Strasburg vs. Kershaw
The biggest series of the week takes place at Chavez Ravine with the Dodgers hosting the Nationals and on Monday we have the pitching matchup of the year (so far). That would be Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw, both of whom are sporting identical 13-1 team start records. Strasburg may have the edge in net units (+11.2 to +9.9), but Kershaw owns the edge in all personal statistics. In fact, the reigning Cy Young winner leads all of MLB in ERA (1.58), strikeouts (133) and opponents’ batting average (.170). He also has issued a preposterously low seven walks, easily the fewest among starters. Washington did not score in 16 innings against Kershaw last year. But this will be the first time Kershaw has ever been opposed by Strasburg. Interestingly, Strasburg’s last 11 starts have all gone Over the total. The Under is 8-0-1 in Kershaw’s last nine, so something will have to give in that department.
The Giants and Pirates played in the Wild Card Game a couple years ago, but right now only one appears playoff ready. That would be NL West-leading San Francisco, winners of eight straight and 27 of their last 35. That’s the franchise’s best 35-game stretch since the 1954 World Series winning team, by the way. Trending in the opposite direction would be the Pirates, who have lost 10 of their last 11 with six of those losses coming by five runs or greater, Sunday night included. Monday night is not a good spot for the Bucs, even at home, as they have to face Madison Bumgarner (more on him in a moment) while relying on Jeff Locke (12.06 ERA, 1.978 WHIP L3 starts). Since winning that Wild Card Game in 2014 (with Bumgarner as the starter), the Giants are just 1-6 vs. the Pirates (one win was in a Bumgarner start as well!), so revenge is in play.
Rangers The AL’s Best?
I recently read an article declaring Texas to be the team to beat in the American League. I’m not so sure I would agree with that. Sure, the club currently enjoys an 8.5 game cushion in the AL West (largest division lead besides the Cubs). But in terms of run differential, they are just fourth in the A.L, trailing Boston, Cleveland and Seattle. They start the week by hosting another team I’d tab as an overachiever, that being Baltimore. I’ll again point to the fact that the Orioles might be 26-12 at Camden Yards this season (most home wins in MLB entering Monday), but they are also below .500 on the road. Despite finding themselves in first place in the AL East, the O’s are actually third in the division in terms of run differential.
WAG of the Week
With Ryan Braun’s name being thrown around in trade rumors (Giants?), let’s take a look at what one lucky team could be acquiring in a deal – Larisa Braun.
* You should not need me to tell you that Madison Bumgarner is really good. However, what we’ve seen so far from the Giants’ big old lefty is truly special. The Giants have won his last 10 starts with him turning in a 1.27 ERA. He’s allowed 2 ER or less in nine of those 10 starts. His last three starts have seen him post a 0.738 WHIP due to allowing just 12 hits in 20+ innings pitched.
* Another hot pitcher, albeit a lesser known one, is Houston’s Doug Fister. He has a 9-0 team start record his last nine starts. He has a 1.40 ERA his last three. His stretch has actually been remarkable to Bumgarner’s as Fister has allowed 3 ER or less in all nine starts. Fister starts Monday against the Angels in a battle of division rivals coming off shutout wins Sunday. Houston, rather quietly, has won 17 of its last 25 games.
* Do you know who the best hitter in baseball is this year? That would be Washington’s Daniel Murphy, who is batting .358 for the year, while ranking second in MLB in OPS (.995) and second in the N.L. in slugging (.595).
* Monitor the injury situation with Cubs’ leadoff man Dexter Fowler. Not only is Fowler a .290 hitter with 115 total bases, 19 doubles and 35 walks, but his .398 OBP is second on the team as well. Right now, the club is determining whether or not to place Fowler on the disabled list due to a sore right hamstring.
The Under has gone 24-11 this year at Dodger Stadium. That’s because the home team is averaging only 3.8 runs per game with a .224 batting average. Fortunate for them, they have been able to hold opponents to 3.1 runs per game with a .219 batting average.
Monday’s Weather Notes
* There is a chance of thunderstorms in Pittsburgh tonight where the Pirates will be hosting the San Francisco Giants. The system will bring with it a 20 percent chance of rain and a 10 mph wind blowing out to left field. The total tonight is 7.5.
* There is also a threat of thunderstorms and a 20 percent chance of rain in Cleveland (home of the NBA Champions – that just sounds weird) where the Indians will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays. There will also be a 15 mph wind blowing from left to right. The total is set at 8.5.
* There will be a 10 mph left to right wind at Wrigley Field today where the Cubs will be taking on the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The total for tonight is currently set at 8.5.
* It looks like there will be a 15 mph wind blowing straight out to center field at Fenway Park tonight for the game between the Red Sox and the visiting Chicago White Sox. The total for that one is set at 10.0.