Two first-place teams. Two teams riding six-game winning streaks. Two teams with star power playing in front of what will almost certainly be sellout crowds every day.
Yup, this three-game series should be plenty of fun.
The Nationals host the Yankees this weekend in a series which will draw lots of attention across Major League Baseball.
We won’t get Stephen Strasburg or CC Sabathia on the hill at any point during this weekend’s action (and missing Strasburg is fine with Alex Rodriguez, who said of the flamethrower, “I’d rather pay to watch these guys play. I don’t need to be that close.”). But we will get Bryce Harper playing against the team he grew up rooting for and plenty of big names in both dugouts.
The Nats appear to have a bit of an edge when it comes to the starting pitching matchups for this series, as they’ll send Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson to the mound, while the Yankees will counter with Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova.
None of the three Nats starters set to work this weekend have an ERA above 3.02, while the Yankees trio of Hughes, Pettitte and Nova have combined to put up a 17-9 record but also have a collective 4.27 ERA.
The Yankees obviously have the edge in the hitting category, as they’ve smacked 34 more home runs as a team than the Nationals and have a team OPS that’s nearly 80 points higher than that of their weekend hosts.
It’ll be Gonzalez vs. Hughes tonight in the series opener, and Nats fans can only hope that their lefty starter can find some success against the Yankees tonight that he’s been unable to locate in the past.
Gonzalez is 1-4 with a 7.27 ERA in five career starts against the Bronx Bombers. He’s fared well against Curtis Granderson (who is 2-for-13 off the lefty) and Derek Jeter (2-for-12 against Gonzalez) but has been burned by both Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, who have combined to hit .346 with two homers off Gonzalez.
Hughes has only faced three hitters on the Nats’ roster, but Rick Ankiel apparently enjoys stepping in against the former first-round pick, as he’s 2-for-2 with a home run off Hughes.
There have been so many series at Nats Park over the last handful of years in which large clusters of seats have been vacant and the results have been largely insignificant. That’s part of the reason why I expect this three-game set to be so enjoyable.
The stands will be packed, both teams are on a roll and the players will be geared up for what might just feel like a playoff battle.
“You’ve got two teams that have won six straight interleague games. They’re playing extremely well and we’re playing well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday. “We’ve got a day to rest up and think about it, and then we’ll go at it.”
A heads up: For those who are planning on coming down to one of the games this series, the Nationals are asking you to leave 45 minutes earlier than originally planned due to the large crowds, road construction around the region and Metrorail maintenance.