Last night the Nationals selected their future catcher, slugger and phenom in the form of Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in the amateur draft. Tonight they make news on the field as the 2009 first overall pick Stephen Strasburg makes his major league debut against the Pirates.

This game will be seriously over hyped like only ESPN and MLB Network know how to do, but I’m sure they are loving the Nats opponent. They would have loved to see his face division foe, the New York Mets or another rookie phenom Jason Heyward and the Braves. Hell, they would have preferred the Reds or Padres at this point. But nope, he’ll face the hapless Pirates. Seriously, you know this is a momentous game when they have no choice but to put the Pirates in the national spotlight.

So how will the kid do tonight after posting a 7-2 record with a 1.30 ERA in 11 minor league starts? I do not think he’s going to no-hit the Pirates or anything like that. If Strasburg was a no talent ass clown who the Pirates love to make look like Warren Spahn then I would be worried about tonight (see Ramon Ortiz on May 1, Homer Bailey on May 12, Dave Bush on April 20, Brett Myers on April 25 or pretty much every time they’ve faced Bronson Arroyo). But for reasons that I can’t even begin to explain, the Pirates tend to hit better than average pitchers in recent years. They defeated Roy Halladay this year and scored three runs off of Tim Lincecum on Sunday.

Plus no matter how Strasburg and the Nationals try to downplay this as “just another game,” it certainly isn’t. There has to be some degree of nervousness that will set in for the rookie at some point on this national stage probably early on. He’s not in Harrisburg or Syracuse anymore. He’ll be on a strict pitch count, but I think the Pirates will get a couple runs off of him through five or six innings, possibly a quality start but check your no-hitter/perfect game predictions at the door—that won’t happen tonight.

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