Nats pitchers need to be very good this week

Craig Stammen gets the opening assignment Monday night on what will be a very challenging seven-day, eight-game road trip to Colorado and Houston.

The suspended game to be played in Houston Thursday evening (7:00 p.m. on MASN with the regular game at 8:00) will make for eight game results this week, so it's a different kind of scenario.

Coors Field and Minute Maid Park are hitters' havens and our young pitching staff will have to be up to the task.

Coors, opened in '95, has some of the biggest gaps in baseball, so Nyjer Morgan's speed will be on full display. Despite the park's size, home runs fly out of there and the Rockies are tied with Milwaukee for second in the National League with 96. The Phillies lead the league, also playing in a small park, with 110.

The Rockies also lead the league (with the Phils) in runs, and they are fourth in stolen bases, so they have a power/speed combination that's very good. Their pitching has taken a step back, 12th in the NL in ERA, and their defense, #1 in the league two years ago when they went to the World Series, is average right now.

Colorado is a great example of an organization that has scouted, drafted, signed and developed young players and gotten them to the major leagues. There has been a plan in Denver for a while and it has paid off. They're three games over .500, but the Dodgers are way ahead in the NL West. Still, the Rox are only two games out of the wild card.

Then it's on to Houston and a park that's very unfair to pitchers. Minute Maid is as short as Fenway down the left field line, and the Crawford Boxes (named after Crawford Street just outside the park) seem to be right over the third baseman's shoulder, even though they're above a 20-foot scoreboard. Right field has a low wall and the dimensions are very short.

When we resume the suspended game Thursday, someone will have to be on first base replacing Elijah Dukes with one out. (How about Nyjer Morgan, who can then steal second?) Josh Willingham will be the first hitter with the pitcher's spot (in the 7-hole) due up next. If the Nats win it in the 11th, and they are the home team despite being in Houston, the winning pitcher will be Joel Hanrahan! He pitched a scoreless 11th way back on May 5th.

Let's hope the game ends quickly and then we can get ready for the regular 8:00 contest.

What a week lies ahead to take us into the All-Star break. By the way, congrats to Ryan Zimmerman, who goes to the first of what should be many All-Star Games for him!