The five-time All-Star is set to make his Nationals debut tonight.
Since 2012, the Washington Nationals success has hinged on the back of strong starting pitching. This year is no different. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin leading the way, Washington has one of the strongest top threes in the game.
Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistencies have derailed that. Stephen Strasburg is on the IL and through four starts, Corbin has an ERA above 10.00. Max Scherzer has been his usual dominant self, while Joe Ross and Erick Fedde have been impressive in Strasburg’s absence, but the team is still lacking another consistent starter.
That’s why tonight is so important. During the off-season, three-time World Series champion Jon Lester signed with the Nationals on a one-year deal. Sadly, his debut was pushed back due to off-season surgery and then landing on the Covid list. But tonight, Lester is finally slotted to take the mound.
Limit Your Expectations For Tonight
After making only three Spring Training starts and then having to ramp back up due to surgery and Covid, Lester will still be looking to build himself back up to full strength. And understandably so. Lester is no longer the ace he was with Boston, Oakland, and the Cubs. He hasn’t had a season with an ERA under 4.00 since 2018 and his strikeout numbers have continued to dwindle since 2015.
But Lester has always been able to eat innings. In fact, from 2008-2019, he has thrown 170+ innings a year. In his career, he averages 209 innings, which will go a long way to helping the Nationals bullpen stay fresh.
Tonight Lester will be on a pitch count as he continues to work himself back up. Against a scrappy Miami Marlins lineup, Lester will be tested immediately. Miami is the only team in the NL East with a positive run differential (+12). The offense is led by Jesus Aguilar who has been on a tear. On the season he is hitting .295, with five homers, 22 RBIs, and an OPS of .921. Miami’s offense has excelled at working the count and making pitchers work. With Lester on a pitch count, this could be an issue.
Due to the starting rotations’ recent struggles, the key for tonight will be if Lester can consistently throw strikes and avoid long innings. With Washington out to another slow start, Lester needs to make a solid first impression in his debut.