The National League East has been a hot-bed of competition in 2010. The Mets resurrected themselves from dismal play due to injury in recent seasons past, the Marlins can boast what with Josh Johnson on the hump, the Phillies are one of the best all-around playing teams in the big leagues, the Braves are doing their best to extend legendary Manager Bobby Cox’s final season in the game to October, and then there’s the Nationals who are the only team currently under .500 in the standings at .424 and 15.5 games back.
Tonight’s match-up of the first place Braves and the last place Nationals has the potential to be a jaw-dropping site of a show. The elusive and long-awaited face-off of phenom rookies is scheduled to finally take place (pending any last minute changes or injury). Stephen Strasburg meet Jason Heyward.
The Strasburg media hype is inescapable while Heyward’s presence in right field and in the batter’s box at the age of 20 is unrivaled. Heyward is the youngest player to be named to an All-Star Game since Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1990 and Strasburg is the obvious ace of a struggling ball club nine starts into his career.
What remains unique to this face-off of young’ns is the fact that they’re division rivals. This has the potential to be the mere beginning to a lengthy and epic story to be told for seasons long after this one considering they play each other more often.
Heyward had his first chance at hitting off Strasburg back on June 28 but found himself on the DL due to a sore left thumb. Now these premiere rookies are prime to give it the best they’ve gone on the field in front of what is expected to be yet another electric audience at Nationals Park when the NatsTown ace kicks-off a six game homestand against not only the Braves but fellow division rivals the Phillies for the first time since Opening Day.
Washington needs to focus on getting the glove on the ground or around the pop flies. Defense is among one of their weakest suites (besides the lack of an actual starting rotation) and continues to plague their spot in the standings. If the defense can get it together, then the starters (no matter who they are) might have a little more confidence on the mound. Then again, you can’t win games if you don’t score runs consistently. There in itself lies the Nationals problem – baseball is a two-fold game of offense and defense, you’ve got to play both well to get the curly-W.
Tonight: Tommy Hanson (8-6, 4.12) and Bobby Cox’s Atlanta Braves face Stephen Strasburg (5-2, 2.32) at 7:05 at Nationals Park.