After what seems like an eternity, it is finally time for Atlanta Braves baseball yet again. It's not often teams get a nice three day break during August but the Braves got that after Hurricane Irene canceled Saturday's and Sunday's games against the New York Mets and had a scheduled off day on Monday.
The Braves head back to the friendly confines of Turner Field to take on the Washington Nationals in a three-game series. Washington got swept in a three-game series over the weekend at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds and has lost its last six games.
On the season, the Nationals are 62-70, 23 games back of the division leading Philadelphia Phillies.
Taking a look at the Nationals offense as a team, they are near the bottom of the league in most offensive statistics. 14th in the National League in batting average (.242), tied for 14th in on-base average (.310), 11th in slugging percentage (.380), tied for 12th in wOBA (.305), and 14th in wRC+ (89).
Individually, the Nationals are being led by Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. Zimmerman missed a large amount of time due to injury, but has returned and played well, sporting a triple slash line of .298/.361/.480 in 74 games played. Morse leads the team in wRC+ at 148 and home runs with 22 to go along with a triple slash line of .314/.372/.545.
Ian Desmond continues to hit leadoff despite a line of .240/.289/.336, which is just astounding. Danny Espinosa has hit 18 home runs but is only hitting .230/.315/.408 on the season. Jayson Werth is hitting .231/.330/.389 on the year while Wilson Ramos has put up a line of .248/.313/.416.
Laynce Nix has provided good power with a line of .255/.301/.460 while our old friend Rick Ankiel is chugging along at .240/.300/.357. After being acquired at the deadline from Cincinatti, Jonny Gomes has hit .212/.297/.409 in 74 PA's for Washington.
Pitching matchups and a look at the Nats bullpen after the jump.
Tuesday August 30th, 7:10 PM EDT
In game one of the series, Jair Jurrjens (13-5, 2.71 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 4.15 xFIP) goes up against Livan Hernandez. On the year, Hernandez is 7-12 with a 4.36 ERA, 3.88 FIP, and 4.18 xFIP. He throws two fastballs, a four-seam and two-seam, along with a slider, curve, and change. His primary pitch is his two-seamer, which he fires to the plate at an average velocity of 83.5 miles per hour. Hernandez has used his slider eight percent more in 2011, up to 23.3% this year from 15.3% last season. In his last start, he gave up seven hits and four runs while striking out five and walking one in 7.1 innings. Over his last eight starts, he has alternated between throwing four innings or less and six innings or more. If it happens to continue Tuesday, he'll throw four innings or less.
Wednesday August 31st, 7:10 PM EDT
Game two of the series features Derek Lowe (8-12, 4.63 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 3.63 FIP) against John Lannan. In 2011, Lannan is 8-10 with a 3.59 ERA, 4.37 FIP, and 4.25 xFIP. He is of course a soft tossing left-hander, so Atlanta will have its hands full with Lannan. He throws two fastballs to go with a change-up, curve, and slider. He relies heavily on his two-seam fastball which has an average velocity of just under 90 miles per hour. His change-up is the main off-speed selection. In his last start, Lannan gave up seven hits and two runs while striking out two and walking two in six innings against Arizona. In his last outing against Atlanta, he gave up nine hits and three hits while striking out eight and walking one in 6.2 innings.
Thursday September 1st, 7:10 PM EDT
The first day of September gives us the pitching match-up of Tim Hudson (13-8, 3.10 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.51 xFIP) against Chien-Ming Wang. On the season, Wang is 2-2 with a 3.82 ERA, 4.65 FIP, and a 4.81 xFIP in six starts. While he has four pitches, he primarily throws his sinker and slider. In his last start, Wang lasted six innings, giving up six hits and two runs while walking four and striking out two. He has pitched to contact in his six starts this season, with a K/9 of 2.45 and a BB/9 of 2.73.
Drew Storen -RH (CL)
Tyler Clippard -RH
Sean Burnett -LH
Todd Coffey -RH
Henry Rodriguez - RH
Collin Balester -RH
Tom Gorzelanny -LH
The Nationals pen is fourth in the National League in ERA (3.28), tenth in FIP (3.86) and 14th in xFIP (4.02).
Clippard and Storen have pitched well in the eighth and ninth innings respectively. Clippard sports a K/9 over 10 with a BB/9 under three while Storen has converted 34 saves.
Burnett has made 59 appearances but hasn't been particularly good at all as he has faced more right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters even though he has a clear platoon split.