The Atlanta Braves will continue their prosperous homestand tonight with the start of a pivotal four-game series with the Washington Nationals. With both teams still pushing hard for the NL East title, this is the series of the season for the Braves.
Coming into the four-game set with the Nationals, the Braves hold a 7 game lead in the NL East. Though the NL East title is in question, the Nationals have a three-game lead in the NL Wild Card race. Both teams are virtual locks for the playoffs. With a successful four-game series this weekend, the Nationals can make the NL East race very interesting for the last month. However, the Braves can all but wrap up the NL East with a series win over the weekend.
The Braves couldn’t be any hotter coming into this series with the Nationals. Since August 17th, the Braves have won 14 of their last 16 including a current six-game winning streak. The Braves continue to find ways to win, whether it’s an offensive explosion, a low-scoring pitching duel, or late-inning heroics. The Braves will need to keep clicking on all cylinders if they want to bury this Washington Nationals team.
The Nationals have been no slouches either, however. In the same span as the Braves, August 17th to today, the Nationals are 12-5. Thankfully, for the Braves, the Mets were a thorn in the side of Washington, taking two of three from the Nationals in the series before this weekend. With the Wild Card lead secure, the Nationals can focus on pushing for the NL East lead this weekend.
Taking down the Nationals in this series will not be an easy task for the Atlanta Braves. If the Braves want to take three of the four games, they’ll have to go through the best pitching the Nationals have to offer. Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Max Scherzer are all slated to start over the weekend. Joe Ross, who has pitched six innings with an ERA over 9, will be the fourth starter so it’s safe to assume the Braves have a fair chance in that game.
The Braves will combat with Max Fried, Julio Teheran, Dallas Keuchel, and Mike Soroka. Even with the Nationals throwing their three best, the Braves four starters for the series will not be easy to beat. These four pitchers have a chance, a very good chance, to be the playoff rotation for the Braves. Throw in what the bullpen has been doing recently, and the Braves are well-positioned to give the Nationals batters some trouble.
The Braves have had some big-time series since the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Dodgers come to mind, but this series against the Nationals is much more important in a different sense. At this point of the season, it’s safe to assume both these teams will be in the playoffs and could even meet in the playoffs if the chips fall into place. It’s going to feel like October baseball this weekend when the Braves and Nationals take the field. Both teams are throwing out their playoff pitchers for this series so this will be a good barometer for both teams heading into October.
The Braves are in a great position, seven games up, coming this weekend series. That position has been earned for the Braves by playing great, consistent baseball all season, but especially as of late. The Nationals find themselves in this NL East hole because of the slow start that buried them. Yes, they’ve played some of the best baseball since May, but the Braves have been playing their best baseball all season. The Braves can afford a series split or even a loss and still maintain a safe NL East lead. The onus is on the Nationals to come out and get a big result. The Braves just have to continue what they’ve done all season, play consistent baseball, and they won’t have anything to worry about from the Nationals over the weekend.