Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Back In The Friendly Confines

Atlanta took a short three-game road trip to Philadelphia and managed to take two of three from the Phillies, pushing the Braves record in May to 7-1. Atlanta hopes to continue their hot play in May against Washington as the Nationals come to the friendly confines of  Turner Field for a three-game set. 

The Nationals enter the series with an overall record of 16-18, and are seven games back of the division leading Phillies. The Nats are 4-4 in the month of May, and are coming off an impressive series win against Florida as they took two of the three on the road from the Marlins.

This is the second meeting between the two clubs, as the Braves took two of three from Washington to begin the season. Not a whole lot has changed except for some injuries to the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman is out until mid-June it appears after surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Rick Ankiel is also on the DL, as he suffered a sprained right wrist and is out until mid-May, while reliever Chad Gaudin is also out with right shoulder inflammation. 

Pitching matchups and more after the jump..

Tuesday May 10, 7:10 EST


Jason Marquis

#21 / Pitcher / Washington Nationals

6-1

210

L

R

Aug 21, 1978



Tim Hudson

#15 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

175

R

R

Jul 14, 1975


Jason Marquis comes into the series with a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 3.66 and a FIP of 2.89. Marquis has pitched well for the Nationals this season, although he is coming off his worst start of the season, where he gave up seven runs (six earned) along with ten hits in only five innings of work against Philadelphia. Marquis hasn't walked many batters, only seven total and never more than two in any start this year. Known as a ground ball pitcher,  he has taken that to new levels this year as he has a GB% of 56.3, a career high. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters, K/9 of 5.95, but Atlanta will have their hands full with Marquis.

Atlanta counters with Tim Hudson, who has been absolutely fantastic again in 2011. He is coming off his best start of the season, where he was absolutely dominant against Milwaukee. Hudson gave up only one hit and one walk while striking out six in while throwing a complete game. He also is pitching on an extra day of rest, which can't hurt. Hudson owns the Nationals in his career, as he has a lifetime 11-2 record with a 1.88 ERA in 19 career starts against Washington.

Wednesday May 11, 7:10 EST


John Lannan

#31 / Pitcher / Washington Nationals

6-4

215

L

L

Sep 27, 1984



Tommy Hanson

#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-6

220

R

R

Aug 28, 1986


John Lannan gets the ball in game two of the series for the Nationals. Lannan sports a record of 2-4 with an ERA of 5.09 and a FIP of 4.86. He comes into the series on a personal three start losing streak, including an awful outing in his last start against the Phillies when he lasted only two innings while giving up six runs and seven hits along with a homer. Unfortunately for Atlanta, he seems to pitch his best when facing the Braves. Atlanta saw him in the season opening series, as he pitched five innings of one run ball earning a win. For his career, he is 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA against the Braves at Turner Field. Lannan doesn't strike out many, K/9 of 4.84, and has a tendency to walk a few with a BB/9 of 3.82. He historically pitches well against Atlanta as do most soft tossing lefties these days, but the Braves will have their chances to get on Lannan.

Tommy Hanson enters the series with a personal three start winning streak, as he has been cruising lately. In his last start, he threw six good innings in Milwaukee, giving up three hits and two runs while striking out seven. Hanson has a ridiculous K/BB ratio of 41/11 on the season, and has limited opponents to a .124 batting average in his last three starts. In his seven career starts against Washington, he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.12. 

Thursday May 12, 7:10 EST


Jordan Zimmermann

#27 / Pitcher / Washington Nationals

6-2

220

R

R

May 23, 1986



Brandon Beachy

#37 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-3

215

R

R

Sep 03, 1986


In the finale of the three-game series, the Nationals will send Jordan Zimmerman to the mound. Zimmerman enters with a record of 2-4 to go along with an ERA of 4.10 but with a FIP of 2.74. Zimmerman is coming off a good outing in Florida, where he pitched well but earned a no-decision after throwing six innings of five hit ball while only giving up two runs and striking out six. He has changed his approach on the mound from how he was pitching before he got hurt in 2009 and his injury shortened 2010. So far this year, he's throwing his slider more than he ever has, 22.8 % percent of the time compared to 16.4 % of the time in 2009, while also throwing his curve ball a little more than he was in 09 (13.4% to 10.7%). For his career, Zimmerman is 2-1 in three starts against Atlanta with an ERA of 2.65.

The Braves counter with Brandon Beachy, who has been everything the Braves expected and more in 2011. Beachy is coming off of a great start in Milwaukee where he threw six great innings, giving up four hits and only one run while striking out nine. Beachy has showed impeccable control in 2011, flashing a K/BB ratio of 45/11 which is just fantastic. For the season, he is 1-1 with an ERA of 2.98 and a FIP of 2.96 while carrying a K/9 of 9.57. Not too shabby for the fifth starter on the staff. He's only faced Washington once, and he earned a no decision last season as he pitched five innings and gave up only two runs. 

Offensive Outlook:

The Nationals, to put it simply, have struggled offensively so far in 2011. Some offensive struggles were to be expected with the loss of Ryan Zimmerman, but it's been tougher sledding than the Nationals could have imagined. Washington is next to last in the NL in batting average (.224), slugging percentage (.342), and wOBA (.289) while dead last in the NL in on-base average (.295).

While he is still somewhat splitting time with Pudge Rodriguez, catcher Wilson Ramos has been the best bat for the Nationals so far in 2011. Ramos is hitting .319/.377/.493 with a wOBA of .368. Other than that, most of the Nationals hitters have struggled mightily. New off-season acquisition Jayson Werth is hitting .227/.324/.387, Adam LaRoche is hitting .196/.300/.313, Ian Desmond .217/.250/.383 while Danny Espinosa is hitting .221/.321/.389. It'll be interesting to see if the Nationals hitters start turning things around in this series.

Bullpen:

Drew Storen-RH (CL)

Sean Burnett-LH

Tyler Clippard-RH

Doug Slaten-LH

Brian Broderick-RH

Henry Rodriguez-RH

Todd Coffey-RH and FAT

The Nationals bullpen has been solid in 2011 so far. Hard throwing Drew Storen has done well in the closers spot, earning seven saves while blowing none and sporting an ERA of 0.48. Sean Burnett has also picked up a couple of saves, and has pitched relatively well besides a blown save early on and a rough outing against the Mets. As a pen, the Nationals have an ERA of 3.02, good for fifth best in the NL to go with a FIP of 3.32. With  Burnett and Slaten, they have a pair of lefties to play matchups against the Braves left-handed bats. Tyler Clippard in his last appearance pitched two innings and struck out every batter he saw. Todd Coffey is still fat (somehow listed at a slim 241 pounds HA) yet still somewhat effective. While not flashy, the Nationals pen is solid.

Series Outlook:

The Braves come in on a May hot streak, and they've got a favorable pitching matchup in every game of the series. Lannan always gives the Braves fits though, so I would be happy with taking two of three from the Nationals and continuing the May magic.

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