Strasburg starts for Nats; Lackey, Leake make home debuts with new teams
By Andrew Simon
Thanks to early off-days and bad weather, baseball fans still have not seen a full 15-game slate this season.
That could change today, when all 30 clubs are scheduled to be in action, including the Orioles, the last team without a loss in 2016. Baltimore beat Boston 9-5 on Tuesday at Fenway Park, extending the team's best start since it moved to its current home city in 1954. Now the O's go for a three-game sweep over the Red Sox and an 8-0 record before heading to Texas on Thursday.
Here are some games to watch from today's jam-packed schedule (all times ET):
Strasburg in D.C.: ATL@WAS, 7:05 p.m. Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to reach free agency at the end of this season, meaning the right-hander could have a limited number of starts remaining in front of Nationals fans. The first of those comes against the Braves, the same team Strasburg held to one run over six innings in his 2016 debut at Atlanta last week. In that outing, he passed former teammate Jordan Zimmermann for the team record in strikeouts since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. Strasburg, who will oppose Atlanta's Matt Wisler, now has 905 career Ks.
Stat that matters: The Nats have beaten the Braves in each of their last 12 meetings at Nationals Park, their longest home winning streak over a particular opponent in team history, according to Elias. It's the second-longest in franchise history, after the 14-game streak the Expos put together against the Padres in Montreal between 1993-95.
Keep the streak alive: BAL@BOS, 7:10
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez draws the start against Boston's Joe Kelly as the Orioles go for 8-0. Jimenez is coming off a terrific 2016 debut in which he held the Twins to two runs (one earned) over seven innings, with no walks and nine strikeouts. It was only the fourth time in his career and first since '13 that he had racked up that many Ks without issuing a free pass. Kelly, meanwhile, will have to deal with red-hot Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and a double on Tuesday to improve his line to .464/.500/.714 early in his first season with Baltimore.
"We feel confident," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who homered twice on Tuesday. "It's a good mindset to feel like we know it's going to happen, but everybody trusts one another. It really is a good lineup and it's fun to be a part of."
Stat that matters: The Orioles have joined the 2015 World Series champion Royals as the only teams to begin a season 7-0 since '04. The last teams to win at least eight in a row to open were the '03 Royals and 1990 Reds, both of whom were 9-0.
Wrigley, meet Lackey: CIN@CHC, 8:05 p.m. John Lackey has made 388 starts across 14 big league seasons, but he had never pitched at Wrigley Field until his final outing of 2014, with St. Louis. Lackey took the mound there twice more for the Cardinals last year, including in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, which the Cubs won to advance to the NL Championship Series. But now Wrigley will be friendly territory for Lackey, who makes his first start in the ballpark since signing a two-year deal this offseason. The right-hander will hope it goes better than his 2016 debut at Arizona last Thursday, when he gave up six runs over six innings, albeit in a Cubs win.
"He's such a competitor," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Lackey. "He's ready and he wants to win. That's where he's coming from. Everything is in order for him to have a really good season."
Lackey goes against righty Alfredo Simon, who will try to keep up a strong season for the Reds rotation, which owns a 2.82 ERA.
Stat that matters: If Lackey falters, the Cubs have backup. Opponents are hitting a mere .121/.136/.172 against their bullpen this season, with one walk and 20 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances.
Another home debut: MIL@STL, 8:15 p.m.
Having spent most of his career with the Reds, Mike Leake is plenty familiar with Busch Stadium, posting a 3.19 ERA there over six starts. Cardinals fans will hope for more of the same now that the right-hander is on their side, and he will make his home debut in St. Louis as he takes on the Brewers and righty Chase Anderson. Leake's first Cardinals outing came a week ago in Pittsburgh, as he lasted only 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks. If he turns it around, he can lead the Cards to their fifth straight victory following three straight losses to the Pirates.
Stat that matters: The Cardinals have a chance to score at least 10 runs for the fourth consecutive game, which would be the first time the team has done that since at least 1913. The last time St. Louis reached double digits in three straight games was from May 6-9, 1980.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.