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Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, July 3, 2015 at 11:06 AM

AS ALWAYS, JULY FOURTH WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTED BY FIREWORKS IN NATION'S CAPITAL...GIANTS/NATS!

What could be more appealing for baseball fans than a July Fourth weekend starring the defending World Champions playing a huge series in the nation's capital? And the champion San Francisco Giants just might be visiting the next World Champion when they take on the Washington Nationals!

This three-game fireworks show (and potential playoff preview) will be nationally televised...with ESPN doing the honors for both the series opener and the series finale.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS AT WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Friday: 6 p.m. ET on ESPN
Saturday: 11 a.m. ET on the MLB Network
Sunday: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

And...oh, by the way...you won't believe the pitching matchup in that sandwich game! Let's jump right into the numbers in this holiday weekend spectacular...

OFFENSE
San Francisco: 4.27 runs per game, .330 on-base, .407 slugging
Washington: 4.40 runs per game, .324 on-base, .406 slugging

Two good offenses here...which is partially hidden because they don't have great hitting parks at home, and play in divisions that aren't exactly hitter friendly. This is one reason the Giants keep surprising people in postseasons! Their offenses are better than realized. Just fractions separate the teams one way or the other, so we're going to call this category a wash.

FRIDAY'S PITCHERS
Jake Peavy: 9.39 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate, 3.8 IP-per-Start
Gio Gonzalez: 4.41 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 7.9 K-Rate, 5.8 IP-per-Start

Weird starting time of 6 p.m. Eastern to get this series started. Peavy pitched twice in April, looked awful, and hasn't been allowed back to the mound since because of back issues. The Giants hope he'll be healthy for the stretch run. A fireworks show could begin Friday evening for Nats fans if Peavy can't improve on those woeful numbers! Gonzalez has been a big disappointment considering he's pitching in the NL East during a pitching era. Those are frankly AWFUL numbers for him. He did pitch well vs. Pittsburgh the last time out though, and has quality starts in three of his last four outings. Twilight hitting conditions could throw a monkey wrench into prediction efforts.

SATURDAY'S PITCHERS
Madison Bumgarner: 2.99 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.1 K-Rate, 6.8 IP-per-Start
Steven Strasburg: 5.49 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 9.4 K-Rate, 4.8 IP-per-Start

It's bad enough trying to wake up early for day games in this sport. Try hitting Baumgarner or Strasburg with bleary eyes! Bumgarner still has ace stats, and will be a Cy Young contender if the Giants stay in the playoff chase given his career skill set. Strasburg killed his stats by trying to pitch through various nagging injuries. In two starts since returning from the Disabled List, he's only allowed two earned runs in 12 innings with a 15-2 strikeout/walk ratio. If he's back to his normal self...then this should be a great pitcher's duel with both guys having full shutdown potential. If Strasburg isn't quite back yet, then edge to the Giants. 

SUNDAY'S PITCHERS
Ryan Vogelsong: 4.19 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.6 K-Rate, 5.5 IP-per-Start
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.3 K-Rate, 6.2 IP-per-Start

Vogelsong is still only 50/50 to throw a quality start, but he does have recent six-inning shutouts over Seattle and San Diego. Zimmerman just threw 15.2 scoreless innings vs. Atlanta, suggesting he's in great form or the Braves forgot how to hit! Nice hidden edge for the Nats here is the fact that this is an evening get-away game for the Giants, who have to fly all the way back to California after the game for a home matchup with the Mets Monday night. Washington stays home to face the Reds Monday. Good spot to think about the hosts as long as it's not too expensive.

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one big play in the weekend's showcase series. He's also paying very close attention to Tampa Bay/NY Yankees, Toronto/Detroit, and LA Angels/Texas (as well as the Twins/Royals series we previewed for you Thursday in the NOTEBOOK). You can purchase the final word for daily baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure you check on early-bird football packages because the early bird gets the money!

We hoped you joined us last weekend for the start of our summer series of college football conference previews. The Mountain West is in the rearview mirror. Coming up Saturday and Sunday will be the always intriguing Conference USA.

Saturday: College Football Preview...Conference USA "East"
Sunday: College Football Preview...Conference USA "West"
Monday: MLB Notes
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview
Thursday: MLB Series Preview...St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Friday: MLB Series Preview...Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles

The Nats will be back in the mix a week from now for that Interleague rivalry series with the Orioles. A great mix of baseball and football await you through the summer on these pages. BIG, JUICY WINNERS await those who sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!