Apr 13, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson (15) throws during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves have played 16 of their first 24 games at home, so it is time for a nice, long 7-game homestand, and the first opponent is the Washington Nationals. Let’s glance ahead at what to expect as the reigning division champs come to Atlanta for four games.
Monday, April 29th – 7:00 PM ET (ESPN) – Stephen Strasburg vs. Julio Teheran
It’s always big news when the Nationals come to town, but when Stephen Strasburg shows up, it gets even higher billing. The Nationals ace has actually “struggled” a bit this year, with a 3.16 ERA and a strikeout rate of under 9, but he’s still been tremendous despite a 1-4 record. His counterpart in this game is Julio Teheran, and the Braves prospect/5th-starter twirled his best game of the season in his last outing. Teheran threw 7 innings of 1-run ball against Colorado, and if he can replicate that sort of effort, Atlanta will have a great chance to win. I’d like to see Juan Francisco in the lineup against Strasburg here, because he can catch up to his fastball, but that is the only managerial decision to be made.
Tuesday, April 30th – 7:10 PM ET (SportSouth) – Gio Gonzalez vs. Tim Hudson
The last time the Braves faced Gio Gonzalez (on April 14th), they pounded the Nats lefty into submission with 7 earned runs over 5 innings of work. Admittedly, this version of the Atlanta lineup is much better suited to beat lefties than in previous seasons, and Gonzalez has struggled to find his 2012 form so far this year (4.50 ERA). The headliner of the game, however, is Tim Hudson’s quest for 200 wins, and for all intensive purposes, he should be there already. You may remember that Craig Kimbrel blew the save on the final afternoon in Colorado, but Huddy is in prime position to grab that elusive victory here.
Wednesday, May 1st – 7:00 PM ET (ESPN) – Jordan Zimmermann vs. Paul Maholm
I’m very intrigued to see how Paul Maholm responds here. He was roughed up in a big way (8 ER over 3.2 innings) against Detroit, and the doubters are out in full force in reference to his hot start catching up to him. I still believe in Maholm as an above-average pitcher, and he’ll get the chance to show it here. On the opposite site, Zimmermann threw a 1-hit shutout against Cincinnati in his last start, and, for the Braves sake, let’s hope he forgets that sort of form for Wednesday evening.
Thursday, May 2nd – 7:10 PM ET (MLB Network) – Dan Haren vs. Kris Medlen
In the series finale, Kris Medlen takes on Dan Haren in another national TV game. Haren is a guy that I’ve always loved from afar, but he struggled early in the year for Washington. With that said, he lowered his ERA to 6.29 (yes, lowered) with a 6-inning, 2-earned run performance against the Reds last week, and by all accounts, looked like the old Haren. Medlen has struggled with his control this season (2.67 BB/9 in 2013 vs. 1.50 BB/9 in 2012) and he’s the type of pitcher who needs pinpoint accuracy to maintain his ace-level dominance from last year. Keep an eye on his location early in the game for an indication of where we’re headed.
As late-April/early-May series go, this is a big one, as the Nationals are the chief competition for the NL East crown. With that said, a 3-1 result would be fantastic in this series, and a split wouldn’t be a disaster, either. Stay tuned.