The first game of the 2021 Beltway Series between the neighboring Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals is Friday night from D.C., and it will mark the return from the injured list for Nationals starting pitcher and former World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. The Orioles will also get back an important player off the IL in outfielder Anthony Santander. The Nats opened as heavy favorites on the William Hill Sportsbook MLB odds.
At this point, we should just assume Strasburg will make at least one trip to the injured list each year because the ex-No. 1 overall pick rarely makes it through a full season healthy. He made just two starts in the shortened 2020 campaign and is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts this year.
Strasburg was great in his season opener but shelled for eight runs and eight hits (three homers) over four innings on April 13 in St. Louis. Strasburg's average velocity in the game was 90.6 mph, down more than 2 mph than in his season debut. He was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation soon after, and that obviously can be worrisome. The right-hander threw 75 pitches in a rehab start Sunday and 55 pitches during an extended bullpen session Tuesday. He is with a 5.48 ERA in five career starts vs. the Birds.
Washington could be without outfielder Victor Robles again. He sat out Thursday's loss at the Cubs after injuring his right ankle while rounding first base on his fourth-inning hit Wednesday. X-rays were negative. Robles is hitting .246 with zero homers and five RBIs on the season but had been heating of up as in the past six games before going out he was batting .412 (7-for-17) with five doubles, four RBIs, a .500 on-base percentage and 1.206 OPS.
For the Orioles, Santander has been out since April 20 due to a sprained left ankle but will be activated. Santander completed a three-game rehab assignment Sunday in Double-A but has been away from the Orioles in COVID-19 re-entry protocol since.
Santander is hitting just .186 with two homers and eight RBIs in 16 games but had been one of Baltimore's better offensive players the previous two seasons with 31 homers, 91 RBIs and an .807 OPS from 2019-20. The O's need all the offensive help they can get as they have been held to one run-or-less nine times. They lose the DH for this series.
Baltimore will start struggling Jorge Lopez (1-4, 6.35) on the mound. The right-hander has completed at least five innings in just two of his seven starts in 2021. Lopez will be making his fourth appearance and first start vs. Washington and is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in nine innings vs. the Nats. Josh Bell is the only Washington player to have homered off him.
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