After sweeping the Miami Marlins in their opening series, the Washington Nationals will head to hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park to face a more formidable foe, the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds posted the second-best record in baseball last season – 97-65 to the Nationals’ MLB-best 98-64 – and are a favorite to win the National League Central. The Nationals were 5-2 against the Reds last year, and will play them seven times this season, all in the month of April.
This week in MLB’s first-ever Interleague Opening Series, the Reds topped the Los Angeles Angels, hitting three home runs in the series finale. Back in Ohio for their home opener, the Reds will look for revenge on the Nats, who walked off against the Reds in an exciting 10-inning victory in their own home opener last season.
The Nats went on to sweep that series, and will now attempt to get their brooms out again and extend their winning streak to six games.
Stacking Up The Stats
As the two best teams in baseball in 2012, the Nats and the Reds put up similarly successful stats. In the National League, the Reds were ninth in batting average (.251), 12th in on-base percentage (.315), and sixth in slugging percentage (.411). The Nationals ranked slightly higher in all those categories with a team slash line of .261/.322/.428.
On the pitching side, their team stats were almost identical. Washington pitchers put together a 3.33 ERA with an average of 8.12 strikeouts per nine innings, with Cincinnati very close behind with a 3.34 ERA and 7.73 strikeouts per nine. According to James Wagner’s article in today’s Washington Post, when the stats are adjusted to the ballpark specifications, the Reds’ pitching stats actually surpassed the Nationals’ as best in the majors in 2012.
With the majority of last years’ Reds returning for the 2013 campaign, including All-Stars Jay Bruce and Joey Votto and all five of their starting pitchers, there is no reason why the Reds won’t be able to put together a repeat performance of last year’s success. The Nationals will just have to try to stay one game better.
Haren’s First Start
We’ll get to see Dan Haren in action today for the first time in a Nationals uniform, as he will get the ball in the series opener. In case you need a refresher on the history of the newest addition to the Nationals rotation, Haren posted a 4.33 ERA with the Angels last season, which was almost a full run higher than his career mark of 3.66 through 10 seasons.
His strikeout percentage was down last season also, sinking to an average of 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, compared to his career mark of 7.6. Among active pitchers, Haren’s strikeout to walk ratio (4.0127) is second only to New York Yankees great Mariano Rivera (4.0288). Assuming the injuries he dealt with last year don’t cause him continued trouble, Nats fans can expect to see Haren’s numbers return to his career levels this year.
In The Zone
Bryce Harper (RF) 6-for-12, .500 AVG, 2 HR, 1 2B
Todd Frazier (3B) .333 AVG, 1 HR, 1 2B, 12 AB
Shin-Soo Choo (CF) .333 AVG, 1 HR, 1 2B, 12 AB
Jay Bruce (RF) .077 AVG, 0 HR, 7 SO, 13 AB
Zack Cozart (SS) .000 AVG, .000 OBP, 1 SO
4/5, Dan Haren (0-0, 0 IP) vs. Homer Bailey (0-0, 0 IP)
4/6, Ross Detwiler (0-0, 0 IP) vs. Mike Leake (0-0, 0 IP)
4/7, Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 SO, 7 IP) vs. Johnny Cueto (0-0, 1.29 ERA, 9 SO, 7 IP)