When: 7:05 EST
The Starters: Rodriguez (0-1, 2.38) vs. Gonzalez (0-0, 3.38)
The Line: Nats -175, Astros +155, O/U 6.5 Runs, Nats -1.5
Before I dive into Tuesday’s matchup, I have a few quick thoughts about last night’s action. Strasburg was great again, my predictions were good for once, Henry Rodriguez is the closer (while Storen’s out), and Lombardozzi is a legit major leaguer. Davey Johnson brought in HRod instead of Brad Lidge to attempt the save last night and he seems like he’s the better man for the job. I’m not going to bash Lidge for one blown save because that happens and he has been great in his four other appearances this season, but Rodriguez just seems like the perfect closer to me. HRod combines the intimidation factor of throwing 100 mph (erratically at times) with nearly unhittable stuff. So far this season in 5.1 innings, Henry has struck out eight, allowed just one hit, no earned runs, and converted both of his save chances. Lombardozzi no doubt had a great game swinging the bat yesterday, going 4-5 with a double and 2 RBIs, but to me his most impressive plate appearance was one in which he didn’t swing at all. In his second at bat of the night, Lombo noticed third baseman Chris Johnson playing deep so he surprised Johnson and starter Kyle Weiland with a beautifully executed bunt down the third base line. Weiland made an ill-advised throw to first (Lombardozzi was already at the bag when Weiland released the ball) that got past Carlos Lee, allowing Ian Desmond to score from second. It’s the little things like that, that end up being the difference between winning and losing games (especially in the National League) and why I think Lombo is in the majors to stay (better start hitting Espinosa).
For game two of this series, it’ll be a battle of two solid southpaws. The Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound for his third start of the season. Gio was great in his last start against the Reds, shutting them out for seven innings while striking out seven and allowing just two hits. Perhaps the most impressive part of that start was that he didn’t walk a single batter (he averaged almost one walk every two innings in 2011). When Gonzalez has good command he’s extremely tough to beat, and I expect that to be the case tonight. The Astros will counter with eight year pro Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy has looked good in his first two starts despite the 0-1 record, surrendering just three earned (four unearned) runs in 11.1 innings. I expect Wandy to be Wandy-like tonight, which means he’ll give the Stros six or seven solid innings and a chance to win the ballgame. Overall id give Gonzalez the slight edge over Rodriguez, and I think the fact that no one in the Houston line up has seen Gio’s stuff in person will strengthen that advantage. Nothing new with the lineups, they’re still about a push. The bullpens are the same story as last night as well. The Stro’s pen is good but the Nat’s pen is great, advantage Washington. So it looks like its 2-0-1 Nats again (in my big three categories), and since it worked last night I’ll go with it again. The National’s take game two behind a dominant performance by Gio and some timely hitting by Zim.
Prediction: Nationals 4, Astros 2
Key Players (Stat Prediction): Gonzalez (6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 2 BB), Zimmerman (3-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI), Rodriguez (6 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 3 BB), Martinez (1-3, HR)
Jesse’s Picks W/L: 6 – 5
Jesse’s Picks ATS: 5 – 5