Two of the top starting pitchers in the major leagues square off in Los Angeles on Monday as the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg faces Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the opener of a three-game series. Washington has won 10 of its last 14 contests and leads the National League East by 5 1/2 games over Miami, while the Dodgers are 6 1/2 behind streaking San Francisco in the NL West.
Monday’s series opener is expected to mark the return of Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig, who was batting .237 before landing on the disabled list June 3 with a strained left hamstring. Trayce Thompson has reached base safely in 14 of his last 18 games and figures to receive most of the starts in left field when Puig returns to his spot in right. The Dodgers have won three straight but will be tested by Strasburg and the Nationals, who dropped the final two contests of their four-game series in San Diego over the weekend. Michael Taylor went 4-for-4 with two home runs in Sunday’s 6-3 loss and could receive another start in center field over Ben Revere on Monday against the left-handed Kershaw.
TV: 10:10 p.m. ET, ESPN, MASN2 (Washington), SportsNet LA (Los Angeles)
Nationals – RP J. Papelbon (15-Day DL, ribs).
Dodgers – RF Y. Puig (Probable Monday, hamstring), RP C. Tsao (15-Day DL, tricep).
WEATHER REPORT: It’s Los Angeles. What did you expect the weather report to look like? I hope you didn’t come to this section of the preview for a shocking forecast that will help tilt your wager. Sunny, clear, temperatures in the 90’s, low humidity, and barely a whisper of wind. Perfect.
HOT FAN BATTLE:
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (10-0, 2.90 ERA) vs. Dodgers LH Clayton Kershaw (10-1, 1.58)
Strasburg settled for his fourth no-decision of the season on Wednesday but continued to impress by holding the Chicago Cubs to one run and six hits while walking one and striking out eight over seven frames. The San Diego native is riding a 13-game winning streak dating back to last year, and the Nationals are 17-1 in his last 18 starts. Chase Utley is 4-for-27 with seven strikeouts against Strasburg, who is 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four career starts versus the Dodgers.
Kershaw won his eighth straight decision after yielding two runs and recording 11 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over Arizona. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner leads the majors in ERA (1.58), WHIP (0.66), strikeouts (133) and innings pitched (108.0). Bryce Harper is 1-for-12 with a home run and seven strikeouts against Kershaw, who is 9-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 career starts against Washington – including 7-0 with a 0.82 ERA over his last seven outings.
* Nationals are 9-2 in their last 11 road games vs. a left-handed starter.
* Nationals are 8-1 in Strasburgs last 9 road starts.
* Dodgers are 5-1 in their last 6 overall.
* Dodgers are 7-0 in Kershaws last 7 starts vs. Nationals.
* Over is 9-1-1 in Nationals last 11 road games.
* Under is 7-1 in Kershaws last 8 home starts vs. a team with a winning record.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Kershaw and the Dodgers are picking up 61 percent of the Covers wagers early on Monday morning – I think bettors are just thrilled to be able to get Kershaw at such a low price. Over 5.5 is leading the way in totals picks with 60 percent of the action. View full consensus data here.