It's been over a month, but Martin Prado is back.
For the first time since June 7, Prado will be in the starting lineup and will be playing third base with Chipper Jones on the DL. The Alex Gonzalez experiment batting second clearly hasn't worked, so that is where Prado will likely be batting in the lineup.
Now that the All-Star Break is over and everyone is well rested, the Braves embark on a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and they start at home against the Nationals, now led by managerial veteran Davey Johnson who took over after Jim Riggleman's sudden resignation. The team is 6-8 since Johnson took over.
The Nationals currently sit at 46-46 and in fourth place, 11.5 games out of first. They won eight in a row back in June, but have since gone 11-10 and have suffered some key injuries. They are without Adam LaRoche for the rest of the year and are also without catcher Ivan Rodriguez and reliever Doug Slaten for this series. Jerry Hairston, Jr. has been out since June 30 with a fractured wrist.
Pitching matchups and more after the jump.
Friday, July 15, 7:35 p.m. EDT
#61 / Pitcher / Washington Nationals
Feb 20, 1975
|2011 - Livan Hernandez||5-8||20||19||1||1||0||0||121.1||133||59||54||10||33||77||4.01||1.37|
#15 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jul 14, 1975
|2011 - Tim Hudson||8-6||18||18||1||1||0||0||113.1||100||52||45||8||30||79||3.57||1.15|
Saturday, July 16, 7:10 p.m. EDT
#31 / Pitcher / Washington Nationals
Sep 27, 1984
|2011 - John Lannan||5-6||19||19||0||0||0||0||108.2||109||46||44||8||37||58||3.64||1.34|
#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Jan 29, 1986
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||12-3||16||16||2||1||0||0||110.2||93||25||23||5||25||65||1.87||1.07|
Sunday, July 17, 1:35 p.m. EDT
#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves
Aug 28, 1986
|2011 - Tommy Hanson||10-4||17||17||0||0||0||0||103.1||70||31||28||9||35||109||2.44||1.02|
As of this post, the Nationals haven't announced their starter for Sunday against Hanson but it may be either Jason Marquis or Jordan Zimmermann. All three Braves starters have good numbers against the Nationals, but as Braves fans know, they usually play the Braves tough regardless of their record. Hudson has dominated the Nationals in his career, posting 11 wins and an even 2.00 ERA. The bats in the lineup that have hurt Hudson the most have been Laynce Nix (7 for 16, 1 HR) and Jayson Werth (8 for 25, 2 HR). Ivan Rodriguez has also hit Hudson well, but he is out with a strained oblique.
Since their eight-game winning streak, the Nationals have hit .231 as a team and are hitting .255 in July with seven home runs. Ryan Zimmerman has a modest six-game hitting streak during which he's hitting .391 (9 for 23). Michael Morse has taken over first base in LaRoche's absence and is leading the team in batting average (.306), OBP (.351), and slugging (.535). Rookie Danny Espinosa leads the team in home runs (16) and RBI (52) despite hitting only .242. Jayson Werth so far this year has not hit like everyone has expected him to: he is only 5 for 35 (.143) in his last 10 with zero extra-base hits and is hitting only .215 overall; however, he's 7 for 24 with two doubles and two HR this year against the Braves. The team batting average is next-to-last in the NL at .235, only slightly worse than that of the Braves (.237).
Drew Storen's 23 saves has anchored a bullpen with the NL's third-best ERA at 3.09. However, their FIP is rather high at 3.80 and are tied for the fourth-highest walk rate in the NL (3.95 BB/9). Regardless, their bullpen has been a strength this year as the starters have posted a 3.75 ERA, sixth in the NL.
Now that Prado is back in the lineup and with Dan Uggla finishing the first half on a hot streak, the offense looks ready to take off. If the pitching staff can contain the heavy hitters, this series can be a good one for the Braves.