MLB: Solid Yankees Take On Surging Nationals
There’s no question here, bro. The Washington Nationals are not clowning; they’re the hottest team in Major League Baseball right now. DALE PERTH knows the New York Yankees aren’t joking around either: they’re right up there at No. 3 on the Power Rankings list.
Before the Bryce Harper era, these two teams met once in a three-game interleague series back in 2009: the Nationals took two of three in Yankee Stadium. This was in a year when the Nats finished 59-103 and Manny Acta lost his job as the Nationals' manager on July 12. This year Washington is sporting a tidy 38-23 record through June 14, second-best in MLB only to the L.A. Dodgers: the Yankees are right behind at 37-25, and they know that their hosts are no longer a "doormat" team.
These two eastern clubs are each riding a six-game win streak, currently tops in the majors. They have both ascended to the top of their respective divisions on the strength of their starting pitching, especially in Washington’s case. They lead all teams with the only staff ERA under 3 (2.94), have given up the fewest hits (445) and have the top WHIP (Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched) at 1.14. They rank second in saves with 23, and third in strikeouts with 526.
Two of the top starters in baseball are on their staff. There’s young phenom Stephen Strasburg, and what a record he’s compiled in 2012: 8 wins and only 1 loss, with a 2.45 ERA, an opposition batting average of .216, 100 Ks and 20 walks (a 5/1 ratio!) and a tidy 1.04 WHIP in 77 innings. Then there’s flamethrowing lefthander Gio Gonzalez, who opens the three-game set on Friday. Gio hasn’t been too shabby, either: an 8-2 record with a staff-leading 2.35 ERA, 89 Ks and 30 walks in 72.2 innings, a WHIP of 1.00 and a stingy opposition BA of .168.
Gonzalez will face crafty Yankee lefty Phil Hughes (6-5 record, 4.76 ERA), while on Saturday it will be Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81) matching up against Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91). Sunday also promises to be a barn-burner with Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64) taking to the mound to face Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02).
With such pedigrees and performances in pitching, timely hitting will be the key to victory for either side. The Yankees appear to have the edge here: they lead the majors with 96 home runs, are second in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage.
The MLB betting line for Friday’s tilt favors the Nats slightly, but the Over/Under when this preview was posted was set at 7.0. In the 2009 series, that Under prevailed in two of the three meetings: the Yankees won the opener 5-3, but the Nats took the next two by scores of 3-2 and 3-0, so take that for what you will.
Three things are certain: one winning streak will continue, another will end, and it will be fun to watch either way.