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Series Preview: Braves vs. Nationals

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Is that what winning looks like? It's been so long that I forgot.

Mitchell Layton

The road trip from Hell is finally over. Honestly, imagine something so grotesquely foul and loathsome, and then add Kim Kardashian. That is what the Braves' recent road trip felt like, but like Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." Let's hope a return to Turner Field cures what has been ailing the Braves these last eight games.

Greeting the Braves will be the Washington Nationals, whom the Braves have had the pleasure of beating up on this year in winning seven of the 10 games between them. The Braves swept the Nats in their last matchup in Atlanta way back in April, and are looking for similar...hell, let's be honest: they want the EXACT same results this weekend. Atlanta has 28 wins against division opponents, more than any of the other four teams, so there's a glimmer of hope yet.

While Atlanta was losing eight straight, Washington padded four games to their division lead. That certainly seems like a lot, but the Nats weren't exactly world-beaters themselves, going 5-5 since Atlanta's losing streak began July 29. It could be worse.

Washington's offense is hitting .272 so far in August. The biggest contributors in that stretch have been Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, and Adam LaRoche. Span has an 11-game hitting streak with five multi-hit games including a four-hit game Thursday; LaRoche is hitting .385 in August with four multi-hit games; Rendon, despite taking an 0-6 Thursday that snapped a six-game hitting streak, has a .290 average this month.

Amongst these has been the plight of Bryce Harper who since June 30, the day he came off the DL after missing two months, has not been the run-producer he's expected to be, hitting just .224 (24-107). Despite his struggles, Matt Williams was adamant that Harper would not be sent to the minors. Harper would reward his manager with a walk-off homer Thursday, his most significant contribution on offense since a three-hit game July 18. He has all of seven RBI since returning from the DL.

Atlanta's offense will draw Strasburg, Roark and Gonzalez for the series. The Braves usually do well against Strasburg, especially in Atlanta (15 ER in 23.1 IP). Roark has given the Braves fits when he pitches, and Gonzalez hasn't beaten the Braves since 2012. I'm cautiously optimistic about this series, but considering the Braves made a guy like Eric Stults, Eric friggin' Stults, look like the best darn pitcher on the planet, I'm not holding my breath.

PITCHING PROBABLES

Friday, August 8, 7:35 p.m. ET

Ervin Santana (ATL)
Last 3 starts: 22 IP, 17 hits, 3 ER, 7 BB, 27 K
2014 vs. Nationals: 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Last 3 starts: 19.1 IP, 16 hits, 5 ER, 6 BB, 19 K
2014 vs. Braves: 10.1 IP, 17 hits, 7 ER, 3 BB, 14 K

Saturday, August 9, 7:10 p.m. ET

Aaron Harang (ATL)
Last 3 starts: 19 IP, 21 hits, 8 ER, 7 BB, 11 K
2014 vs. Nationals: 6 IP, 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Tanner Roark (WAS)
Last 3 starts: 20.1 IP, 13 hits, 7 ER, 4 BB, 16 K
2014 vs. Braves: 10 IP, 10 hits, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 K

Sunday, August 10, 8:00 p.m. ET

Alex Wood (ATL)
Last 3 starts: 18 IP, 23 hits, 6 ER, 7 BB, 17 K
2014 vs. Nationals: 12 IP, 10 hits, 3 ER, 3 BB, 12 K

Gio Gonzalez (WAS)
Last 3 starts: 16.2 IP, 18 hits, 10 ER, 5 BB, 16 K
2014 vs. Braves: 6 IP, 9 hits, 6 ER, 4 BB, 6 K