Stephen Strasburg (1-4 3.45) has not won since opening day, and a lot of that can be attributed to first inning troubles that have led to higher pitch counts combined with some run support that has sealed his fate in the middle innings. Truth is, while Davey Johnson and the Nationals remain cautious on Strau's innings, he may look to use him more efficiently especially since Washington once again expects to contend out of the NL East. Washington (20-15) has won 5 straight, and last week the 24 year old righty showed no signs of pain after experiencing some irritation in his forearm last month.
A no decision or loss would tie him this afternoon for the longest time in between wins since 2010-11 when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Strasburg's control thankfully hasn't been an issue through this rough stretch walking just 13 and striking out 44 in 44 innings. Despite playing without Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, the Nationals won 7-3 in Friday's series opener behind Ian Desmond's two-run homer and RBI double. Bryce Harper leads the Nats in hitting (.302 10 21) HR and RBI but is out of the lineup today to undergo surgery for an ingrown toenail. Desmond (.287 5 15) as was the case last night as been pretty consistent throughout the young season but needs to cut down on the 34 whiffs in just 136 AB. With Jayson Werth on the DL due to hamstring spasms, the Nats need Adam LaRoche (.208 3 10) who has a 7 game hitting streak to snap out of his early season doldrums despite collecting 2 hits last night.
Washington comes into today hitting just .235 collectively, however last night's production could be a positive sign of things to come since the Cubbies are countering with struggling Edwin Jackson. Jackson (0-5 6.39) who signed a 4 year $52M contract in theoffseason has factored in nearly a quarter of Chicago's losses (13-22) and has yielded 12 runs on 19 hits in his last 9 IP. He won 10 games with the Nationals last season and is in search of his first win as a Cub. With Matt Garza expected to come off the DL shortly, there could be a possibility that Jackson is eventually headed for the bullpen.
Chicago is hitting only .243 but are led by rising star Anthony Rizzo (.276 9 26) who is enjoying by far his best career season. Rizzo has quick bat speed and is versatile on the base path combining power and key hits in the heart of the Cubs lineup. Luis Valbuena at third base is working himself into an everyday player with 5 HR and 13 RBI, and Nate Schierholtz (.296 4 17) leads the club in batting. Strasburg could have his work cut out for him especially through the first part of the lineup and must set the tempo early by being his once dominant self that led to stardom through his first few years.
We get a bargain of a price here, and as long as the weather holds up its side of the bargain during the afternoon expect to see some runs in this one hopefully early and often. Jackson must be more efficient than what he has shown so far if he expects to register into the win column anytime soon, and run support could be key in this battle that has seen both starters struggle in various capacities. This matinee begins at 4pm EST and we look to set a new record seeking our 7th straight win after a .500 start through the first 10. Best of luck however you play!