The baseball world is focused on the major league debut of Bryce Harper today, and rightfully so, but Saturday's game between the Dodgers and Nationals also features a solid pitching matchup of Chad Billingsley vs. Stephen Strasburg.
Billingsley got off to a great start this season with just one walk and 17 strikeouts through his first three starts, allowing three total runs, but he hit a speed bump last Sunday in Houston, allowing nine runs and couldn't get out of the fourth inning.
Billingsley started against the Nationals in a rainy Washington DC last September 8, but his day didn't last long. Four third inning runs, including a two-run home run by Jayson Werth, ended Billingsley's day after recording just seven outs, but the Dodgers would rally to win that game 7-4 with three runs in the ninth inning.
The last time Billingsley started against the Nationals at Dodger Stadium, last July 24, his start looked like it would be a long day, as the first four batters reached base. Washington led 1-0 and had the bases loaded with nobody out in the first inning, but Billingsley struck out the side to prevent further damage. In fact, Billingsley was awesome the rest of the way, retiring 21 of the final 22 batters he faced, including 10 strikeouts to pick up the win.
Strasburg was awesome last September 6 against the Dodgers. Pitching in his first major league game in over a year after Tommy John surgery, Strasburg allowed just two hits while striking out four, needing just 56 pitches to get through five scoreless innings. But the Dodgers rallied for seven runs in the final four innings for a 7-3 win.
Strasburg has now made 21 career starts, and his numbers look awfully familiar.
Of the 264 pitchers to start their first 21 major league games since 1918, only Steve Rogers (13-6, 1.95 ERA) and Cal Eldred (16-3, 2.19 ERA) had a better earned run average than Strasburg. None of the 264 pitchers had more strikeouts than Nomo, who had three more than Kerry Wood.
- Billingsley needs to record one out in the eighth inning on Saturday to become the 19th Los Angeles Dodgers to pitch 1,000 innings as a starter.
- Matt Kemp has four home runs in 28 career games against the Nationals, hitting .230/.270/.372. Outside of Kemp's three games each against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, only the Angels have held Kemp to a lower slugging percentage (.317) in his career.
Game Time: 6:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket, MLB Network