The last time he took the mound, Scott Olsen brought a no-hitter further into a game than any Nationals pitcher in four years - and he did it against a team full of hitters that had owned him in the past. So, for his encore, Olsen will face...another team full of hitters that have owned him in the past.
Three batters in the Mets’ likely lineup for tonight - Luis Castillo, Jose Reyes and David Wright - all have OPSes of over 1.000 against Olsen, and a fourth, Jeff Francoeur, has an .888 OPS against him. Many of those players’ performances are built on when Olsen was with the Marlins, but they’re still indicative of an advantage the Mets expect to have against the Nationals tonight.
But the same could be said of the Braves last week; historically, Chipper Jones and Martin Prado have been bigger Olsen killers than anyone on the Mets’ roster, and the left-hander managed to no-hit that lineup for 7 1/3 innings last week. By most accounts, Olsen has been a different pitcher early this year than we’ve seen for the last two seasons; he’s throwing more sliders, and throwing them more effectively, than he was able to do in 2008 for the Marlins or 2009 for the Nationals. He’s also getting more ground balls and striking out more batters (8.36 per nine innings) than at almost any other time in his career.
The last two teams to face - and lose to - Olsen have disparaged his stuff; Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake called Olsen’s changeup a “BP fastball,” and Braves starter Tim Hudson said Olsen doesn’t have “no-hit stuff.” Some of that might be Olsen’s somewhat checkered reputation across the game, but there’s still a sense around baseball that the 26-year-old is playing over his head for a brief stretch of time.
If he comes back down, it might not happen in Citi Field, a cavernous ballpark with wind conditions that tend to help flyball pitchers like Olsen. But the Mets have enough hitters with a track record against him that tonight will be another good litmus test of what the Nationals have in the left-hander; a rejuvenated pitcher who can be a fixture in the rotation, or a middle-of-the-road starter who’s enjoying an out-of-character run.