Atlanta Look To Make Up Ground On Surging Washington: Braves At Nationals Series Preview

After a rough series with the Dodgers that saw Atlanta drop 2 of 3 games, the Braves head north for a crucial 3 game series with the division leading Washington Nationals. The Braves will have to hope that their bats wake up, and soon, as the Nationals will continue to throw excellent pitching at Atlanta.

As most Braves' fans who have been watching the standings know, the Nats haven't missed a beat since last playing the Braves. Since the two clubs split a 4 game series in Washington during the 3rd week of July, the Nationals have gone 20-7, losing only 1 series during that timespan (to the Phillies, oddly enough)

Ryan Zimmerman continues to lead the Nationals with his torrid hitting, posting a .327/.400/.513 line over the past month. Zimmerman leads the Nats in WAR (1.4), wOBA (.386), and wRC+ (145) over that time frame, and shutting down his bat will be top priority for Braves pitching this week. Michael Morse continues to be a slugging force in the middle of the Nats' order, cleaning up behind Zimmerman. Morse has hit .295 over the past month while slugging .545 including 7 home runs. He will be every bit as much of a challenge for the Braves' staff as Zimmerman will.

As for other players, Ian Desmond made his return from the disabled list this weekend, and will almost certainly see significant playing time versus Atlanta. Danny Espinosa, who stood in at short (and did, by all accounts, a great job) for Desmond, will slide back to second base. The Braves will also see Jayson Werth for the first time since his return from the disabled list. Werth has been plugged in as the Nats' leadoff hitter the past few games, having posted a .476 OBP in 63 PAs since his return.

In fact, Bryce Harper is pretty much the only Nats' hitter who has had a rough month of August, though he has showed signs of life with a couple homers over his last few games. Bottom line is that there are few easy outs in the Nats' lineup. Couple that with a pitching staff the Braves already know to be great, and Atlanta will have to play excellent baseball in order to win a pivotal series.

A look at the pitching matchups for the series after the jump

Monday, August 20, 7:05 PM EST


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Tim Hudson 12-4 3.59 1.19 79 35


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Jordan Zimmermann 9-7 2.38 1.09 114 27

Tuesday, August 21, 7:05 PM EST


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Paul Maholm 2-1 1.57 0.83 20 5


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Stephen Strasburg 14-5 2.91 1.13 173 42

Wednesday, August 22, 7:05 PM EST


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Kris Medlen 4-1 2.02 1.02 58 17


W-L ERA WHIP K BB
2012 - Ross Detwiler 7-5 3.25 1.16 75 34


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