The hype was building. Kershaw. Strasburg. Friday night. The marketing and ticket staffs was out in full force trying to create some urgency and build some momentum. Then, the Nationals got rained out. Strasburg’s start got bumped back a day. Hopes were deflated.

When the dust settled, however, fans who have tickets to Saturday’s game now have themselves the bargain of a lifetime. Not only will Dodger Stadium be treated to Strasburg’s electric arm, but phenom Bryce Harper is rumored to be making his major league debut as well. When third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-day disabled list, Harper was recalled on Friday afternoon.

With all of the star power surrounding the game, it’s hard to remember it’s still April, but with clear skies and spring baseball, this might be as good as it gets.

Washington Nationals (14-6) at Los Angeles Dodgers (14-6)
6:10 PM PST, April 28, 2012
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
TV: Prime Ticket
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Promotion: Bobblehead #1 – Don Drysdale and Maury Wills
Game-Time Weather: 72 degrees, mostly sunny

Nationals Projected Starters:
P: 
Stephen Strasburg
C: 
Wilson Ramos
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Danny Espinoza
SS: Ian Desmond
3B: Chad Tracy
LF: Bryce Harper
CF: Rick Ankiel
RF: Jayson Werth

Key Bench Players: 3B Mark DeRosa, CF Rick Ankiel

For more information on the Nationals, check out our pre-series report.

Dodgers Last 10: (5-5): W vs WAS, vs ATL, vs ATL, vs ATL, @ HOU, @ HOU, W @ HOU, @ MIL, @ MIL, @ MIL.
Nationals Last 10:
 (7-3): L @ LA, @ SD, @ SD, @ SD, vs MIA, vs MIA, vs HOU, vs HOU, vs HOU, vs HOU.

Fun Facts:

  • Strasburg made one start against the Dodgers last season, which the Dodgers won 7-2. Strasburg, however, allowed just two hits and 0 ER in five innings of work.
  • Starting 1B Adam Laroche has struck out 10 times in just 21 at bats against Chad Billingsley. He does have 2 HRs and 7 RBIs, however.
  • In two starts against the Nationals last season, Billingsley had very different results. In his first start, Chad lasted 7 innings, allowed 2 hits, and struck out 10 batters in the 3-1 Dodger win. In his second start, however, Billingsley lasted just 2.1 innings, his shortest start of the season, after allowing five hits, three walks and four earned runs. The Dodgers would come back to win the game 7-4.

Keys to a Dodger Victory:

– Return to form
After three great starts to begin the season, Chad Billingsley gave up nine runs in his last outing (five earned). While many of the runs were the result of errors, another huge factor was his control. After allowing just one walk in 20.1 innings, Billingsley walked four batters in 3.1 innings last week, two of which led to a grand slam that broke the game wide open. If the Dodgers are going to win this game, Bills will need to stay on top of his command and limit the free passes.

 Keep mashing
It’s not too often this season that Matt Kemp won’t be the most talked about player on the field, but with Bryce Harper making his debut, all eyes will be on the 19-year-old. That said, with Strasburg’s penchant for throwing fastballs, look for Kemp to remind everyone who the best player in the game is.

Keep Kennedy on the bench

The only thing more confusing than why we signed Adam Kennedy is why he keeps playing. Kennedy, who is among the team leaders in pinch hitting attempts, is just 1-for-16 thus far this season. While the options aren’t exactly plush for Don Mattingly, players like Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr. have proven to be far more reliable.

Best-Case Prediction: Dodgers 7, Nationals 1
Worst-Case:
 Nationals 6, Dodgers 3

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