WASHINGTON NATIONALS (75-49)
at HOUSTON ASTROS (77-49)
First pitch: Thursday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Line: Washington +125, Houston -135, Total: 7.5
Two of the league’s best teams meet in Houston on Thursday, as the Nationals will be taking on the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The Nationals and the Astros have both had some very impressive seasons thus far, as each team leads their division by a wide margin heading into this one. This matchup could very well be a preview of the World Series later this year, but it’s obviously a little too early to start thinking about that. This game will, however, be a rather intense regular season matchup. That is because there will be two absolute studs on the mound here. The Nationals will be sending RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 3.24 ERA, 149 K) to the mound on Thursday, and he’ll be going up against LHP Dallas Keuchel (11-2, 2.58 ERA, 86 K) for the Astros. Both pitchers are capable of completely shutting down their opponents, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this game was extremely low scoring. Keuchel has, however, struggled a bit since coming back from an injury. His most recent outing was his second good start since being taken off of the disabled list.
Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the Nationals on Thursday and this is only Strasburg’s second start since being activated off of the disabled list. Strasburg pitched six innings against the Padres on Aug. 19 and the righty allowed two earned runs in that outing. Strasburg struck out eight batters in that game, so it seems like his stuff wasn’t lost after an elbow injury. The Nationals will need him to be ready to go in this one, as they’re facing one of the most explosive offenses in baseball. It is, however, important that Washington does not force him to do too much. The team can’t afford to lose him to yet another injury at this point in the year. As for the Nationals’ offense, OF Howie Hendrick is a guy that just might come through at the plate in this one. Kendrick is 8-for-18 with a double, a homer, and two RBI against Keuchel in his career. Another guy that has had success against the lefty is 1B Ryan Zimmerman. He is 4-for-6 with two doubles and four RBI against him and it’s definitely possible that he’ll show up in a big way here.
The Astros will be excited to have Dallas Keuchel on the mound in this one, as the lefty looked like his usual self in his past two outings. Keuchel was struggling with a neck injury leading up to the All-Star break and he also had trouble in his first two starts after coming back, but he is looking like a Cy Young caliber pitcher once again. In his past 13.2 innings of work, Keuchel has allowed only one earned run. If he can turn in an effort anything like either of those past two then the Astros will be in great shape here. They will, however, need some of their guys to find a way to hit Strasburg in this one. One guy that could be an unlikely source of production in this one is C Brian McCann. McCann is 7-for-20 with a double, a homer, and two RBI against Strasburg in his career. It’d be big if he can show up for his team here.