At 7:05 Eastern on Friday night, two firsts will be made at Progressive Field. The first is that the Washington Nationals will be facing the Cleveland Indians for the first time. The second is that Carlos Santana, a highly-touted Indians prospect, will make his major league debut.
Carlos Santana, a catcher who is not that Carlos Santana, has been called up by the Indians after an impressive 2010 campaign in the minors:
The Indians have had an unpleasant year, sitting well out of contention in last place in the Central. Santana, though, represents a bright spot, and a reason to keep watching through the end of the season. The 24 year old backstop, who came over in the Dodgers' trade for Casey Blake in 2008, has established himself as one of the best prospects in baseball, dominating every level and batting .307 with a .440 OBP and a .568 SLG in AAA through two months in 2010. He swings an All Star-level bat, and he plays well enough behind the plate to stick at the position in the future.
For more, head on over to our Cleveland Indians blog, Let's Go Tribe.
Here's a preview of tonight's game, courtesy of Sports Network.
In fact, it is the first time a team from Washington is visiting Cleveland since the Senators split a doubleheader with the Tribe back on September 14, 1971 at old Cleveland Stadium.
Tonight's contest also marks the first for Cleveland skipper Manny Acta against the team he managed for 2 1/2 years before being fired last season.
Acta's former club is still riding the momentum from Stephen Strasburg's scintillating big league debut, as they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates to move one game within .500 and will be trying for their first four-game winning streak of the season tonight.
Livan Hernandez (5-3) was once again solid on the hill, yielding two runs on five hits and two walks in six innings for the win, his first since May 4. The veteran hurler has allowed two runs or less in 10 of 12 starts this season.
Washington came into the series on a 1-5 stretch, but Strasburg's exceptional debut in the opener set the stage for the club's first three-game sweep of the season.
"We didn't play real smart, but we played hard," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "When we put it all together, we're swinging the bats like we're capable of and we get the pitching that we've gotten all along, and we play smart, we're going to be pretty good ball club."
Strasburg is scheduled to go in the finale of this series, but tonight the Nats will turn to righty Luis Atilano, who is 5-2 with a 4.24 ERA. Atilano was dealt a hard-luck loss in his last trip to the hill on Saturday against Cincinnati, as he surrendered two runs (one earned) and six hits in seven innings of a 5-1 setback.
Atilano has never faced the Indians, who will pin their hopes this evening on veteran right-hander Jake Westbrook, who will be trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year.
Westbrook couldn't get out of the fifth inning on Sunday in Chicago, as the White Sox roughed him up for six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. However, he did not get a decision in that one, and is 3-3 on the year with a 4.84 ERA.
Westbrook lost his only other start to the Nationals back in 2007.
Cleveland also comes into this series riding high after taking the final two games of its four-game set from the Boston Red Sox. The Indians earned the split on Thursday when Russell Branyan's two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted propelled them to an 8-7 win.
Lou Marson posted two RBI for the Indians, who are now 5-5 in the month of June.
The Nationals took two of three from the Indians the last time these teams met back in 2007.