There is not a hotter team in baseball right now than the Atlanta Braves and they look to extend their 10-game win streak as they pack their bags and head to our nation’s capitol to square off in a three game series against the Washington Nationals.
The Braves are coming off a hard fought sweep of the Phillies in Philadelphia and currently are the second best team in the National League behind the Pirates. They have the biggest lead in any division in the majors at 12.5 games and can extend that lead even more if the cards are right against Washington.
The Nationals, well, it’s been a rough season for skipper Davey Johnson and company. A season riddled by injuries and the under-performance of their bullpen as well as key players has really put a damper on what could be Johnson’s last year as a manager in baseball.
The Nats are 31-25 this year at home, while the Braves are 29-30 on the road after completing the sweep in Philly. The season series belongs to the Braves so far, winning seven of 10 this season against Washington with nine games against the Nationals left on the schedule.
The Braves offense is currently sixth best in the National league with a .253 average, while the Nationals are currently second to last in that category with just a .241 mark. However, the Braves currently have the second best average behind the Los Angeles Dodgers since the All-Star break and the Nationals still continue to struggle with just the tenth best offense (in terms of batting average.)
Besides the offensive side of the ball for both teams, there has been a huge difference since the All-Star break on the pitching side of things too. The Braves bolster a team ERA of 3.18 in 153 innings pitched with 149 strikeouts and allowing a batting average of .230. Meanwhile for the Nationals, they have a team ERA of 4.69 in 142 innings pitches with 139 strikeouts while opponents hit .258 off the Nationals.
Here is a look at the probable pitchers for the series:
Monday: Mike Minor (11-5, 2.75 ERA) vs Stephen Strasburg (5-9 3.04 ERA)
It has been a huge secret that Minor has been the best starter on this team this year. Minor faced one batter over the minimum through seven innings of scoreless work in his last outing. In his last five starts, he has an ERA of 1.53. This will be the first time Minor has faced the Nationals this year, while over his career he is 3-2 with a 4.55 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings pitched.
On the other hand for Strasburg, he has been on the wrong side of the luck this year for the Nationals. Strasburg allowed five runs over seven innings, four of them on a grand slam, against the Tigers. In his career against the Braves, Strasburg is 3-4 with a 3.55 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings pitched.
Tuesday: Julio Teheran (8-5, 3.02 ERA) vs Gio Gonzalez (7-4, 3.57 ERA)
While Minor has been the clear-cut ace of the staff, his right hand man (no pun intended) has been Julio Teheran. Teheran has matured a lot this season and has grown up before Braves’ fans’ eyes. However in his last outing, Teheran was only able to go five innings because of pitch count, but did manage to rack up 11 strikeouts in those innings. Career numbers against the Nationals, Teheran is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched.
Teheran will be opposed by Gio Gonzalez who can be hit or miss against the Braves. Gonzalez is coming off the worst outing of his Nationals career in which he allowed 10 runs over 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers and hoping to bounce back–against the hottest team in baseball. The numbers against the Braves for Gonzalez read 2-4 win/loss with a 5.73 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 37 2/3 innings pitched.
Wednesday: Kris Medlen (8-10, 3.85 ERA) vs Jordan Zimmerman (13-6, 3.06 ERA)
Despite giving up three home runs to the Phillies (luckily all solo shots) pitched six strong innings in his last outing against Philadelphia. In his last three starts, Medlen is 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings pitched. Career numbers against the Nationals,Medlen is 2-2 with a 2.12 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 34 innings.
Jordan Zimmerman has been a bright spot this year for the Nationals and has been a pleasant surprise for the rotation. Zimmerman pitched six shutout innings against the Brewers and was arguably one of the best starts he’s had all year long. However, in his last three starts Zimmerman is just 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Against the Braves, Zimmerman is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA and has 31 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings pitched.
Chris Johnson continues to spray the ball all over the field. Johnson is 20 for 40 in that run to up his batting average to an NL-leading .346. He’s hitless in six at-bats off Strasburg in 2013, though.
Dan Uggla has three hits in seven at-bats this season against Strasburg. Uggla has more hits (11) and at-bats (24) against Strasburg than any player.
What To Expect:
This is a very important series for Washington. If the Nationals have any chance to get back into the mix of things in the NL East, they need three solid pitching performances and timely hitting–something that hasn’t necessarily been the story this year for Washington.
However, with the Braves playing as well has they have been I fully expect the Braves to kill any will the Nationals have this series and hope to at least take two of three against Washington, if not sweep them.