret. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have headlined a rotation in a season where the Nationals currently sit 20 games over .500.

But surprisingly, the Arizona Diamondbacks also have one of the best rotations in baseball.

The Nationals begin a three-game series in Arizona on Friday and all eyes will be on the duels between starting pitchers.

The Diamondbacks are 55-40 this season and will be in a prime position for one of the National League wild card spots come October. Arizona has had a dramatic turnaround from last year where they finished 69-93.

They can thank their starting rotation for the improvement.

Arizona is second in the NL among starter ERA (3.47). In 2016, the Diamondbacks’ starters finished dead last in the NL with a 5.19 ERA.

Washington, meanwhile, is third among starters in 2017 with a 3.56 ERA.

The Diamondbacks are boosted by Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin. Greinke is having the season the Diamondbacks envisioned when they signed him to a six-year, $206.5 million deal in 2015.

Greinke had a 4.37 ERA and a 1.237 WHIP last year. More concerning, he allowed an average of nine hits per game over nine innings — his highest since 2010 with the Kansas City Royals. His strikeout rate of 7.6 per nine innings was also the lowest since 2013.

Greinke, however, has had drastic improvements to each category this season. His strikeout rate per nine innings is 9.9 — the second best rate of his 14-year career. His hits per nine innings (7.5) is also the second lowest of his career.

Both Greinke and Ray are among the top 10 pitchers in the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The Nationals also have two pitchers on that list, with Scherzer in first (5.4 WAR) and Gonzalez in fourth (4.3 WAR).

Scherzer will get Friday’s start against Arizona’s Zack Godley (3-4, 3.09 ERA). Tanner Roark will get the start Saturday against a pitcher to be determined and Strasburg will start Sunday against Ray.

The Arizona series also marks the end of a nine-game road trip with Washington finally returning to Nationals Park on July 25 for a series against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals are 5-1 on this trip.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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