What to watch tonight: Stephen Strasburg vs. Matt Harvey

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I’ve been looking forward to tonight’s Nationals-Mets game all week for the Stephen Strasburg-Matt Harvey matchup. Obviously arguments can be made for other guys, but for my money the 24-year-old Strasburg and the 24-year-old Harvey are the two young pitchers with the most upside in all of baseball.

Strasburg has made 48 career starts with a 2.94 ERA, .224 opponents’ batting average, and 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Harvey has made 13 career starts with a 2.21 ERA, .173 opponents’ batting average, and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Among all starters with at least 75 innings since the beginning of last season Strasburg has the highest average fastball velocity at 95.7 miles per hour and Harvey ranks fourth at 94.6 miles per hour. They also rank No. 2 and No. 4 in strikeout rate during that span.

And better yet, here’s the all-time leaderboard for strikeouts per nine innings through age 24:

Kerry Wood           10.96
Stephen Strasburg    10.95
Brandon Beachy       10.57
Mark Prior           10.55
Matt Harvey          10.51

Strasburg and the Nationals are slight (-120) favorites over Harvey and the Mets.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.