After a wildly disappointing series in which the Braves were swept by last place Philadelphia, the Braves take to the road to face their biggest rivals in the Washington Nationals. With inconsistencies all around the team at the moment, it seems like this series could be really dreadful for fans.
The saving grace is that this play is just plain typical Braves. The Braves have notoriously done well against their biggest division competition and terrible against the worst teams.
Take a look at the numbers versus Washington following 2012, the lone year Washington have seen the playoffs. Since 2012, the Nationals have graduated to the upper echelon of the baseball world. It’s hard to not favor the Nats (in fact, I was the only one on staff to predict that the Nats wouldn’t finish first in the division), but their record since the Nationals became NL East favorites?
18-7. Since the beginning of 2012? 26-17.
The Braves have continued their success against the Nationals through continuously punishing their otherwise excellent pitching. Ace Stephen Strasburg has surrendered 27 runs and 25 walks to go alongside his strong strikeout rate in 63 innings against the Braves, translating into a 3.86 ERA and a 3-5 record. Strasburg has only been hit harder by the Miami Marlins of all teams.
Gio Gonzalez has been roughed even more, giving up 34 earned runs in just 57.2 innings against Atlanta, good for a 5.31 and a whopping 2-7 win loss split. But unlucky enough for the Braves, they will see every other starter the Nats have except Gio. And if there were an anti-Gio against the Braves, it would definitely be tonight’s starter Jordan Zimmerman, who has a sparkling 2.98 ERA with just 6 walks against the Braves in his short career. Zimm has developed into one of the most consistent young starters in the game, and his start may be a low point in the series for Atlanta. Tanner Roark has had success in limited action against Atlanta, but he is still a bit green to the league.
Doug Fister started the year on the disabled list, but is starting everyone why he was considered the steal of the offseason. In 49.2 innings, Fister has allowed 49 hits, but has retained his characteristically low walk (just 5 this year!) and strikeout rate (6.0 per 9 compared to a 6.3 lifetime). Fister is a finesse pitcher that the Braves will need to be patient against to have any success.
In the bullpen for the Nats are plenty of familiar names who are all having great seasons. The biggest strength of the Nats could be this bullpen, which of course features setup man Tyler Clippard. As many of you may know, the Braves absolutely CRUSH Clippard, something which manager Matt Williams has apparently yet to pick up on.
The Nationals have experienced their fare share on injuries to their offense so far in 2014. As star outfielder Bryce Harper continues to mend, the Nationals have recently added Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman back into their lineup. Zimmerman has yet to bounce back – hitting .211/.286/.316 since his return in which he has been primarily playing left field. LaRoche on the other hand is having a bounce back season, although he has been struggling slightly as of late.
Jayson Werth is continuing his great play with a .280/.362/.398 line for the year, and there’s where the outstanding performances seem to stop. The Nats offense is a bit inconsistent as well, with lineup staples like Denard Span and Ian Desmond struggling to consistently get on base. Nate McLouth‘s playing time has been increased due to the injuries, and he has responded in a way Braves fans may be familiar with, posting just a .536 OPS. Braves pitching can thrive off of this lineup that doesn’t walk much with some finesse, aided by excellent pitch framing of Evan Gattis.
7:05 PM EST, Thursday, June 19th
Probables: Gavin Floyd (1-2, 2.98 ERA) vs Jordan Zimmerman (5-3, 2.98 ERA)
7:05 PM EST, Friday, June 20th
Probables: Mike Minor (2-4, 4.42 ERA) vs Stephen Strasburg (6-5, 3.06 ERA)
7:15 PM EST, Saturday, June 21st
Probables: Julio Teheran (6-4, 2.31 ERA) vs Doug Fister (5-2, 3.08 ERA)
1:35 PM EST, Sunday, June 22nd
Probables: Ervin Santana (5-4, 4.12 ERA) vs Tanner Roark (6-4, 2.85 ERA)