After dropping two straight games to the best team in the MLB, the Astros, the Braves are headed up to D.C. for a 4-game series with their rivals: the Washington Nationals. This series is huge for the Braves and could decide their fate in the division and their role at the MLB trade deadline.
NL East Standings:
Braves: 40-43 (9.5 GB)
With a series win, the Braves can pull closer to the Nationals and be in the hunt for the playoffs. The Braves still are a long-shot to comeback in the division, but a series win would help that dramatically (3-1 series win would pull them 2 games closer, 4-0 series win would pull then 4 games closer).
Starting Pitching Probables:
Game 1 (Thursday at 7:05 EST): Mike Foltynewicz (6-5, 3.83 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 2.77 ERA)
This matchup will be interesting, as although Gio Gonzalez has had a great season, he’s historically struggled against the Braves. Mike Foltynewicz is coming off of the best start of his career where he was three outs away from a no-hitter (8+ IP, 1h, 1ER).
Game 2 (Friday at 7:05 EST): R.A. Dickey (6-5, 4.44 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (10-5, 1.94 ERA)
Altouugh R.A. Dickey had a rough start, he’s really bounced back as of late. In his last two starts, he’s only given up 2 ER. Max Scherzer is putting up another Cy Young caliber season as he has 10 wins and an ERA under 2.
Game 3 (Saturday at 4:05 EST): Julio Teheran (6-6, 5.14 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (9-2, 3.28 ERA)
Julio Teheran has struggled mightily this season, but a lot of his struggles have been at home. His last start in D.C., he picked up a win after pitching 7 strong innings and only giving up 2 ER. He’s 1-6 with a 7.58 ERA at home, and he’s 5-0 with a 2.88 ERA on the road.
Stephen Strasburg has been great for the Nats. After a 15-4 record last season that many considered to be a career season, he’s bounced back with 9 wins even before the All Star break.
Game 4 (Sunday at 1:35 EST): Sean Newcomb (1-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. TBD
Newcomb has had a stellar rookie season up to this point, and his play has been way better than his numbers state. In his 3 losses, Newcomb has gotten a combined 5 runs scored for him (1 2/3 a game). Before his last start before Houston, he had a 1.48 ERA. Out of his first five starts, he’s only had one bad performance.
Braves: RHP Arodys Vizcaino (finger) will be out for this series. He’s been solid as the Braves’ 8th inning option. The Braves bullpen got hammered versus Houston, as they gave up 14 runs in 2 games.
Nationals: The Nationals’ bullpen has been notoriously horrid this season, as their closer Koda Glover only has 8 saves, and their bullpen ERA is 5.19, which is the worst in the MLB. This team is a great team, but their bullpen is the weak spot.
After tearing up the months of May and June, the Braves’ bats have been quiet in July, as they’ve scored 4 runs in every game this month. While that might seem alright, the Braves led the NL in hits and runs in the month of June. All Star CF Ender Inciarte leads the team in hits with 108, and the Braves lineup is getting healthy at the right time.
Braves’ star Freddie Freeman just returned early from a broken wrist, and he could’ve been out a lot longer. His move to third base allows red-hot Matt Adams to stay in the lineup. The Braves lineup is very balanced with 4 right-handed hitters and 4 left-handed hitters. This is the best lineup the Braves have put on the field in a while.
Washington’s offense has been stellar all year, as they are 3rd in the MLB in runs per game (5.58). The Nationals are lead by the Big-3 of Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper, who are all well-deserved starters in the All Star Game. All three of them are top-10 in batting average (Murphy (.341)-1st, Zimmerman (.330)-6th, Harper (.324)-8th). They also hit for power as Harper has 20 home runs, Zimmerman has 19, and Murphy has 14. Teammate Anthony Rendon has 16 home runs.
The Nationals have a loaded offense, and the Braves pitching staff will have their work cut out for them. Overall, this is a huge series for both teams. The Nationals could put this division away in mid-July, or the Braves could keep it interesting for a little while longer.