The series that the San Diego press has dubbed the Strasburg Sweepstakes Series (where'd they get that clever alliteration?). The team that loses this 3-game set will be in the driver's seat to select the guy that Mike Rizzo confirmed today would be the top guy on the Nationals' draft board if the draft was held today.
Game one was due to feature the second of back-to-back pitching treats as Jake Peavy was scheduled to take the mound one night after we saw Johan Santana. Alas, Peavy's wife is in labor, so we get Dirk Hayhurst instead. A quick Google search confirms that Hayhurst is not a porn star, despite the very porn star-sounding name.
When the Padres Are Up
--Adrian Gonzalez is by far their best hitter, but he's really struggled in the second half. The former #1 overall pick has posted a .277 / .359 / .506 line that puts him ahead of Carlos Delgado as the fifth best in a stellar group of NL 1Bs (behind Pujols, Berkman, Howard, and Fielder), despite pitching in the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball Petco Park. Petco is significantly more of a pitchers' park than RFK was, and that's really saying something. Gonzalez's line at home is .264 / .336 / .441 and away it's .297 .359 .541. Playing for any other team he'd be right in the mix of MVP talk.
--Old pro Brian Giles has been the team's next best hitter. But at 37 he's far below what a team needs to win for a right-fielder, unless they're getting great offense from positions like SS, 2B, and C, and the Friars aren't.
--Jody Gerut, who was 4th in the rookie of the year voting in Cleveland way back in 2003, only to blow out his knee at the end of a terrible third season which saw him shuffle through three teams in 59 games. This year he's broken back into the league as a 30-year-old revelation, posting an excellent .297 / .352 / .495 line, putting him just a hair below Carlos Beltran and Nate McLouth as the best CF in the NL. But he's hurt now, and the playing time is going to...
--Will Venable, son of OF/DH Max Venable, isn't much of a prospect, but the Padres have nothing to lose by playing him. He's floating on a Anderson Hernandez-esque .339 BABIP.
--Josh Bard has been horrible.
--Kevin Kouzmanoff has broken through with a 21-HR season. He'd have 30 hitting in a league-average park, as his home-road split has a more than 100-point difference in OPS.
--Twenty-four year-old Chase Headley is holding his own as a rookie LF converted from 3B.
--The Padres outbid the Rockies to get Tad Iguchi this past off season. Whew! Thank goodness we didn't do that. Iguchi was cut Lo Duca/Lopez style this season and the Padres have been trying out 2B of the future Matt Antonelli (not to be confused with Cleveland whiz AGM and Georgetown alum Chris Antonetti). Antonelli is a converted 3B who has inflated minor league numbers playing at altitude in the Pacific Coast League. But he draws a lot of walks and will get every chance to be the starter next year.
--Before breaking a finger and going down for the season, Khalil "Spicoli" Greene, the man who single-handedly pounded the last nail in the Nationals' coffin in 2005, was hands down the league's worst offense. He was worse offensively than even Austin Kearns. Since then journeyman replacement Luis Rodriguez has been replacement-level.
Dirk Hayhurst: I'll be honest. I know nothing about him. Fangraphs says he throws fastball-curve-change-slider. Damn, I had a really great preview on Peavy, who I loooooooove. Oh well.
Collin Balester: Gradually, Balester's command of his off-speed stuff keeps getting better. In his last start he had a no-hitter going into the sixth. Balester is one of the very best things about the Nationals' dreadful '08 season.
If he's getting strikes with both the change and the curve, he'll be tough. If he only has one, he'll be ok. If he has neither, he's dead.
Season Record: 30-18
With proud papa Peavy looking on, the Nationals win game one, 5-1.