Stephen Strasburg Debut: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals Preview and Pick

Pittsburgh Pirates (23-34) Jeff Karstens, at Washington Nationals
(27-31) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals Park, Washington D.C., 7:05 PM
EST, Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

by Badger of

Betting Line: Pirates +195/Nationals -200
Total: 8.5

The hype has finally arrived.

Most of the Major League Baseball world will have its focus towards
Washington D.C. tonight when the Washington Nationals finally unleash
phenom and last years No.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg against
the hand-picked Pittsburgh Pirates in Nationals Park Tuesday.

Strasburg was held back until a June debut to slow down his
arbitration clock, but now he debuts against a Pirate team that is
3-3 in their last six games including yesterdays 6-1 loss to the
Cubs in a rain makeup day game in Pittsburgh.

But Pittsburgh seemed to enjoy the confines at Nationals Park last
year, taking three of four from the Nats in a mid-May series in D.C.
to take the season series between the two at five games to three. The
Nationals are scuffling at 3-7 in their last 10 games including a
series loss to the lowly Astros, but Strasburg joins a Nationals team
that is better this year.

But one has to wonder too if the baseball Gods will enjoy the staged
event of the Strasburg debut, since when things like this become
above the game itself the Gods seem to strike down with vengeance.

That bad karma hasnt stopped the betting public at large to jump all
over the Strasburg train, making oddsmakers jack up the odds on the
rookie right-hander and the Nationals to -200 or higher for his debut
(some sportsbooks are up to -220). The Pirates are +195 on the
dimeline, and total is listed at either 8 (extra juice on over) or
8.5 depending on where you wager.

Since just about everyone has been kept in the loop about how well
Strasburg has pitched in his handful of Double-A and Triple-A starts
(7-2, 1.30 ERA, 65 K in 55.1 IP), including his five scoreless in his
final tuneup at Buffalo last week, lets instead turn our focus on
the other starter in tonights game, Jeff Karstens.

Karstens was largely ineffective as a starter to begin the season and
was banished to the bullpen in early May. After seven appearances as
a reliever with mixed results, he was reinserted into the rotation
against the Cubs on June 1st and turned in one of his stronger games
this season (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R in 3-2 win).

Karstens made a start against the Nats last year in that
aforementioned four-game series in D.C., tossing his typical average
game (6 IP, 7 H, 4 R) in the Pirates 8-5 extra-inning victory. His
numbers away from Pittsburgh are god awful (1.72 WHIP, .389 OBP in
20.1 IP), so its not hard to see why the former Texas Tech righty
has had a hard time staying in the rotation.

If youre looking for extra reasons to bet on the Pirates, and lord
knows you need some, they are 5-1 on Tuesdays in their last six
games and the over is 9-2 in Karstens last 11 starts on the road
(remember those stellar away stats?).

The over was 5-3 in last years series between these two head-to-
head, including a 2-2 mark in Nationals Park.

Badgers Pick: Im a baseball gods guy, so for no reason other than
that Im going against the rookie tonight. Im taking the Pirates at
+195 in a huge upset.