Right-handed phenom Stephen Strasburg tries to snap a four- game losing streak for the Washington Nationals tonight when they continue a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Nationals Park.
Strasburg was on the hill the previous time the NL East-leading Nationals won last Wednesday in Toronto, as he allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. Strasburg also struck out eight, while posting his fifth consecutive win to improve to 8-1 to go along with a 2.45 ERA.
The 23-year-old flame thrower was forced to leave that contest early because of a slight cut caused by a nail-trimming mishap. While the Nats hope to keep their prized possession to just 165 innings this season, the move was strictly precautionary.
"It was nothing major," said Strasburg. "I definitely don't think it affected the way the ball was coming out or anything. I wanted to go out there again."
Strasburg has never faced the Rays, who tonight hand the ball to Chris Archer.
Not only will Archer be making his big league debut, but he is the first pitcher to start a game for the Rays who wasn't drafted by them, ending a remarkable streak of 232 games.
Jeremy Hellickson had been slated to start, but was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with right shoulder fatigue. Archer was acquired from Chicago in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs.
Oddly enough, Garza was the last pitcher to start a game for the Rays who wasn't drafted by their organization back on Sept. 30, 2010.
Tampa won Tuesday's opener, as David Price spun seven strong innings in the Rays' 5-4 triumph.
Price (9-4) surrendered four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts to earn the victory. Jake McGee fired a perfect eighth in relief and Francisco Rodney worked a scoreless ninth to nail down his 20th save of the year.
Carlos Pena crushed a two-run homer and Elliot Johnson added a two-run triple for the Rays, who swept the Nationals the last time these teams met back in 2009.
Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) was charged for all five runs on seven hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings of work. Ian Desmond clubbed a solo shot and Michael Morse added a two-run blast for Washington, which had won six in a row before this current slide.
"He's been having some problems with his delivery and he's been rushing," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson about Wang. "That's why he's still having some delivery problems."
The contest also featured a bit of gamesmanship, as Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from the game when he entered in the bottom of the eighth inning. Johnson alerted umpire Tim Tschida to something illegal in Peralta's glove. The umpires convened and ruled that Peralta had a foreign substance in his glove, which turned out to be pine tar.
"Before you start throwing rocks, understand where you live and understand what's going on," said Rays manager Joe Maddon about Johnson's request to have Peralta's glove checked. "He knows, he's very much aware of how this thing works.
"Insider trading, man. It's bush," Maddon added. "It's bogus. That's way too easy, right there."