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WSH@ARI: Strasburg allows one hit over six innings

SAN FRANCISCO -- The thought of Tim Lincecum opposing Stephen Strasburg enlivens the imagination.

But as the song says, there ain't nothing like the real thing.

A dream matchup for pitching aficionados will unfold in Wednesday's Nationals-Giants series finale. Strasburg, who's widely considered to possess the Major Leagues' most breathtaking array of offerings, is scheduled to start for Washington. Lincecum, who until recently was considered as riveting as Strasburg, is San Francisco's probable starter.

Never mind that Lincecum has dealt with lapses in confidence and stuff as he has compiled a 6-12 record with a 5.35 ERA, numbers that pale alongside Strasburg's 13-5, 2.90. The mound will be so loaded with star quality that astronomers may train telescopes upon AT&T Park.

The possibility of this being one of Strasburg's last appearances of the year makes his outing even more compelling. Wary of the lingering effects of the Tommy John elbow surgery Strasburg underwent two years ago, the Nationals' brain trust has vowed to end the 24-year-old's season at an undisclosed point. Only Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo knows for certain when he will be shut down, but Strasburg's innings limit -- he's currently at 133 1/3 -- has been the talk of baseball for weeks.

"Obviously, I think there's some hype to that game, and rightly so," Giants left-hander Javier Lopez said Tuesday. "You have a guy in Lincecum who's won two Cy Youngs and a young kid in Strasburg who has really dominated the league all year. Knowing that he has only a few starts left, it'll be interesting to see how he pitches. It's going to be an exciting matchup, I'm sure."

Nationals utility man Mark DeRosa, who spent the previous two seasons with the Giants, understood the potential that this matchup holds.

"Two competitive guys, guys who are capable of throwing a no-hitter any time they take the mound and striking out 20 guys any time they take the mound," DeRosa said. "That's always an option that presents itself."

That's about all the two have in common, DeRosa said. He broke out in laughter when asked to describe the similarities between the methodical, cool Strasburg and the eccentric Lincecum, eventually punctuating his amusement with one word: "None."

"Just on the surface, Stephen's quiet, really competitive but quiet -- an assassin, I guess you'd say. Dilligent in his preparation and his work. I feel like Timmy's more of a maverick on the mound," DeRosa added. "His windup's different. His hair's different. Everything about him is different. It's unique. What he brings to the game is so special and so unique."

But the two do share a flair for the strikeout. Strasburg leads the NL with an average of 11.21 per nine innings, while Lincecum ranks third at 9.37. And both have thrived as the season has lengthened. Strasburg surrendered four hits in 12 innings spanning his last two starts, while Lincecum is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA since the All-Star break.

The challenge Lincecum faces in opposing Strasburg is clearly defined.

"I'm going to go into that game knowing that I have to be on my 'A' game," he said. "I have to be on top of my stuff. Even on his bad days, he has good enough stuff to get you out."

Lincecum knows all about residing among baseball's elite. His 2012 struggles haven't altered the fact that he has accomplished what Strasburg hopes to achieve.

"Timmy's done things in this game that no one's ever done. I think that gets lost in the shuffle," DeRosa said. "Players understand that. We know it's a 'what have you done for me lately' game, there's no doubt about that. But at the end of the day, when you win two Cy Youngs in your first three years in the game and you win a World Series title, that stuff shouldn't be just pushed aside so quick. Everyone has hiccups and stuff, and their team's still in first place. If he ever gets it going, they should win that division.

"I loved watching Timmy pitch. I looked forward to it."

DeRosa has quickly developed the same admiration for Strasburg: "This guy is just stuff, stuff and more stuff. I tell him every time, 'This is the day.' Every time he takes the mound, 'This is the day you throw your no-hitter.' It's going to happen."

Lincecum graciously acknowledged Strasburg's eye-popping skill.

"It's hard not to pay attention to him," said Lincecum, 28. "He's earned that right, especially with his stuff and his numbers and coming back strong from his injury. With the way he's been able to stay humble as well, it's hard for the guy to go unnoticed."

It's easy to envision how the afternoon will develop.

"I think Strasburg's going to be more of the power pitcher that Timmy used to be," Lopez said, "but Timmy has a lot more pitches now in his repertoire and still has the ability to strike a lot of people out."

Regardless of what happens, the event promises to be one to savor.

"I think it's event viewing for the players as well," DeRosa said. "As much as you're going up there and you're competing, you're getting a chance to see guys do things that the majority of us can't."

"You learn to appreciate moments like that," Lopez said.

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