PITTSBURGH -- One of the responsibilities that comes with the title of "staff ace" is the task of stopping a losing streak. Such is the position Stephen Strasburg finds himself in tonight, taking the mound at PNC Park with the Nationals mired in a three-game losing streak and in danger of getting swept by the Pirates.
Strasburg, of course, can only control how many runs he gives up. He can't control how many runs the Nationals score. Or how many balls they put into play. So plenty of the onus will be on Davey Johnson's lineup, which tonight includes only one minor tweak.
Roger Bernadina will bat second, with Bryce Harper moved down to the 5-hole. The logic, I assume, is that the Pirates won't be able to pitch around cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche like they did last night. But the downside is that Harper may not see a whole lot of pitches to hit himself with the ice-cold Danny Espinosa hitting behind him.
Should make for some interesting discussion. Please check back for updates and analysis throughout...
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 58 degrees, Wind 13 mph out to CF
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Stephen Strasburg
RF Jose Tabata
LF Alex Presley
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
SS Clint Barmes
C Michael McKenry
RHP Kevin Correia
HP Phil Cuzzi, 1B Greg Gibson, 2B Vic Carapazza, 3B Gerry Davis (cc)
You can always count on the New York Daily News to run an audacious cover. The tabloid delivered again Friday with an image edited to show two of the league's best young hitters in Yankees pinstripes: Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and Orioles short stop Manny Machado.
"Bats to the Future" is exactly the headline you'd expect, too.
It's hard to tell what's more odious to Washington and Baltimore fans: the image itself or the suggestion that baseball's new collective bargaining agreement makes it easier for the Yankees to poach their stars.
The premise of that argument comes from sources who say the new CBA contains two changes beneficial to New York: reduced revenue sharing burden (due to tweaks in how sharing is calculated, plus a deduction for the cost of building and running Yankee Stadium) and an increased luxury tax threshold.
Without going into number crunching detail, the Daily News explains how the club could afford Harper and/or Machado when they become free agents after the 2018 season.
The article's tone of inevitability, despite its many assumptions, will rankle fans of all 29 other teams. After all, the Yankees aren't the only franchise interested in Harper and Machado.
The Nationals and Orioles will presumably try to keep their stars. But to do that, they may have to fend off potentially historic money from the Bronx.
MORE BASEBALL: Nats let Ben Revere walk
Ben Revere was brought to Washington in the hopes he could solve the centerfield and lead-off issue that plagued them the previous year. After just one year, the Nationals have decided to move on from Revere as they declined to tender him.
The move makes Revere a free agent after a .217/.260/.300 season that fell way below expectations. Revere tied his career-high with two home runs and added 24 RBI while scoring 44 runs.
Stay tuned for more information!