An eight run outburst in the third inning was all the (51-44) Washington Nationals needed to take the pivotal first game of their series with the NL East-leading (58-40) Atlanta Braves.
Headed into Game 2 today (7:20 PM ET Friday), the Nationals will send the birthday boy, Patrick Corbin, to the mound, in hopes of getting even closer to the top of the division.
Entering Game 1 of this crucial divisional series, the Atlanta Braves held a 6.5 game lead in the NL East. Both the Philadelphia Phillies and Nationals had challenged for that top spot at times during the first half of the season but the Braves have held the lead since May and don’t seem likely to relinquish it anytime soon, especially given how this series shakes out.
Knowing they need to win or possibly even sweep the series to stay within striking distance of the Braves, the Nationals had one of their aces on the mound Thursday night as Stephen Strasburg received the call. Formerly considered to be one of the top pitchers in baseball, injuries derailed Strasburg from reaching his maximum potential in recent years. Strasburg is still a great pitcher and he showed that on Thursday night.
Strasburg went five-plus strong innings, striking out seven and allowing just three earned runs. He helped his own cause in the team’s eight-run third inning. Strasburg kicked off the inning with a single and then scored a run before getting a second at bat, and crushing the ball to the tune of a 400+ foot home run. That wasn’t all. Strasburg’s batting line on the night reads 3-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and five, count them, five RBI. The last time a pitcher had five RBI was 2014. The last time a pitcher had a home run and base hit in the same inning, 2010. The last time a pitcher went 3-for-3 with those stats, you’d have to go back much further, well before what is now considered to be the live ball era. The Nationals bullpen pitched strong as well, allowing just one run. In all, Washington totaled 16 hits and 13 runs to win the game in a blowout, 13-4 score.
Just like that, the lead in the NL East is down to 5.5, which is the closest the Nationals have been to the top in some time. A series sweep would lessen that lead to just 3.5, giving the Braves their first real divisional challenge since they were competing with the Phillies for the NL East lead prior to the All Star Break. But before the Nationals can even think about a sweep, they will have to focus on today’s Game 2. They’ll send Corbin, who has definitely pitched well in his first season with Washington. This will mark his first time facing the Braves since September 2018, when, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Corbin threw six innings, giving up just one run and striking out nine men. He’ll be opposed by righty Julio Teheran, who has been pitching much better since coming off a pretty miserable month of June. This marks his first start of the year against the Nationals, a team that historically has had decent success when facing him.
Pitching Matchup: (WAS) Patrick Corbin vs (ATL) Julio Teheran
Expected to start against Strasburg on Thursday night, Teheran was a late scratch. The expectation is he will still pitch Friday as Atlanta just wanted to give him an extra day of rest. Teheran has pitched much better this year in that situation. In his career, the 28-year-old Teheran has an ERA of 3.65, 1,119 strikeouts and a win-loss record of 72-68. This year, Teheran’s stats aren’t far off the mark as he is posting a 3.71 ERA and 5-6 record in 20 starts.
The career Brave, Teheran’s stats this year are much better when he is at home, as is the case tonight. Teheran has thrown eight games in Atlanta in 2019 and his ERA is just 2.66 in those starts. Also, as noted above, Teheran is in the midst of a strong month of July as he is posting a 1.50 ERA, giving up just three earned runs in 12 innings pitched. It is certainly an improvement from June where he posted a 5.08 ERA in six starts.
Celebrating his 29th birthday, Corbin will take the mound looking for his eighth win of the season and his first decision since June 26th. Corbin has pitched well in the month of July, leading the Nationals to victories in each of his last three starts (the team has also won his last five starts total). However, he has not managed to pick up a victory despite giving up just four runs in 20 innings pitched in the month. On the year, Corbin’s 3.39 ERA ranks top 10 in the National League. He also ranks top 10 in innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games.
Against Atlanta’s hitters, Corbin has had his struggles however. Dating back over the last five years, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo are all hitting over .330 against Corbin, in recording eight at bats or more. In just five at bats, Josh Donaldson has hit Corbin just about every time, posting an .800 batting average. Teheran has equal issues with some of Washington’s hitters including Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, both of whom are hitting over .280 in a sample size of 35+ at bats. Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner are hitting over .375 in at least 15 at bats as well.
Our Betting Preview’s Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Game 2 Picks & Predictions Verdict
Washington recorded a big victory on Thursday night but they will certainly want to keep their foot on the gas pedal to keep the NL East within striking distance. Corbin is a great person to have on the mound in this situation, especially given the Nationals have won each of his last five starts.
Offensively, Atlanta’s hitters don’t normally stay dormant for long. Look for Corbin to pitch well but look for the Braves bats to get back to doing what they do best, putting up crooked numbers of their own.
Having perused the betting lines available with all the recommended American sports betting sites, these are our Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves predictions for this Game 2 preview: