Nats face AL East Leading Boston Red Sox
The AL East-leading Boston Red Sox come to town this week for the first time since 1971. Washington teams have some history with Boston teams, as Red Sox hitting great Ted Williams managed the Washington Senators from 1969 to 1971 and, in the Senators’ last game in the District, they lost 4-3 to the Red Sox.
The arrival of the Sox brings the arrival of pitching great John Smoltz. In his first year with Boston, Smoltz is scheduled to make his season debut against the Nationals on Thursday after spending the first part of the season rehabbing after offseason shoulder surgery. Smoltz, who previously pitched for the Atlanta Braves, is 21-12 with a 2.55 ERA against the Expos/Nationals franchise. The Nationals will also face Jon Lester who has dazzled batters in his last three starts striking out at least 11 in each game and going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Just over a year after throwing a no-hitter, and two years after winning the final game of the 2007 World Series against Colorado, the lefty has become quite dominate.
If their pitching was not enough of a challenge, the Boston offense is tough to match as well. Left fielder Jason Bay, acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Pirates in a blockbuster move that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, has proved to be a key asset to the team. In his first full season in the American League, Bay is batting .281 with 17 home runs, 63 RBI, and a .579 slugging percentage. He is joined in the outfield by leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, who is tearing the cover off of the ball and clearing the dirt off of the basepaths, batting .310 with 28 stolen bases. In his sophomore season, he has become a dirt dog in center field, making athletic catches and showing off a powerful arm. Ellsbury just committed the first error of his career after 232 games and 554 chances, a franchise record for an outfielder. Even David Ortiz, whose bat was practically dormant for most of the season, has found his stroke. After batting .185 the first two months of the season, Big Papi is hitting .342 with four home runs and 10 RBI over thirteen games.
The Red Sox have won two out of the last five World Series and are poised to be competitive again come October. However, the Nats just took two-of-three from both the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays. Can they do it again this week? Come on out to the park and see for yourself!
Brad Penny, RHP (6-2, 4.94) vs. John Lannan, LHP (4-5, 3.38)
In the Park
The Nationals have added some fun activities to the mix for fans to enjoy before the games during the Red Sox series. All three games will feature live music in the Centerfield Plaza and the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk. Also, a Dunk Tank will be set up by the Exxon Strike Zone with all proceeds going to benefit the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Come early to the park to enjoy these exciting activities!