Pittsburgh Pirates (23-34) at Washington Nationals (27-31)
7:05 ET MLBN
Pirates: Jeff Karstens (1-1, 4.50)
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (0-0, 0.00)
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On Tuesday night a sellout crowd will watch the Washington Nationals host the Pittsburgh Pirates in game one of a three-game series in our nation’s capital.
Set the TiVo, cancel your plans, and prepare to watch history. Thirty years from now you will tell your son and grandson how you saw Stephen Strasburg’s first major league game, right as he tears up trying to read his hall of fame acceptance speech. He will thank coaches, and remember that in 2009 when he was drafted – he just felt like he was going to do something special. The first time he stepped into the Nationals locker room and met Adam Dunn, the team captain, and Ryan Zimmerman shook his hand; he just knew this team was going to win multiple World Series. But 10 straight?
Okay, yes there is that much hope and hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg’s first major league start. There will be 200 or more media at the game. The flash bulbs going off may be enough to blind him and end his career.
Strasburg dominated at San Diego State with a three-digit fastball. Going 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 starts for the Aztecs won him the Golden Spikes Award. Striking out 195 batters with just 19 walks in 109 innings was the icing on the cake that made him the number one pick and richest draftee ever. The Nats held him back in the minors for financial reasons, and he responded with a 7-2 record, a 1.30 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. He is ready as he ever will be. Some teammates have already named him Jesus. Washington sits on the edge of pennant contention, and he may be better than any trade they could pull off. Propelling the newest MLB team to the playoffs for the first time.
The hitting has been a bit of a surprise for Washington this year, as Josh Willingham has stepped up to the tune of 11 homers to go with Zimmerman and Dunn in the double digits. Dunn is 13-42 in his last ten games but lacks a homerun in that stretch. Defense is an issue with Nyjer Morgan’s routine mental miscues, but catcher Ivan Rodriguez is expected to return from the DL to catch and help settle the youngster in his first start.
The Pirate will counter the hype with right-hander Jeff Karstens. He started three times earlier this season and gets the start over Daniel McCutchen from Triple-A Indianapolis, who was ineffective earlier this year, going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in four games. Karstens first started against the Cardinals on May 8 and pitched six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory. He impressed, allowing only three hits, walking two and striking out four. He has made six relief appearances since pitching to a 5.65 ERA. As a starter he is 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA in his three tries.
While I doubt you can even name a Pittsburgh hitter, Andrew McCutchen is quietly hitting .312 with 22 EBH. Streaky Garrett Jones has 3 homers in his last 12 games, adding up to 5 RBI’s. That’s not much production from your cleanup hitter.
The odds makers have the Nats as –1-½ – favorites with a run total of 8 ½.
Betting against Strasburg — AKA Jesus in his MLB debut would take a heretic, especially when he will be pitching against a club that’s darn near 10 games under .500 and 9 ½ games behind the leader and only 1-½ games of becoming last in the division. I expect the Nats to win this one and the UNDER.
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