Stephen Strasburg will be making his ninth MLB start Wednesday against the Cincinnatti Reds in the band box more commonly known as the Great American Ballpark. Ask Adam Dunn about hitting in Cincy. Some of his longest home runs came there.
But Adam Dunn can hit home runs anywhere. It's the guys who hit doubles everywhere else that can really hurt you when those long line drives turn into a surprise home run in Cincy. Strasburg has never pitched against Major League talent in a ballpark this explosive, and as Ben Goessling of MASN.com points out, it could prove to be his biggest test yet.
The Reds' home park, which opened in 2001, has yielded 2.58 homers per game this season, the third-highest average in the National League and the fifth-highest in baseball. It's typically the site of more than 2.5 homers per game, and has been close to three a game in some years.
The Reds won't be the best team Strasburg has faced (Atlanta holds that distinction to this point in his young career), but the Great American Ballpark will be his most difficult pitching environment. It has a funny way of turning what should be routine fly balls into frustrating home runs, which could be bad news for a pitcher who provides a lot of the power needed to hit one out of the park with his 100-mph fastball. If the Reds' batters can hit one of those fastballs on the screws, it has a better chance to leave the ballpark here than it does almost anywhere else.
Of course, you can't hit a home run if you can't put the bat on the ball, so if Strassy just concentrates on his pitching instead of what happens if the Reds get a hold of one, then he should be fine. But it will be interesting to see how he reacts when he knows a mistake might cost him more here than it would in other stadiums. Hopefully, he focuses on the batters in front of him, not the outfield walls behind him.