WASHINGTON — If you have nothing else to do Tuesday night, and you’re in the D.C. area, you should go the Nationals game.
1. The Debut of Reynaldo Lopez
Another Nationals pitching prospect, 22-year-old Reynaldo Lopez, is making his major-league debut, just a few weeks after Lucas Giolito Day. Lopez, who has a fastball that flirts with 100 miles per hour, is set to take the mound against Scott Kazmir and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kazmir is 32 years old and a three-time All-Star; he was named an All-Star for the first time when he was 22, in 2006.
Lopez is the No. 5 prospect in the Nationals system, and the No. 3 pitcher behind Giolito and Erick Fedde. If Lopez pitches well, he could pitch again the next time the rotation turns over if Joe Ross remains on the Disabled List. If he pitches poorly, Dusty Baker and the Nationals are likely to turn back to Giolito.
2. The Nationals-Dodgers Matchup
The Nationals (56-37) lead the NL East by 5.5 games and are in third place in MLB. They trail the Chicago Cubs by 0.5 games and the San Francisco Giants by 1 game. Those three are the only teams that have won at least 60 percent of their games.
The Dodgers (52-42) are second in the NL West, trailing the Giants by 5.5 games, and are eighth in all of baseball. There are just eight teams that have won at least 52 games, and two of them are going head-to-head in D.C. Tuesday night.
In the one previous matchup between the two teams this season, the Dodgers swept the Nationals. The three-game series, which came in June in Los Angeles, fell in the middle of Washington’s season-long seven-game losing streak. Washington eventually bounced back to win six straight to regain its form.
3. Dusty Baker Bobblehead Night
A good promotion is often enough incentive to attend a sporting event in itself, but a Dusty Baker bobblehead is especially intriguing because, come on, it’s a Dusty Baker bobblehead. It even comes with a toothpick!
Adding another element to the equation: Baker, who played eight years with the Dodgers, was honored with a bobblehead in Los Angeles in June, when the Dodgers hosted the Nationals.
4. Free Doughnuts!
Show up to the game early, get free doughnuts.
Get it? You get a baker’s dozen. Because his name is Dusty Baker.
5. The Nationals Are Really Good
This reason is not exclusive to this game, or series, but it remains true: The Nationals are really good and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The Redskins went 9-7 last year, a winning percentage of .563. The Wizards went 41-41, a winning percentage of .500. The Capitals were the only D.C. team that played better in their most recent season than the Nationals are playing right now. It’s not all that often that a D.C. sports team is among its league’s best teams, and while it does happen on occasion, it’s worth celebrating and enjoying. In the middle of summer with nothing else happening in the sports world, it’s especially worth watching and appreciating.
So there. Go to the game.