Starting tonight, the Nationals will play at Fenway Park for only the second time in team history, the first since 2006. Manager Davey Johnson has not been there since 1997, when he managed the Orioles. “Fun ballpark,” Johnson said. “I remember how old the dugouts are. They must have had smaller people.”
This weekend should indeed be fun. Stephen Strasburg could throw 100 miles per hour in a park that’s 100 years old. Bryce Harper will try to put his dent in the Monster. Michael Morse will take aim at Landsdowne Street. And the Nationals will try to hold off the Red Sox. They’re in last place, but they’re a game over .500 at 29-28 — and their plus-26 run differential is only one run worse than Washington’s.
In the Nationals’ first interleague series in an American League park, Morse will serve as the Nationals’ designated hitter. Morse had said he hoped to play in the outfield, but six games in AL cities — the Nationals go to Toronto for a set after Boston — will give Morse a chance to rest while keeping his bat in the lineup.
“I think it would be a good time to DH him, to let him regroup and do some more throwing,” Johnson said. But he’s feeling fine. He’s perfectly healthy. He hasn’t had no complaints. But it will give us an opportunity to play some other guys.”
Against the two Red Sox left-handers, Xavier Nady will take his place in right field alongside Harper and Steve Lombardozzi. Against a right-hander Saturday, Rick Ankiel will likely play center, with Harper in Fenway’s spacious right field and Lombardozzi playing in front of the Monster.
Johnson said the key for Lombardozzi tackling the Monster for the first time will be playing deep. That makes reading balls off the bat easy — you never have to worry about going back on anything with the shallow fence.
Strasburg will go tonight against 24-year-old left-hander Felix Doubront. This will be the second baseball shrine he’s pitched in. On opening day, Strasburg allowed one run in seven innings at Wrigley Field.
Gio Gonzalez will pitch Saturday against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will be making his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery. With Oakland, Gonzalez made three starts at Fenway and went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 11 walks over 16 innings.
Jordan Zimmermann will oppose Jon Lester on Sunday. They throw with opposite arms, but have similar styles. They both throw hard, and each have a killer slider. The Nationals seem to have the edge on paper based on pitching match-ups, but it will be fun to find out.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals have a special blend of personalities, Boz writes.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Louisville 8, Syracuse 2: Erik Komatsu went 1 for 3 with a walk. James Skelton went 1 for 4 with a double. Ryan Perry allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in one innings.
Binghamton 4, Harrisburg 1: Danny Rosenbaum allowed three earned runs in seven innings on eight hits and no walks, striking out seven.
Frederick 6, Potomac 2: Zach Walters went 3 for 4 with a double. Justin Bloxom went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk.
Hagerstown 6, Kannapolis 5: Alex Meyer allowed two earned runs in six innings on four hits and two runs, striking out one. Brian Goodwin went 2 for 4. Jason Martinson went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Cole Leonida went 1 for 3 with a homer.