Is there such a thing as too much rest? That could be the case for the Atlanta Braves, who return home after playing just three games over the past week. The Braves had two scheduled off days between stops in Boston and New York. However, storms in the New York area washed out Friday’s series opener and Sunday’s series finale. They will return to Truist Park where they will begin a seven-game homestand with a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.
The Braves come into Monday’s Memorial Day game with a 24-26 record and are 3.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East standings. They have lost two straight and have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games. Atlanta has gone 5-1 against the Nationals this season and will need to continue that dominance this week to stay afloat.
The injury bug bit the Braves again earlier this week when Marcell Ozuna fractured two fingers on an attempted slide in Boston. He was expected to miss six weeks with the injury, but an arrest on Saturday for domestic violence significantly clouds his future. Ozuna had struggled at the plate this season, but the Braves will still be hard-pressed to replace his presence in the lineup. For now, they will go with internal options, as Ehire Adrianza, Guillermo Heredia and Ender Inciarte will split time in the outfield alongside Ronald Acuña Jr.
The Nationals are coming to Atlanta with their own struggles. At 21-28, they are in last place in the NL East, 6.0 games behind the Mets. They have lost four straight, including a three-game sweep to the Brewers over the weekend, and are 4-6 over their last 10. They have the eighth-worst record in MLB and fourth-worst in the NL.
Trea Turner is turning in another All-Star-worthy performance for Washington and always kills the Braves: 120 career wRC+, 139 career wRC+ against the Braves, 159 wRC+ against them this year. Juan Soto hasn’t gotten rolling yet and the Nationals’ offense by and large has been inconsistent at best, ranking 16th in MLB in wRC+ (ninth in xwOBA) on the season.
The Braves will miss Max Scherzer as he pitched on Sunday. The rainouts also prevented Atlanta from needing a fifth starter on Tuesday or Wednesday. Here is what the matchups look like heading into Monday’s series opener.
Monday, May 31, 5:10 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Joe Ross (9 GS, 43.1 IP, 20.8 K%, 9.9 BB%, 5.19 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 4.61 xFIP)
Joe Ross will get the start in the opener for the Nationals. Ross allowed three hits and no runs but left after four innings in his last start against the Reds. He hasn’t lasted longer than four innings in any of his last three starts and has allowed a combined 12 runs during that span. He pitched well in a previous start against Atlanta on May 4 where he allowed five hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Charlie Morton (10 GS, 52.0 IP, 27.9 K%, 8.2 BB%, 3.98 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 3.23 xFIP)
One bit of good news for the Braves over the last couple of weeks is that Charlie Morton appears to be rounding into form after an up and down start to the season. Morton will be operating on an extra day of rest Monday. He allowed just three hits and an unearned run over seven innings in a win at Boston earlier this week. He struck out nine, walked two and was in complete control after escaping a couple of jams in the first two innings, giving him arguably his best outing of the past two seasons. Morton has now allowed five hits and two runs (one earned) over his last 13 innings. He has struck out 17 hitters during that span.
Tuesday, June 1, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Stephen Strasburg ( 4 GS, 20.1 IP, 22.7 K%, 13.6 BB%, 4.43 ERA, 5.63 FIP, 4.85 xFIP)
Stephen Strasburg will make his fifth start of the season on Tuesday. Strasburg endured a lengthy stint on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation. He pitched well in his return on May 21 allowing one hit, albeit with four walks, in 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Orioles. He allowed five hits, three runs and struck out five in his last start at home against Cincinnati. Strasburg faced the Braves back on April 7 and was dominant, allowing just one hit over six innings while striking out eight. In essence, Strasburg has alternated really good and really bad starts, and the Braves will hope to deal him consecutive poor outings for the first time this year.
Max Fried ( 7 GS, 35.0 IP, 21.8 K%, 9.0 BB%, 4.63 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 4.26 xFIP)
Max Fried was the pitcher that was impacted the most by the rainouts in New York. Fried last pitched at home on May 23. He was originally scheduled to start Saturday’s game but had that pushed back to Sunday after Friday’s rainout. After Sunday’s game was washed out, the Braves pushed Fried to Tuesday.
Fried has looked more like the 2020 version of himself since returning from the Injured List on May 5. Over a four start span, he has allowed 15 hits and four runs in 24 innings. He has pitched six innings or more in three of those four starts. Fried faced the Nationals in his first start back from the injured list and held them to four hits, one run and struck out six over five innings. Before that, he was knocked around by the same club in the start where he was injured running the bases. After this game (assuming it happens and Fried makes his start), Fried will have started eight games in 2021, and faced the Nationals in three of them.
Wednesday, June 2, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
The Nationals haven’t announced their plans for Wednesday’s start. One possibility is Austin Voth, who’s pitched purely in relief so far but done well in that role. Voth was hit really hard for most of 2020 after a pretty good debut season, and will probably throw a few innings in this game even if he’s not the starter, given his long relief role.
Drew Smyly ( 8 GS, 42.1 IP, 20.3 K%, 7.7 BB%, 5.95 ERA, 6.43 FIP, 4.83 xFIP)
Drew Smyly will make his ninth start of the season Wednesday and will be looking to bounce back after a rough outing. Smyly pitched well enough early on in his last start at Fenway but wilted late facing the Boston lineup for the third time. By the time the dust cleared, he had allowed five hits and seven runs in just 5 1/3 innings. Smyly has faced Washington twice this season. He allowed four runs, but just two earned, in six innings of his season debut back on April 6. He allowed four hits and an unearned run in six innings on May 6.
Thursday, June 3, 12:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Patrick Corbin ( 10 GS, 52.0 IP, 18.1 K%, 8.8 BB%, 6.23 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 4.30 xFIP)
Patrick Corbin will get the nod for the Nationals in Thursday’s series finale. It has been a struggle for the most part in 2021 for Corbin as he has failed to recapture the magic he had a few seasons back. Corbin allowed four hits and four runs in five innings last time out against the Brewers. He has allowed four runs in each of his last two starts and in 5 of his 10 starts overall this season. While Corbin seems quite broken at this point, his xFIP- is 107, and he’s been stung by a sky-high 24.4 percent HR/FB rate.
Ian Anderson (10 GS, 55.0 IP, 25.5 K%, 9.5 BB%, 3.27 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.32 xFIP)
Ian Anderson was tagged for seven hits and four runs over four innings in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Mets, but frankly it could have been much worse. Anderson escaped multiple jams in the early going and wasn’t sharp throughout; even with just the four runs yielded it was pretty much his worst start of the season. The poor outing snapped a stretch of three straight starts where he had lasted at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer.