The NL East-leading (37-33) Washington Nationals enter into a pivotal series against the third place (35-35) Atlanta Braves today (game one is 7pm ET, Tuesday). Only two games separate the Nationals from the Braves and with the All Star break fast approaching, both teams will look to end the month of June with the divisional lead.
The series opens with Alex Wood (pictured) on the mound in game one for the Braves and a still to be announced starter for the Nationals. According to Washington’s website, the expected starter is Stephen Strasburg who would be looking to make his first start since being placed on the DL back in late May.
It has been an up and down year for Strasburg, who has managed to pitch just 45.1 innings this year. Strasburg has been less than perfect in that small sample size, including giving up 64 hits and 38 earned runs. His ERA and WHIP are both at career highs and his WAR is in the negatives for the first time in his six years in the bigs.
If Strasburg isn’t ready, Tanner Roark is the guy likely to be on the mound. Mainly used out of the bullpen, Roark has been spot starting for Strasburg during his DL stint. The 28-year-old righty has started just five games this year and with mixed results. His last start though, was his best, as he lasted seven innings and gave up just one earned run. He walked one and struck out four as well.
For the Braves, Wood is also coming into a bit of a groove as he has yielded just one earned run in four of his last six starts. These numbers have helped to improve Wood’s shaky early ERA to a solid 3.40. He has 60 strikeouts in 79.1 innings pitched.
A handful of Washington batters have experience against Wood with the Braves pitcher emerging with the edge. Of the three batters with over 10 at-bats against Wood, only one, Anthony Rendon, is hitting over .240. The Nationals lineup as a whole has just three home runs and four RBI against Wood as well.
Game Two, June 24th, 7:05 PM – (ATL) Shelby Miller vs (WAS) Jordan Zimmermann
Game two pits Shelby Miller against Jordan Zimmermann. The 24-year-old Miller is having a career year, posting a 5-3 record with a 1.99 ERA, 1:05 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 90.1 innings pitched. Over his career, Miller has absolutely destroyed the Nationals, owning them to the tune of a 0.73 ERA in four starts against Washington. This will be the first time he is facing the team this year.
Zimmermann meanwhile, has faced the Braves already twice this year with varying results. He has given up 16 hits and six earned runs over 13 innings. He has struck out nine and walked four in those outings as well. Only Freddie Freeman, with 19 at-bats, has an average over .250 against Zimmermann.
Game Three, June 25th, 4:05 PM – (ATL) Matt Wisler vs (WAS) Doug Fister
The final match of the series is between rookie Matt Wisler and 31-year-old veteran Doug Fister.
Fister is having a so-so year, with a 4.80 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. His numbers are just barely better at home, a 4.74 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched. His last start, in which he gave up five runs in 5.1 innings pitched was his worst of the season. He’ll be looking to rebound against the Braves, a team he has allowed seven earned runs in just 12.3 innings in his career.
Wisler meanwhile, is coming off his first ever major league start. He needed just 88 pitches to go eight strong innings against the New York Mets. He is regarded for his fastball and slider, two plus pitches that worked well in his debut.
Offensive Tale of the Tape
The Nationals are a pretty average team this year, settling in at the middle of the pack with the league’s 10th best batting average (.258), 9th best slugging percentage (.410) and 9th best on base percentage (.323). Washington does have the fifth highest run total (311) however, in large part because of MVP-favorite, Bryce Harper. The 22-year-old Harper is truly having a breakout year, doing so with an NL-best OPS and SLG. He also paces the league in runs (52) and is second in HR (24), batting average (.345), RBI (57) and walks (54). Throughout his career, Harper is just a .245 hitter against Atlanta, but is 10-for-22 this season.
The Braves are right there with the Nationals as being just an average group. The team is 12th in the league in runs (293), 8th in batting average (.259), 11th in on base percentage (.323) and a near dead last 28th in slugging percentage (.371). Pacing the way for Atlanta is Freeman, who as mentioned earlier has really killed game two’s starter, Zimmermann. Additionally. Freeman is leading the team this year with 12 home runs, 41 RBI and a .299 batting average. It should be noted that he is day-to-day however with some wrist pain and his participation is up in the air.
Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Betting Picks Verdict
Because of the uncertainty regarding the Washington Nationals starter for game one, the sportsbooks have been slow to post odds. However I advise going with the Nationals to win game one irrespective of who is on the mound.