- - Monday, May 21, 2018

The Washington Nationals host the San Diego Padres in a series slated to begin Monday at 7:05 p.m.

Here are four things to look for:

Rain and more rain

How will the weather affect the Nationals’ pitching rotation?

The bullpen certainly needed the time off and got it as Washington had off days May 14 and Thursday and did not play Wednesday and Friday due to rain.

The long layoff didn’t help the bullpen in the second game Saturday, as the Dodgers came back to win 5-4. Closer Sean Doolittle was saddled with the loss and fell to 1-2. The bullpen also struggled in a 5-4 loss Sunday.

Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36), who last pitched Tuesday, is slated to start Monday against the Padres and Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.12).

National right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 2.20) is slated to start Tuesday against lefty Eric Lauer (1-2, 8.14) of the Padres. Hellickson has not pitched since May 13.

Washington will need a starter Wednesday for the 4:05 p.m. game. A possible candidate is Triple-A Syracuse right-hander Erick Fedde, who last pitched Friday.

The Padres starter for Wednesday is righty Tyson Ross (3-3, 3.35), the brother of injured Washington pitcher Joe Ross.

Harper and hitting

Bryce Harper is in a slump.

The Nationals right fielder has one hit in his previous 12 at-bats.

He is hitting .183 in his past 15 games and .192 in his 30 games. He got a boost as the leadoff hitter for a few games but was back at No. 2 in the order on Sunday. It would not be a surprise if manager Dave Martinez moves him to the No. 3 spot at some point to see if that works.

His last homer came May 13 at Arizona and his average had fallen to .224.

Homecoming for Padres pitcher

Craig Stammen, who pitched for the Nationals from 2009 to 2015, is now a key pitcher in the San Diego bullpen.

The Nationals bullpen, by the way, could use an inning-eater like Stammen.

He pitched in 59 games and 88.1 innings out of the bullpen in 2012.

The right-hander threw in 55 games out of the pen for a total of 81.2 innings the next season.

Stammen went 72.2 innings in 49 games out of the bullpen in 2014.

Last year for the Padres he appeared in a career-high 60 games for a total of 80.1 innings.

The Padres are 20-28 and Washington is 24-21. San Diego has struggled at home, with a record of 11-18 and had fallen into last place in the National League West.

Raves for a rookie

Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, 19, could make his first career Monday or Tuesday against the Padres.

He was called up to the majors Sunday after leading the minors in RBI this year and tied for first with homers with 14.

He is a lefty hitter and the Padres will start a lefty Monday and Tuesday.

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