Kawakami draws another tough assignment
If Kenshin Kawakami was currently on a Minor League rehab assignment, the odds are that he would have been the one opposing Stephen Strasburg on Friday night, when the Nationals young phenom makes his Triple-A debut in Syracuse against the Gwinnett Braves.
Through his first four starts this season, Kawakami has already been opposed by Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo No-No Jimenez and Jaime Garcia, who has posted a 1.13 ERA in his first five starts for the Cardinals.
Thus it is only fitting that Kawakami will make his fifth start tonight against Livan Hernandez, who is the only National League pitcher with a better ERA than Garcia or Lincecum. The 0.87 mark that he carries into this start matches Jimenez for the league lead.
There was a time when the Braves had little reason to fear a matchup against Hernandez, unless of course Eric Gregg was calling balls in strikes for him in a National League Championship Series game.
During his first 24 career regular season starts against the Braves, Hernandez went 3-15 with a 5.63 ERA. In 15 starts that stretched from 2001-2005, he went 0-11 with a 5.95 ERA against this same organization that he dominated for the Marlins during the 1997 NLCS.
But the 35-year-old Hernandez managed to go 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA in the three starts he made against the Braves last year.
As you’ve likely already heard, Hernandez and the rest of the Nationals pitching staff won’t have to deal with Yunel Escobar this week. The Braves placed Escobar on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday and promoted Brandon Hicks from Gwinnett to fill his roster spot.
Considering that Escobar is 5-for-10 with a double and a triple in his career against his fellow Cuban, the Braves might have benefitted from his presence in the lineup tonight. But he certainly isn’t the only Atlanta player who has experienced success against Hernandez.
This might be a good night for Chipper Jones to cure the swing that has produced just one hit in his past 24 at-bats. The Braves veteran third baseman has hit .354 with 10 doubles and a homer in 65 career at-bats against Hernandez.
Martin Prado, who enters the evening with the NL’s fourth-best batting average (.354) has four hits, including a double, in seven career at-bats against Hernandez. On the flip side, the veteran right-hander may be able to prolong Nate McLouth’s struggles.
McLouth has one hit and five strikeouts in 13 career at-bats against Hernandez.
This much-improved Nationals club has also experienced some offensive struggles since facing Jimenez. In the 10 games that they’ve played dating back to that assignment against the Rockies righty, they have hit .218 and scored 2.9 runs per game.
Just received word that Jason Heyward was named the National League’s Rookie of the Month. I’ll post tonight’s lineups when I get to the park.