Someone forgot to tell Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche that Petco Park is perhaps one of the largest baseball cathedrals areawise in the league. However this combination which has starred consistently in the Nationals success so far this season is looking forward to this upcoming 3 game series. Laroche, who currently has a 13 game hitting streak is batting .322 in his career there and is 9 for his last 23 over the last 6 games including a 2 run HR in last night's 6-2 Washington win. Harper, who also homered for Washington (22-19) last night, is hitting .298 with a team high 11 long balls and 22 driven in over the first quarter of the campaign.
That doesn't bode very well for newcomer and spot starter Burch Smith, who is taking over for Clayton Richard in the rotation. Richard is currently on the DL recovering from an intestinal virus which gives the 23 year old rookie in Smith an opportunity to redeem himself from a rough debut. Smith's major league debut started well Saturday, tossing a perfect first inning with two strikeouts. However, it was all downhill from there as he was pulled before getting an out in the second, getting charged for six runs and five hits - one homer - with two walks while not getting a decision in an 8-7 loss at Tampa Bay.
One of the reasons Washington stumbled late last month was a lack of consistency to hit with RISP combined with underachieving from the middle part of their lineup. The Nationals are hitting just .231 collectively with 36 HR. Ian Desmond is second on the team in hitting (.280) and HR (6) while driving in 17 RBI. Jayson Werth has been on the DL for quite sometime but could rejoin the team tomorrow or Sunday depending on how his strained hamstring feels. Denard Span (.274) has given Washington a lift from the top of the lineup, but need Ryan Zimmerman (.274 1 18) to contribute on a more consistent basis.
The Padres haven't exactly thrown in the towel just yet avoiding the NL West cellar at 18-22 and just 5.5 games behind San Francisco. They are actually hitting .242 overall with 34 HR led by Chase Headley (.298 4 12) recently the subject of trade rumors, and Chris Denorfia (.280 2 13). Truth is, the balance of this lineup can easily be seen on the field and on paper with 9 Padres in double figures in RBI. In fact, Headley has done plenty to keep San Diego fans optimistic hitting .370 over his last 13 home games.
However the task of scoring runs this evening could be that more difficult especially when Gio Gonzalez (3-2 4.20) is hungry for a win. Gonzalez last weekend held the Chicago Cubs hitless over the first 5 innings but earned a no-decision as the Cubs edged the Nationals 2-1. Since Gonzalez's ERA was nearly 5 over his first 7 starts he seems to have righted the ship and would probably sport more wins if his mates gave him proper run support.
We get a reasonable price in this spot this evening, and given the fact that both of these teams are capable of putting together good production given their personnel the line may not be as tricky as most would seem even at the current venue. In fact, we've played 3 of these situations so far this evening in challenging ballparks with intriguing pitching matchups going 3-0-1 mostly on the Western side of the league. Why stop now by taking another shot? The odds are with us at 65% cumulatively and all it takes is one big inning to cash this one. Best of luck however you play!