Preview: Game #160, Diamondbacks vs. Nationals

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The last series of the season, and this is for all the marbles. Well, as long as you define marbles as "a record fractionally above or below .500".

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Stephen Strasburg
RHP, 7-9, 3.02
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Patrick Corbin
RHP, 14-7, 3.28

Diamondbacks line-up

  1. Adam Eaton, LF
  2. Gerardo Parra, RF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Martin Prado, 3B
  5. Aaron Hill, 2B
  6. Miguel Montero, C
  7. A.J. Pollock, CF
  8. Didi Gregorius, SS
  9. Patrick Corbin, P

Safely back from San Diego - thanks to Clefo for filling in during my absence - after a lovely couple of games, in which the Diamondbacks and their performances were about the least enjoyable aspects of the trip. Full report (with pics!) tomorrow: perhaps the abiding thing I'll take away is that I hadn't realized how damn hilly San Diego is. If I'd been asked, I'd have told you it was kinda flat, but there were roads we negotiated that would have given Lombard Street in San Francisco a run for their money. Next time, we'll bring abseiling equipment. Anyway, back to Arizona safe and sound, and ready for the final home-stand of the season.

I think you'd have got fairly long odds before the season started, against Corbin coming in to his final appearance with twice as many wins as Strasburg. After all, Strasburg was expected to build upon a season that saw him go 15-6, while Corbin had to fight for a spot in spring training. And, yet, here we are, with the two young pitchers going up against each other for their 2013 finales, after strangely opposing kinda years, at least in wins. You wouldn't know it from his record, but Strasburg hasn't actually pitched significantly worse. His ERA+ is the same, and his bWAR tally will be only marginally down (2.9 vs. 3.0, in one more start).

His record is purely down to a lack of run support. The Nationals are 13-16 when Strasburg takes the mound, but in every one of those sixteen losses, they have scored three runs or fewer. Over those nine games where he has taken the loss, Washington had given him a total of 15 runs of backup, which is basically no help at all. That includes games like July 24 vs. the Pirates, where he allowed two hits and one run over eight innings, with a dozen strikeouts. And there, Washington actually outdid themselves, by scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth... unfortunately, only after the Pirates scored three off the Nationals' bullpen in the top of the inning.

So, whatever the reasons may be for the visitors not making the playoffs this year (and I'll refer you to ZM's preview if you want to poke that dead body with a stick), Strasburg really isn't one of them. He's not really the pitcher you want to face at the beginning of your last series, knowing you need to win two of your final three to finish the season above .500, and achieve at least a token improvement on last year. On the other hand, at the end of July, Corbin would have been exactly the kind of guy you wanted to be starting, being 12-2 with a 2.24 ERA. But since then, he is 2-5 with a 5.80 ERA, and over the last half dozen games, hitters have a .954 OPS against him.

Fatigue? Ennui? Over-familiarity to opposing hitters? Who can say. But I'd really like him to do better than the last few starts, and finish the year on a decent note with his 15th W.

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