The Braves are riding high with sweeps of Chicago and Miami, but they now head to our nation's capital and put their six-game winning streak on the line against the reigning NL East champion Nationals. Something will certainly give in this three-game series in D.C. where the Nats just completed a three-game sweep of their own over the White Sox, keeping their home record spotless.
The Nationals led all of MLB with 98 wins and topped the NL with a 3.33 ERA in 2012, and boast two new additions in pitcher Dan Haren and outfielder Denard Span. Haren is coming off a 12-13 year with Anaheim in 2012 that saw him log his fewest innings since 2004. The Braves will not see Haren in this series, but will see new center fielder Denard Span. Atlanta had coveted Span following the free agency of Michael Bourn, but Washington was willing to depart with pitching prospect Alex Meyer and send him to Minnesota in exchange for Span. So far in 2013, Span has 10 hits in nine games with nine walks while only striking out three times. Span also gives Washington a more athletic outfield now that Michael Morse has since been traded.
Washington will prove to be Atlanta's stiffest test to date in the young 2013 season, throwing two lefties at the Braves in Detwiler and Gonzalez. Considering Atlanta's common misfortunes against lefty starters, this series could be quite tough. The Braves, though, have handled Saturday's starter Stephen Strasburg quite well, but more often in Atlanta than in Washington. This series could possibly help Jason Heyward out of his early season funk: he's hit all three scheduled Washington starters in this series very well, especially Strasburg against whom he is 7-for-12.
Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper leads the team with 15 hits and eight RBI, but now the Nats have catcher Wilson Ramos back. Ramos tore his right ACL in May last year, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. He already has six hits in five games, two of them home runs, in 2013. Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond are two other pesky hitters in the Nationals lineup that are hitting well early in the season, hitting .297 and .294 respectively. Ryan Zimmerman lags behind at .241, but boasts a .361 OBP.
Washington's new face in the bullpen is former Brave Rafael Soriano. His signing meant a hiatus in the closing duties for Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen: Clippard struggled as closer at times in 2012 and Storen didn't pitch until after the All-Star Break. Still, the team looks to them to provide a solid bridge to the ninth inning. What's absent from the Nats bullpen is a reliable lefty reliever. Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny filled those roles last year, but both are gone now and the sole southpaw, Zach Duke, was hit hard in his only appearance thus far.
Friday, April 12, 7:05 p.m. ET
Teheran looks to improve on his season debut last Saturday against the Cubs when he gave up five runs in five innings. This will be his first appearance against the Nationals.
Detwiler allowed only a single unearned run in six innings in his first start of the year against Cincinnati, receiving a no-decision. He is 2-1 in 11 games (8 starts) against Atlanta with a 3.33 ERA.
Saturday, April 13, 1:05 p.m. ET
After having dominated the Natspos, Hudson was 0-2 in three starts, giving up 16 earned runs in 18.2 innings in 2012. He owns 14 wins against them overall in 26 starts.
As stated above, the Braves have given Strasburg trouble but more so in Atlanta. At Turner Field, 10 ER in 14.1 innings. Against the Braves in D.C., 7 ER in 22.1 innings. He has three career wins against the Braves, all of them coming last year.
Sunday, April 14, 1:35 p.m. ET
Maholm has started just about as good as any pitcher can this year. He carries a scoreless inning streak of 12.2 innings into a ballpark that has not been kind to him, He's been given three losses in four starts at Nationals Park.
Gonzalez was 2-2 against Atlanta in four starts last year. In 2013, he's allowed only one run in 11 innings over two starts with 12 strikeouts.