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Giolito ready for 1st road start, New York hecklers and 43-year-old Colon

Giolito ready for 1st road start, New York hecklers and 43-year-old Colon

Just about everything is new to Lucas Giolito these days. With just one big league start and four innings under his belt, the Nationals phenom has experienced his first glimpse of the majors. And on Thursday night in New York, he'll make his first ever road start in a place he's never been.

That would be daunting for most, but not Giolito. The 21-year-old is ready for whatever comes with the territory and knows that could mean a bunch of beer-soaked loudmouths wearing blue and orange.

"I know that they have a pretty cool atmosphere over there," he said. "I mean, it will be my first time on a road team in a major league stadium. I know that there's some heckling and stuff like that going on, which is fine. I think it's all fun. It's all part of the game. I'm excited for it."

The grandson of a Seinfeld actor, Giolito heads to New York to face a team he has already seen twice this year. He squared off with the Mets in his major league debut on June 28. He also saw them for two innings in spring training back in March.

Some may call that experience, but it's nothing when compared to the Mets' starter on Thursday night. Opposite Giolito will be Bartolo Colon, who at 43 is over two decades older than the Nats' rookie. 

Amazingly, it's not even the biggest age difference between pitchers in Nats history. Back in 2009, Jordan Zimmermann faced off with Randy Johnson when he was 22 years and 255 days younger than the Hall of Fame lefty.

"It's pretty interesting. Baseball is such a cool sport in that way. I'm basically half his age and I'll be pitching against him," Giolito said. "It's awesome. It's an honor, too. He's had a great career. It's cool to go up against him."

It's not just their age that separates them. Giolito and Colon could not be more different. One is a 6-foot-6 prototype whose fastball strikes like lightning. The other is a pear-shaped anomaly of professional sports, a 285-pound behemoth whose fastball averages 87 miles per hour.

The contrast will be obvious and maybe even funny. But the stakes for both teams are serious and Giolito will be entrusted with an important spot for the Nationals.

This is the opener of the final series before the All-Star break. It's four games and only four games separate the two teams. The Mets can gain ground in the NL East and even earn a tie in first place to begin the second half. Or, the Nationals could create some distance between them and their most imminent threat to a division crown.

Giolito will pitch the opener and try to stall a Mets team that has won six of their last seven and recently swept the Chicago Cubs. It won't be easy and Giolito will be pitching on a full eight days rest. That's an unusually long layoff for any pitcher, and especially for one with so little experience.

"I've been working over the past few weeks to stay prepared. I've thrown two bullpens to stay prepared for my next start in New York," Giolito said. "I've been able to get off the mound and feel my release points. All that stuff that comes with pitching, just staying on top of it. But I feel like we've done a pretty good job of that over the past week."

The Nationals are 6-3 against the Mets this season, but as last year showed, their head-to-head matchups are pivotal and they can swing very quickly from one direction to the other. On Thursday night, it will be Giolito's turn to make his mark at Citi Field for the very first time.

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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