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Drew Smyly looks to right the ship as Braves eye sweep of Nationals

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Drew Smyly is in desperate need of a good start, and if he gets it then today may be both getaway day and broom day for the Braves.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days after they got swept in Dunedin, the Braves are looking to do some sweeping of their own in D.C. as they take on the Nationals for the final game of this six-game road trip.

As far as the pitching is concerned, all eyes are squarely on Drew Smyly as he’ll be taking the mound as today’s starter for the Braves. Simply put, he absolutely has to get going because he’s gone from being unlucky in his first start of the season to being just plain dreadful in his most recent start. He’s already given up seven more home runs (9 home runs allowed so far) over four starts this season than he did over seven starts (2 home runs allowed) in 2020, so obviously the key is to find a way to keep the Nationals inside of the ballpark.

It’s not like Smyly’s velocity has fallen off of a cliff — he’s only down one mile-per-hour on both his fastball and curveball, while his cutter has stayed in the same neighborhood of velocity where it was in 2020. Still, that’s not enough of a drop that would have people sounding the alarms and declaring that the Braves may have missed the boat when it came to one of their offseason acquisitions. At this point, Smyly’s got to do a better job of placing his pitches and it seems like he’s confident enough in himself to utilize his veteran expertise in order to figure it out. He’s going to continue getting chances to work things out, but the Braves are surely hoping that he can get back on track much sooner rather than later.

The good news is that Drew Smyly did a decent enough job against the Nationals during his first start of the season, so he has a good example to fall back on against this same team. Back on April 6, Smyly only had two earned runs to his credit while striking out eight, walking just one batter and only surrendering one home run. He gave up four runs in total — an error from Ozzie Albies turned into two runs, and then Trea Turner hit a home run for the other two runs because what’s a Braves-Nationals game without Trea Turner doing some damage? Either way, Smyly could sure use even just a decent start like that. April was a long month for the veteran hurler and there’s no better time to start turning things around than now.

Meanwhile on the other side of things, Jon Lester will be making the start for the Nationals. He finally made his first appearance of the 2021 season last week and he’s got a good foundation to build upon — he pitched five scoreless innings while giving up five hits and two walks with just one strikeout. That’s not spectacular but you can bet that the Nationals would take another five scoreless innings if he can find a way to deliver again.

The last time Jon Lester faced the Braves, it actually went pretty well for Lester and his former team. He tossed six good innings where he struck out seven Braves while only giving up two unearned runs. While he may no longer be the highly-effective hurler that he was in his prime, he’s still got enough left to where he can keep his team in a game and frustrate the opposition by simply working his way through a handful of innings.

If Drew Smyly can finally get things going in his favor and Jon Lester proves that his most recent start against Miami wasn’t a one-off, then we could be in for a cagey veterans’ pitching duel. Still, I think we all know that this game has the potential to break out into a slugfest if Smyly continues to struggle and the dam breaks for Lester. The volatility of this pitching matchup should keep things interesting, which is enough reason for you to be glued to your laptop, phone, or whatever platform that you’ll be using to run YouTube for today’s game.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Thursday, May 6th, 4:05 PM EST

Location: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

TV: None!

Streaming: YouTube (Yes, seriously. That’s the link to the game.)

Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, @NNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network