The Washington Nationals needed every single out they had to end their five-game losing streak last night. It wasn’t pretty to watch, but they finally scraped one out to get back in the win column. The Nats will look to make it two in a row tonight in the rubber match against Arizona, but they will be going up against a right-hander that was one of the best pitchers in the National League last year, Ian Kennedy.
It’s hard to think that a 26-year-old who posted a 2.88 ERA and a league leading 21 wins last season could be often overlooked as one of the top hurlers in the game, but that’s precisely what Kennedy has done. The trend has continued into 2012 as well as he’s off to a strong 3-0 start with a 3.38 ERA in his first five outings of the year.
Kennedy potentially poses a difficult matchup for Washington because his success rests on his ability to limit mistakes. Some hurlers are effective because they have naturally terrific stuff, others, like Kennedy, make their living on the corners and by being smart. With a lack of experienced, true hitters in the Nats lineup, a lot of their offensive production has come through capitalizing on pitcher’s mistakes rather than working the count and driving pitches regardless of where they cross the plate. If Kennedy can stay within his game plan, the Nationals could be in major trouble.
The 27-year-old throws a fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup, all of which average below 90 MPH. Last year, he used his off speed pitches to set up his fastball, which was by far his most effective pitch according to FanGraphs.
Kennedy has a 2-1 record all time against the Nationals with a 2.52 ERA in four starts.