CAN NATS KEEP MOMENTUM?
The Washington Nationals (38-48), on the strength of a four-game split with the New York Mets and a series victory over the NL West-leading San Diego Padres, enter tonight's game on a relative high note. The San Francisco Giants (45-40) will begin a three-game stand in the nation's capital, their first trip to Washington this season and their first meeting with the Nationals since they took two of three games in late May. While the two teams' previous encounter saw Giants' pitchers control the Nationals' offense (with the surprising exception of two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who allowed six runs on six hits and five walks in under five innings of work), Washington hopes to possess the proverbial "ace in the hole" this time around, sending phenom Stephen Strasburg to the mound this evening against another of San Francisco's young, talented workhorses, Matt Cain. The Nationals hope to end their challenging home stand (which included San Diego, New York, and San Francisco) to hopefully build on its recent success heading into the All-Star break.
San Francisco arrives in Washington on a four-game winning streak that it will look to extend against our NL East cellar dwellers. The Giants' success, over the past few games and its entire season, has largely been a result of its talented and effective pitching. The Giants have the third-lowest ERA in all of baseball and have surrendered the third-fewest hits. While no one would accuse their staff of being particularly efficient - San Francisco pitchers lead the league in both walks and strikeouts - few would challenge their effectiveness. Opponents are batting just .238 and slugging just .363 against Giant hurlers, good for second overall in both categories. The Nationals offense, which has outstripped its characteristic performance in July by ranking in the top 20 percent of the league in slugging, on base percentage, and batting average, must continue its relative hot streak in order to compete with the Giants' potent pitching staff.
Aubrey Huff: 6-10, 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 4 runs, 7 RBI
Buster Posey: 9-15, 4 HR, 2 BB, 6 runs, 9 RBI
Giants' Pitchers: 36 IP, 7 ER, 43 K
Friday, July 9, 2010: Matt Cain (6-7, 2.98) vs. Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.45)
Saturday, July 10, 2010: Jonathan Sanchez (7-6, 3.15) vs. Craig Stammen (2-3, 5.73)
Sunday, July 11, 2010: Madison Bumgarner (1-2, 2.86) vs. Livan Hernandez (6-4, 3.12)