We're still at the point where each one of Stephen Strasburg's starts brings a new wrinkle to watch, a set of conditions he hasn't faced yet or an unusual situation to manage. As he passes more and more tests, they become subtler and harder to find. But there's one I'm interested to see tonight: Strasburg and his 100-mph heat in a bandbox of a park for the first time.
The prodigious right-hander, who turned 22 yesterday, has pitched in four stadiums to this point: Nationals Park, Cleveland's Progressive Field, Atlanta's Turner Field and Florida's Sun Life Stadium. None of them are exactly known for balls flying out of the park. Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark is.
The Reds' home park, which opened in 2001, has yielded 2.58 homers per game this season, the third-highest average in the National League and the fifth-highest in baseball. It's typically the site of more than 2.5 homers per game, and has been close to three a game in some years.
If there's one knock on Strasburg, it's that his four-seam fastball can yield some home runs, especially when it's not moving much. That's common for power pitchers; 100-mph fastballs, when squared up, are going to travel a long ways. But Strasburg hasn't pitched in a park where the ball jumps like it can in Cincinnati, and he probably hasn't faced a lineup as potent as the Reds, who are second in the NL with 115 homers.
There's a chance for more rain in Cincinnati tonight, so Strasburg's ninth big-league start could get scuttled early. But if the game goes off as schedule, there's a chance for some power to collide - the rookie's fastball and the Reds' bats.