WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Stephen Strasburg made a huge impression in his first appearance in a big-league uniform in spring training three years ago by striking out Miguel Cabrera.
Those two will finally meet when it counts Tuesday night.
The Washington Nationals starter has never faced Cabrera or the Detroit Tigers in the regular season heading into the opener of this two-game set at Comerica Park.
Strasburg’s spring debut with the Nationals on March 9, 2010 against Detroit drew plenty of attention. He yielded two hits in two scoreless innings, striking out Cabrera with a high-90s fastball and drawing praise from the Tigers slugger and Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
Strasburg (5-8, 2.85 ERA) will pitch to the reigning AL MVP for the first time in interleague play. He is 5-2 with a 2.09 ERA in eight career outings against the AL.
Both Strasburg and Cabrera endured frustrating efforts in their last games.
The Nationals right-hander was charged with last Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh despite yielding one run and two hits in eight innings with a season-high 12 strikeouts. Afterward, he emphatically stated that the defending NL East champions needed to start turning their season around.
Washington (52-54) has responded with a 4-1 stretch, winning 14-1 over the New York Mets on Sunday.
“This is definitely what we envisioned coming out of spring training,” outfielder Denard Span said. “Being able to score runs like this and put a lot of pressure on the other teams’ (pitching).”
Cabrera, meanwhile, was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild for arguing a strike call in the third inning of Sunday’s 12-4 win over Philadelphia. Leyland was also tossed.
“I said the call was horrible and he threw me out,” Cabrera said. “I think it’s not time to blame anybody – to blame the umpires, to blame somebody else. You want to compete and you want to do something special and try to win games. I’m kind of upset at how he threw me out, but that happens.”
Detroit (59-45) outscored the Phillies 24-5 in a three-game sweep to improve to 6-2 against the NL East, but both defeats came at Washington on May 8 and 9.
The Tigers have won seven straight and 12 of 14 at home versus the NL East.
The Nationals’ five-game surge following a season-high six-game losing streak has coincided with Ryan Zimmerman going 10 for 21. He was 3 for 4 to lead a season-high 18-hit attack Sunday.
“I think we all know what this group is capable of and what kind of people we have in here,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest strengths of this team is not worrying about things that happen, good or bad.”
Washington looks to defeat Anibal Sanchez (8-7, 2.68) for the second time after he allowed three runs over six innings in a 3-1 loss May 8.
The right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA in seven home starts.
While Zimmerman is a .222 hitter against Sanchez, Jayson Werth – who missed the first series between these clubs with a strained right hamstring – is worse at 5 for 30 with 19 strikeouts. No player has fanned more versus Sanchez.
The Tigers bolstered their bullpen Monday by acquiring right-hander Jose Veras from Houston for minor league outfielder Danry Vasquez and a player to be named.
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