SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will face Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, the league's strikeouts leader, tonight without leadoff hitter Angel Pagan. Pagan sits for the second consecutive day with what manager Bruce Bochy called a lower leg contusion on his right leg. Pagan injured the leg sliding into home Saturday night and is still sore, but would be available off the bench if needed.
"Could we push him? Yeah," Bochy said. "But talking to the training staff and (trainer Dave Groeschner), he's better off getting the day off."
Gregor Blanco stepped up in Pagan's absence Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a season-high three RBIs in the Giants' win over the Mets, and gets another chance tonight leading off and playing center field. Here's the Giants' full lineup against Strasburg:
And the Nationals' lineup against Vogelsong:
On the injury front, Bochy said Brandon Belt took ground balls today, several days removed from having the pins taken out of his fractured left thumb. Belt will also take part Tuesday when reliever Santiago Casilla goes through pitcher fielding drills.
Casilla's schedule is to throw a bullpen session today and do the PFP drills Tuesday, and if all goes well he could start a rehab assignment in San Jose as early as Wednesday or Thursday, Bochy said.
Belt, meanwhile, is still two to three weeks away from a return. But Bochy said Belt has been encouraged by being able to do more with the pins removed.
Michael Morse was in demand in the clubhouse before tonight's game, with a group of Nationals writers waiting to catch up with Morse, who played in Washington from 2009-12 and had his best season there in 2011 with 31 home runs.
Morse said he still keeps in touch with several former teammates, including Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond, and that he greatly values the time he spent with the Nationals. "If it wasn't for playing there, I probably wouldn't be here," he said.
One reporter told Morse they only recently stopped playing "Take On Me" late in games at the Nationals' home stadium. Morse seemed a little bummed, but told the reporter he brought the song with him to San Francisco and it's "incredible. ... It's something I'll always have with the people of D.C. But it's to another level here."
Morse said watching the Nationals struggle last season and fail to make the playoffs was tough. His final game there was Game 5 of the NLDS in 2012, in which Washington lost a two-run lead in the ninth inning to the Cardinals -- which resulted in St. Louis playing the eventual champion Giants in the NLCS.
He struggled last year in the American League, but has been a revelation this season with the Giants, entering tonight with a team-high 42 RBIs and 13 homers. "When life gives you lemons," he said, "you make some great lemonade."
Tonight also marks Matt Williams' return to San Francisco for the first time as manager of the Nationals. Williams has come back before as an opposing player and coach, so the novelty of being the opposing manager doesn't add much for him, but he said returning to the city where he played from 1986-97 never gets old.
"This city's where I grew up as a baseball player," he said. "It's like home."
Williams said he went for a three-mile run Monday afternoon but didn't get recognized. "I had my little headband on and sunglasses," he said. "I was looking at my feet to make sure I didn't trip."
Right now he's helming arguably the hottest team in the National League outside of San Francisco -- the Nationals have won seven of their last nine games to pull within a three-way tie with the Braves and Marlins atop the N.L. East entering today. That's despite a handful of injuries to key players over the first two months, including Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, who is in the lineup tonight at third base.
As for the day-to-day obligations of managing, such as dealing with the media, Williams said he's been pretty comfortable with them. "I've been on that side of the camera, too," he said, "so I understand that everybody's got a job to do, and that people want to know about your club. ... It's all part of the job. Going into it, you understand and expect it."
One interesting thing: Williams was asked what he would've thought if the Giants had floated the idea of one last game or series this year at soon-to-be-demolished Candlestick Park, with Williams' Nationals as the opponent. Williams, who of course played home games there while wearing orange and black, said it "would've been phenomenal."
"There's nothing like Candlestick," he said. "For those fans that came with their sleeping bags and parkas and their coolers, it was special. Certainly (AT&T Park) is I'm sure more comfortable to watch games and be a part of, but as a player I loved it. And everybody that played there loved it -- that was a Giant anyway."
No surprise to see Tyler Colvin in the Giants' lineup, even with Pagan sitting out. Colvin has faced Strasburg four times in his career. He's 3-for-4 with two home runs.
The Giants will be without bench coach Ron Wotus today and Tuesday. Wotus is away from the team following the death of his father-in-law, Bochy said, and is expected back Wednesday.