After a productive homestand that saw them close the gap in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves will head out on the road for a nine-game, ten-day journey that will take them to Washington, Miami and Baltimore. Up first is a three-game series against the Nationals, who have lost four straight and nine of their last ten overall.
The Braves will head into Friday night’s series opener with a 59-56 record and in third place in the NL East standings. Atlanta trails the Mets by just a half game and the Phillies by a full game for the division lead.
The Braves faced the Nationals a week ago and took two of three. Washington then traveled to New York where they were swept by the Mets.
Washington hasn’t announced any of their pitching plans for this weekend but it appears that rookie right-hander Josiah Gray will get the start in Friday’s opener.
Josiah Gray is lined up and ready to start tomorrow's homestand opener against the Braves. But Davey Martinez says they want to see how they get out today's doubleheader before setting this weekend's rotation.— Bobby Blanco (@Bobby_Blanco) August 12, 2021
Friday, August 13, 7:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Charlie Morton (23 GS, 128.0 IP, 27.9 K%, 8.3 BB%, 3.52 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.48 xFIP, 82 FIP-)
Charlie Morton will get the call in Friday’s series opener and will be looking to continue what has been a solid season in his return to Atlanta. Morton faced the Nationals in his last start where he allowed three hits and struck out seven over six scoreless frames. He has faced Washington twice this season allowing nine hits and three runs in 11 innings. Morton’s curveball has been an effective weapon this season, with opponents hitting just .125 with a .236 xwOBA.
Josiah Gray (4 G, 3 GS, 18.0 IP, 32.1 K%, 11.5 BB%, 4.00 ERA, 6.23 FIP, 4.35 xFIP, 149 FIP-)
Again, the Nationals haven’t confirmed a starter for any of the games in this series, but Gray looks like the obvious choice for Friday. He was impressive in his last start against Atlanta, where he allowed four hits and one earned run over five innings. He struck out a career-best 10 and walked just two.
Saturday, August 14, 6:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Max Fried (19 GS, 103.2 IP, 24.1 K%, 7.7 BB%, 3.91 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 88 FIP-)
Max Fried will start Saturday and will also be seeing the Nationals for the second consecutive game. Fried allowed seven hits and a walk but yielded just one run over six innings. He has made four starts against Washington this season, producing a 5.94 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Fried’s fastball hasn’t been as effective this season with opponents hitting .325 while slugging .481 with a .356 xwOBA. In 2020, opponents hit just .198 with a .279 xwOBA against his four-seamer.
Patrick Corbin faced the Braves in his last start, and technically lines up for this one. He yielded five runs in six innings as the Braves beat Washington 5-4 behind Fried. Corbin’s had a nightmare season due to an awful first month and some struggles in July and August, but has been serviceable beyond his sky-high HR/FB rate, with a 105 xFIP-.
Sunday, August 15, 1:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Drew Smyly (20 GS, 102.0 IP, 21.0 K%, 8.4 BB%, 4.41 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 4.69 xFIP, 121 FIP-)
Drew Smyly will make his 21st start of the season in Sunday’s series finale. He allowed two hits and two runs over six innings in Tuesday’s win over the Reds. Smyly has faced the Nationals three times this season and has allowed 15 hits and five earned runs in 16 1/3 innings. Smyly has upped his curveball usage to 40.7% this season for good reason, with opponents hitting .222 with a .268 xwOBA against the pitch.
This could be a bullpen game for Washington, or they could give the ball to Paolo Espino (who started five days before this game) and see how far they get. Espino’s been a reasonably effective swingman this season, but like Corbin, has been shelled early in the year as well as over the last six weeks or so.