This afternoon begins a four game series of two teams that appear to be going in opposite directions, as the Braves and Nationals are set to slug it out in the nation’s capital. Half of the games in this series will be played today, with the day game making up the July 21 rainout.
Before the season, this upcoming Braves-Nationals series looked like it might be just another pebble in the road for the Nats as they stormed their way to a division title. Instead, they will desperately need a strong performance to keep from falling out of contention in the National League East.
For the Braves, this series is just another opportunity for its youthful roster to not only prove that it was worthy of its early season praise, but that this is a playoff team who belongs in the conversation among the game’s best. After taking 6 out of their last 7, the Braves will use any opportunity to attain league-wide respect and charge a bit closer to the Phillies’ division lead. After the Diamondbacks walked off against Philly last night in the 14th inning, the Braves are only one game back in the NL East, and could potentially find themselves back in first by the end of the day if everything falls right.
The Braves will send two electric lefties to the hill, with Max Fried starting Game 1. This will be Fried’s 5th start of the season; with the exception of his blister-plagued start against the Brewers on July 5, he has been excellent in the starting role. Over his first four starts, he has gone 1-2 with a 2.75 ERA / 2.91 FIP, while also posting an impressive 11.44 K/9. He has not allowed a home run in a start all year.
He has also issued a troubling 13 walks over 19⅔ innings as a starter, which is a trend he will need to minimize against a Nationals offense that can still make opposing pitchers pay for untimely mistakes. A positive outing would further increase Fried’s chances to stay in the big league rotation through the rest of the season.
The Nationals will counter with their 11th ranked prospect Jefry Rodriguez, who makes his the fourth start of his career and second against the Braves. During his debut on June 3, he spun 4⅔ scoreless innings against Atlanta, but has largely been roughed up since. He comes into this game at 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA / 6.20 FIP.
Meanwhile, Sean Newcomb will face Max Scherzer in Game 2. This will be Newcomb’s first start since his near no-hitter against the Dodgers nine days ago. After throwing 134 pitches over 8⅔ hitless innings on that fateful afternoon, Newcomb has surely welcomed the extra recovery time provided by the Braves’ six-man rotation, as well as last week’s inclement weather.
Even with a solid 7-3 record in their last 10 games, Washington has underachieved all season and were still under .500 a week ago. This is the perplexing thing about this group of Nationals - on paper, they are a ridiculously talented and deep team, but they still have not been able to string together enough wins to appear relevant. With that said, their level of talent can only stay dormant for so long, and if they’re going to get well, I hope they don’t decide to do it until this series is over.
Game Date/Time: Tuesday, August 7, 1:05 p.m. ET (Game 1) / 7:05 pm ET (Game 2)
Location: Nationals Park, Washington, DC
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network