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Three things to watch in the Braves’ upcoming series against the Nationals

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Max Fried will get the start in the series opener Tuesday

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Atlanta Braves will begin a nine-game homestand Tuesday when they open up a three-game series with the Washington Nationals. The Braves just completed a 2-5 road trip and are entering a crucial stretch as they try to hold onto the division lead. Atlanta is 72-64 on the season and leads the NL East by 1.5 games over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Braves infield nearing milestone

While on the road trip, the Braves joined the 2008 Marlins as the only team to have all of its starting infielders hit 25 home runs in the same season. Atlanta’s infield has a good shot to all reach 30 home runs. Austin Riley currently leads the team with 29 homers. Freddie Freeman is close behind with 28 while Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies are both sitting on 26.

Time to take care of business at home

Atlanta’s surge to the top of the division largely was a result of a 9-0 road trip. The Braves have yet to put together a lengthy winning streak at home and are just 33-32 at Truist Park this season. The schedule after this homestand is fairly tough, with a West Coast trip that goes through San Diego and San Francisco, and then facing the Phillies and Mets in the season’s final days, so this is the last chance for the Braves to make hay against teams they should beat.

Crowded outfield a good problem to have

  • Jorge Soler: 140 PA, .275/.367/.533, 9 HR, 138 wRC+
  • Adam Duvall: 131 PA, .220/.298/.508, 9 HR, 109 wRC+
  • Joc Pederson: 150 PA, .237/.327/.405, 5 HR, 98 wRC+
  • Eddie Rosario: 24 PA, .286/.333/.571, 1 HR, 129 wRC+

That is the production that Atlanta’s new-look outfield has put together since joining the club at the trade deadline. After spending most of the season searching for ways to fill holes in the outfield, the Braves have four solid options for just three spots.

Adam Duvall made a few starts in center field on the road trip largely at the expense of Joc Pederson, who made just one start in the series in Colorado. Pederson has struggled of late, totaling just two hits over his last 12 games but has a BABIP of .059 over that stretch.

In recent days Brian Snitker has talked about the need to keep everyone active, so it will be interesting to see how the outfield shapes up during the upcoming homestand.

Tuesday, September 7, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Paolo Espino (30 G, 14 GS, 86.0 IP, 19.7 K%, 4.5 BB%, 4.08 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 4.50 xFIP, 103 FIP-)

Paolo Espino will get the start in Tuesday’s series opener for Washington. Espino will be making his 15th start of the season and his 31st appearance overall. He allowed four hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the Phillies. He faced Atlanta back on August 15 and allowed eight hits and five runs in just four innings.

Max Fried (23 GS, 130.2 IP, 24.3 K%, 6.5 BB%, 3.51 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, 84 FIP-)

Max Fried will get the call for the Braves in Tuesday’s opener. Fried was lights out through five starts in August posting a 1.36 ERA over five starts. He allowed three hits and two runs in six innings in his last outing against the Dodgers. Fried faced the Nationals twice in August and allowed 12 hits and two runs in 12 innings combined.

Wednesday, September 8, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Sean Nolin (4 GS, 17.1 IP, 20.3 K%, 5.1 BB%, 5.71 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 4.13 xFIP, 121 FIP-)

Left-hander Sean Nolin will get the call for Washington Wednesday and will be making just his fifth start of the season. He has struggled since making his season debut, allowing 25 hits and 11 runs over 17 1/3 innings. He allowed five hits and two runs over five innings in his last start against the Mets. His xFIP is actually pretty good, so don’t be completely fooled by the surface stats here — Nolin’s command has been suspect because his misses inside the zone a ton, but his secondary pitches (cutter, changeup, curveball) all look decent.

TBD

The Braves haven’t announced a starter for Tuesday yet and this omission is notable given that this would be Touki Toussaint’s spot in the rotation. Toussaint struggled in his last start against the Rockies, allowing six hits and four earned runs in just three innings. Drew Smyly was skipped in the last turn through the rotation but Brian Snitker said last week that there was a chance that Smyly would make a start during the upcoming homestand. So this will most likely be Toussaint or Smyly and we will likely learn more Tuesday.

Thursday, September 9, 7:20 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)

Erick Fedde (23 GS, 111.0 IP, 21.2 K%, 8.9 BB%, 5.27 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 4.14 xFIP, 103 FIP-)

Right-hander Erick Fedde is scheduled to close out the series for the Nationals Thursday and will be looking to bounce back after a rough outing in his last start. Fedde allowed nine hits and seven runs, although only four were earned, in just three innings in his last outing against the Mets. He hasn’t had much luck against the Braves who have battered him for 19 hits and 14 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. Fedde’s 98 xFIP- is incredibly surprising given his pitch mix, which is pretty underwhelming but for a rarely-used changeup.

Huascar Ynoa (13 G, 12 GS, 67.2 IP, 26.4 K%, 6.3 BB%, 3.19 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, 93 FIP-)

Huascar Ynoa is scheduled to close things out for the Braves Thursday. He has made four starts since returning from the Injured List, posting a 3.52 ERA and a 4.08 FIP in 23 innings. He allowed five hits and four runs in his last start against the Rockies. He has faced the Nationals twice this season and was sharp, allowing six hits and one unearned run in 12 innings.