If the Nationals are going to get back to the postseason, they will need Stephen Strasburg to pitch at an elite level. While he had a 3.09 ERA last season, everyone remembers his second half and the dominance he showed to end the year. He went 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA in his final ten starts and struck out 92 batters over that span.
This spring, Strasburg went 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in four starts. His last start was against the Yankees back on March 23 when he struck out nine batters over five shutout innings. Baker had originally selected Gio Gonzalez to get this start, but made the switch to Strasburg on Saturday.
Against the Braves last year, Strasburg did not give up a run over two starts as he gave up ten hits, struck out 13 batters, and walked two in 11 innings. However, Turner Field has historically not been too kind to the 27-year-old right-hander (3-3 with a 4.79 ERA in nine career starts). Freddie Freeman is hitting .429 (12-for-28) with three home runs, nine RBI’s, and six walks.
During this offseason, the Braves signed Bud Norris to a one-year deal. The 31-year-old right-hander will be on his third different team in the last two seasons after being with the Orioles and the Padres last season. In 38 games (11 starts) last year, he went 3-11 with a 6.72 ERA.
The Braves now have a veteran stopgap while their younger pitchers continue to develop in the minor leagues and they hope Norris can be similar to the pitcher he was in 2014 when he went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in a year where the O’s made the ALCS. However, spring wasn’t too kind to Norris (1-3, 6.46 ERA in six games).
In his career against the Nats, Norris is 2-1 with a 5.33 ERA in seven games (four starts). In his last five appearances against the Nats (2012, 2014, 2015), he has given up 11 runs in 11.2 innings and has allowed four home runs. Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-14 (.357) against Norris with three home runs and nine RBI’s.
Prediction: Out of the two games, I expect this game to be the more lopsided of the two. If the Nationals can get a big inning againt Norris and help out Strasburg, they should be able to cruise in this one and pick up the mini-sweep to begin the season.