Do the Nationals have the starting pitching edge in this series?

The Red Sox come in to try and cool down the red-hot Washington Nationals this week, as the District gets ready to welcome a club with whom they hold a surprisingly large fan base.

What’s shocking about this series, however, is that while the Sox boast the best record in the American League, the Nationals may have the advantage in the pitching matchups. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that  all year.

Lets check it out:

Brad Penny, RHP (6-2, 4.94) vs. John Lannan, LHP (4-5, 3.38 ERA)

bradpennyPenny is one of the most inconsistent pitchers in baseball. He will have a half-season where he is the best pitcher in baseball, and the other half of that season he will look like, well how he looks now. Penny has been overwhelmingly average since joining the Red Sox this year. The truth is however, he just hasn’t been the same pitcher he was in 2007 where he went 16-4 with a 3.03 ERA. In 2008 he struggled and got hurt with LA, and this 2009 he has been very up and down with the Bo-Sox. Note: During his time in the NL, penny went 12-5 against Washington with a 2.54 ERA.

John Lannan on the other hand is a young pitcher who is very hot right now. Red hot. In his three starts this month he has pitched 23.1 innings and allowed only three earned runs and 13 hits. He has clearly regained his form from 2008, and is staking his claim as one of the better left handed pitchers in the NL. If he could shut down the Boston Red Sox line up, weeks after shutting down the Mets and Yankees line up, he will have truly mad his mark.

Jon Lester, LHP (5-6, 4.69) vs. Craig Stammen, RHP (1-2, 4.76)

Lester is a great story. The young man battled back from cancer, pitched a no hitter, won a world series, and now is one of the best strikeout pitchers in the majors. While in 2008 he shined as a 24-year-old going 16-6 with a 3.21 ERA, he has struggled in comparison this year as a 25-year-old. His strikeout rate is up, but his hit, run, and home run rates are way up. Maybe he is being more aggressive, or maybe he still has a lot to learn. Either way he has the potential to put up a great performance any given night.

Stammen was the man of the hour in Yankee stadium last week. The right-hander earned his first career victory while pitching six shutout innings in the bandbox Yankee Stadium. It was the start of the first shutout in new Yankee Stadium, and may have been Stammen’s coming out party.

John Smoltz, RHP (0-0, -.–) vs. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (2-3, 5.03 ERA)

Smoltz is one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, and a future hall of famer. He will be making his first appearance of 2009 against somebody the Nationals are hoping will have similar accolades in 20 years. Smoltz has a 21-12 record with a 2.55ERA against the Montreal/Washington franchise in 68 appearances as both a starter and reliever.

Zimmermann had one of the best starts of his career against Toronto. He continues to have powerful stuff that generates a high strikeout rate, once he can control his mistakes and cut down on hits he can be dominant. Zimmermann actually has a similar skill set to smoltz. Both are small framed power pitchers with sharp breaking off speed stuff. This should be a fun match up.