The Nationals arrive in Phoenix to face the lowest scoring offense who happen to play in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. I guess that's part of why they have a new manager starting today. "Melvin" is no kind of name for a leader of men anyway.
Here's my preview on the D'Backs' bats, bullpen, and game one starter.
When the Diamondbacks are Up
--After a couple false starts, it may be Justin Time. Justin Upton, the top under-22 bat in baseball, has his wOBA up to .405 on the season despite a slow start. On April 24, he was hitting .184 / .279 / .263. Since then, he's hitting .383 / .453 / .809, and his strikeout rate has fallen through the floor. He has power that makes Dukes look weak. If this is a sign that he's figured it out, he could be an MVP candidate this year. OK, maybe next.
--On the other hand, we have Chris Young, who is hitting a little like the other Chris Young. Since he hit 32 dingers as a rookie in 2007, his strikeout rate has gone nowhere but up. His strikezone command is terrible, less because he swings at so many balls out of the zone (at 22%, he doesn't really) but because he watches too many pitches go by in the zone. I wonder if he got screwed up trying to be a lead-off man. Whatever, right now he's a pretty easy out.
--Mark Reynolds is a whiff machine. He K-ed 204 times last year and 36 times already this year. Then again, he's gone yard 7 times and has a .520 SLG. On the other other hand, he doesn't walk enough to make up for his lack of contact and have respectable on-base numbers, and he's a rotten fielder.
--Dang! Why is FLop good again all of a sudden? Felipe Lopez has a .357 BABIP. His Ks are actually up. He'll regress.
--Another former National, Josh Whitesell just got called up and is getting starts ahead of Chad Tracy, who has been eroded by injuries into not much worth having. In the minors he's walked a lot, hit a lot of homers, and struck out a lot. Maybe he's a late-bloomer. Might have been useful for the 2007 Scats, but not so much this year's version.
--The guy who Daron Sutton annoyingly insists on calling "Co-Jack," Conor Jackson doesn't hit for enough power to give you the kind of offense you need to win from LF or 1B. He was a pretty tough guy to strikeout though, at least until this year. So far he's been one of the least valuable position players in baseball (better than Eric Byrnes though).
--Augie Ojeda's been a rotten substitute for Stephen Drew, but then again he's not supposed to play every day. He's actually a good contact hitter and plays a good shortstop. Not a lick of power, but we can't all have everything, now can we?
--The catching platoon of Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero gives Arizona two starting-caliber catchers. Both have good pop, Snyder's a better defender, but Montero's a better hitter overall. Snyder's also another one of the D'Backs off to a terrible start.
On the Mound
Yusmeiro Petit: Right-handed pitchers who top out under 90 don't usually succeed very well in MLB. In fact, the almost never do. Petit has a deceptive delivery and good command, but he's in over his head starting games at this level. At 3.92 walks per 9, his command, usually his strength, hasn't even been all that good. He'll throw a bunch of off-speed jumk up there, and the Nationals should hit lots of it.
In the Bullpen
Games' about to start, so you're gonna have to wait till tomorrow. (Sure is a drag on my part.)
Season Record: 17-9
I still worry about Shairon Marits's command. I know, it's been ok so far. The 4.60 ERA is pretty solid. Still...
The Scats should win this game if Martis doesn't beat himself. I think there'll be a reminder or two that his last start was as much a function of Angel Hernandez demanding a 2 hour and 30 minute game with his sprawling strike zone as anything. But I think we win this one with plenty of fireworks on both sides. Let's say 8-5, Nationals.