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A challenge for Stephen Strasburg, and the Nationals

Morning roundup

The most delicious part of Stephen Strasburg facing the Atlanta Braves tonight will come if Jason Heyward steps to the plate. While Heyward may not play tonight, Strasburg-Heyward I will be as must-watch as baseball gets in late June. In spring training, a front office member told The New Yorker, "I think if Heyward were to face Strasburg right now the baseball world would spontaneously combust."

"When I saw Heyward in spring training, and I knew that Strasburg would be with us eventually, I kind of reflected back on when Kerry Wood came into the league and a first baseman, Travis Lee, was coming into the league," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "And I looked at those two guys, and I thought, 'These guys are going to be going at each other like Stargell and Seaver for all those years.' You play each other in the division so much that Heyward and Strasburg get a chance to play against each other a lot. When it's all said and done, hopefully both of them will stay healthy, Heyward might see Strasburg 200 times over his career, so it's a great thing for baseball, and it's a great thing for both organizations."

The Braves, though, will offer more new challenges to Strasburg than Heyward. Every other team Strasburg has faced while accumulating a sub-two ERA and sub-one WHIP has come against four teams that rank in the bottom half in the majors in runs scored. Strasburg, even as the team he plays for has careened toward irrelevance, remains perhaps the story of baseball's first half; Jon Miller used the phrase "Strasburgian" last night on ESPN during Yankees-Dodgers.

His talent tonight will receive a new kind of platform. The Braves rank eighth in runs scored, and since May started they have scored more runs than any other team in the major leagues. The NL East-leading Braves are obviously the best lineup Strasburg has had to pitch against yet.

The Braves also represent the start of a rough patch for the Nationals and the end of a stretch they failed to take advantage of. On May 31, the Nationals opened a series at Houston with a 14-4 victory that sent them to 26-26, .500 exactly. Including that day, the Nationals have played 22 of 25 games against opponents who this season have allowed more runs than they've scored. The Nationals went 8-17 in those games, culminating with their gruesome three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. They have gone from .500 to 33-43 -- half a game worse than the record the Nationals played to after Jim Riggleman took over last season.

The Nationals now will face the Braves, Mets and Padres -- the best three teams in the National League, record-wise -- for 10 games in a row. The good news for the Nationals is Strasburg will be on the mound when that stretch begins. The good news for baseball fans is that he'll be facing his truest test yet.

FROM THE POST

Boz thinks the Nats aren't playing good enough baseball, and Mike Rizzo agrees. "If you're a pro," he said, "make the play."

The Nationals season veered toward its nadir with an ugly 4-3 loss that completed an Orioles sweep, Gene Wang writes.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Pawtucket 8, Syracuse 1: Jason Botts went 2 for 3 with a walk. Jason Jones allowed six earned runs on seven hits and a walk in just two innings.

Harrisburg 3, Reading 2: Edgardo Baez went 1 for 1 with a home run. Rafael Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief.

Kinston 6, Potomac 4: Derek Norris went 1 for 2 with two walks and a home run.

Hickory 4, Hagerstown 1: Steven Souza went 1 for 3 with a triple and a walk. Paul Applebee allowed no runs on one hit and no walks in three relief innings while striking out three.

Vermont 7, Connecticut 3: Hendry Jimenez went 3 for 4 with a double. Shane McCatty, son of Nats pitching coach Steve, allowed no runs on two hits and three walks in four innings, striking out three. The Lake Monsters improved to 7-3, best in the New York-Penn League.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

The Nats believe they can stay afloat, Mark Zuckerman writes.

From Friday night, Nationals Enquirer had some awesome frame grabs of Nyjer Morgan's catch.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 28, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 76 discussion thread: Nationals at Orioles
Next: Guest post: Stat prediction winner II

Comments

The way they are playing is a disgrace.
They stink up the middle.

Posted by: ridgely1 | June 28, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Good to see Riggs is a glass half full kind of guy instead of a 'Lord, I better start packing' kind of a guy. No mattre how he looks at it, well, he better start packing and stop buying green bananas.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

What are we looking at 3 out of thirty?

Whats the over/under on wins?

Posted by: hansenjo | June 28, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Whats the uver under of wins? I say 3 wins is what we will have.

Posted by: hansenjo | June 28, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Damn post gremlins!!!!!

Posted by: hansenjo | June 28, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

"If you're a pro," he said, "make the play."

Damn friggin' right. To hell with the excuses, the caveats regarding the level of effort, etc. Make the damn play. If you can't make the play, move over and try someone else.

Gotta love that GM.

Posted by: joemktg1 | June 28, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Blame the players as much as you'd like for their own inability and shortcomings, but at the end of the day, these guys are what they are. It's the front offices job to get better players on the team, instead of being content as the Stephen Strasburg Traveling Circus.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 28, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

well said musiq!!!

Posted by: hansenjo | June 28, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo's comments are just hot air until he dumps Kennedy and Harris and reduces Guzman to mop up time player; play AG -- at least he seems to catch and throw ok -- since there's no one in the minors who can play MI. Re-sign Eric Bruntlett, exhume Rogers Hornsby -- his corpse would play better 2B defense than Kennedy or Guzman (and has more range than Guz).

As for the rest, more comments from them Sunday that reveal they are like the Redskins -- we are a Super Bowl team --playoff team for the Nats. No they aren't, and until some attitudes of entitlement change, they never will be. If Riggs (I love what he did last year) can't get with the program, he needs to go too. Tough love needed -- if you can't play, go elsewhere. There's no room for a Harris or Kennedy on a winning team. Or maybe they are tanking because they want out of Dodge (ala Belliard?). Either way they have to go before the Braves series ends.

Posted by: grclarkdc1 | June 28, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Orlando Hudson's having a pretty good season! :-(

Seriously, he has two errors in 58 games played for the Twins. Guzman and Kennedy had more than that in two days against the terrible Orioles.

If the Lerners don't spend some of their Strasburg winnings this Winter - they need to be shot out of this city in a cannon.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 28, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Didn't see the game, as we were trying to stay cool at the Smithsonian folklife festival. Doesn't sound like they'll be airing that one on Nats classics, though (O's classics, maybe, but I don't watch the O's classics or the O's regular games, for that matter). I did see a number of people sporting Nats gear at the festival.

Anyhoo, I'll be back in front of the tv this week, starting tonight, and back in the park next week when 1b will be in town for a visit.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 28, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

May 23, 1998 - Kerry Wood debut vs. Braves
1st inning
Chipper Jones - HR
Andres Galarraga - HR

Bring on Strasburg.

Posted by: ebayjim | June 28, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

@ebayhim

How did they do the second time around and who who the game? Some people think Stras is a bit better than Kerry Wood.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | June 28, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

@ebayhim

How did they do the second time around and who won the game? Some people think Stras is a bit better than Kerry Wood.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | June 28, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Here you go, ahardwick:

http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1998/B05230ATL1998.htm

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 28, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I was just saying to myself as Pudge was batting that if Nyjer got picked off I would bench him immediately...never really believing it would happen...well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: pentagon40 | June 28, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I know Nyjer won't get benched today but tomorrow's game he would be sitting...at some point SOMEONE has to be made an example of for Riggleman to show he has some kahunas...when a team does not fear their manager during trying times lack of effort continues....time for some hungry players to be given a look...

Posted by: pentagon40 | June 28, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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