Back in his home town of San Diego, seeking his first win since April 1, right-hander Stephen Strasburg should shine like no other time this season.
Strasburg will be surrounded by family and friends, including his high school baseball coach, Scott Hopgood, who will be in attendance for the first time at one of the right-hander’s major league starts.
What a better place than Petco Park for Strasburg to showcase his talents?
That is certainly what Padres fans had hoped for back when it was the Nationals instead who finished with the worst record and got their chance to pick arguably the top pitching prospect in 30 years.
So just 19 miles from where he pitched in high school, Strasburg hurls the ball against the Padres tonight for the second time in his career. And the Nationals need him to play stopper. Since his start against the Cubs on Saturday, the Nationals have lost four of five games.
If you look at the beginning of that game, it was vintage Strasburg. He was locating. He was getting guys out. He had seven strikeouts in their first four frames. The Cubs had only one hit during that span.
The fifth inning was his undoing. After the Ryan Zimmerman throwing error, Strasburg allowed a walk, a double, a walk and two singles. Chicago built a 4-0 lead and never looked back.
But as Strasburg has said many times, it is just one start. And tonight it is just another start, but it has to be special for Strasburg. Everything should feel right in his hometown, in his first game ever at Petco Park as a National. He can exhale. He can just go out and throw strikes.
After all, he is 13-6 away from home, 9-9 in his career in D.C.
Hopgood, who coached Strasburg at West Hills back in 2006 and is currently a scout for the Boston Red Sox, said he believes the fiery right-hander will be “the most determined guy on the field tonight. Most of all, he just wants to win.”
That would be more than fine with the Nationals.