Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals at Reds (5/29-5/31)

2 of 4

May 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) walks off the field after being removed from the game against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 6.50 ERA) vs. Anthony DeScalfani (2-4, 3.46 ERA), 7:05 PM ET, broadcast on MASN2 and WUSA9

The Nationals open the series tonight against the Reds with Stephen Strasburg facing off against Anthony DeSclafani. This is Strasburg’s tenth start and, needless to say, he has struggled a bit this year.

His ERA is near the top for worst in the majors for starting pitchers at 6.50 and he has only reached the seventh inning one time this year. Last outing, Stras got knocked around a bit against the Phillies, only going 3.2 innings and giving up six runs on seven hits and this wasn’t his worst start of the year.

There is much speculation about what is wrong with Strasburg. I put forth here that I think it is a combination of recovering from an ankle injury that affects his mechanics in high-leverage situations and terrible luck with an absurdly high BABIP at .390.

Whatever is wrong with Strasburg, the Reds lineup could be a good chance for him to get right. Stras has fared well against Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto lifetime, striking out Phillips twice over ten at-bats and Votto three times in six at-bats. Keeping Billy Hamilton off the bases is also a priority and, while Stras has struggled with a lot this year, walking hitters has not been much of an issue so far for him.

The Reds start Anthony DeSclafani, who is coming off a great start against Cleveland on May 23,  where he went seven innings and gave up only one run on three hits. He did not get rewarded with the win as his team could only put up one run of support, but DeSclafani has had a good year so far.

DeScalfani may struggle a bit against the Nats lineup, more specifically Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, and Denard Span. This is because of his high walk rate at 10.5% and his massive platoon splits against lefties. DeScalfani’s slash against lefties is .276/.384/.457 as compared to his righty slash at .141/.187/.212. The Nats will look to put pressure on DeScalfani by drawing a lot of walks and I have a feeling Bryce is going to have a big day. Look for Nats manager Matt Williams to take advantage of this split.

Advantage: Toss-up

It is hard for me to call this game because Strasburg should be the better pitcher. He is the better pitcher, but his performances this year do not match his talent. DeScalfani is a young pitcher that seems like a solid, middle-of-the-rotation type guy. I think this game will come down to the bullpen for the Nationals, as Strasburg seems to exit games early this season. That being said, Bryce Harper’s ability to exploit his platoon advantage against DeScalfan will be critical tonight.