For the last three weeks, there are not two hotter teams than the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. These two teams will square off in a three game weekend series in Washington, D.C. The Nationals already beat the Braves in Atlanta to sweep a two-game series at the end of May. The Braves timed it to call-up their newest signing, Dallas Keuchel, to pitch in his Braves’ debut tonight against Stephen Strasburg. With the rainouts, the Nationals entire rotation will slot differently this weekend, and Anibal Sanchez will pitch tomorrow and most likely Joe Ross will be activated to join the roster. The back of the Nationals bullpen has pitched the last two days, and the only fresh arms are Trevor Rosenthal and Tony Sipp. With 7 ½ games separating the Nationals and Braves in the standings, this is crucial for the Nationals to make up some ground this weekend on their home turf.
The Braves made their move recently by overtaking the Phillies for first place in the NL East and going on a run and sweeping teams like the Marlins and Pirates. When they have faced ace pitchers like Jacob deGrom on Tuesday, they were shutout for 8.0 innings before adding two runs in the ninth inning in a 10-2 loss. Like any hot team, ace pitching can beat them, and the Nats did that to the Braves at the end of May with Strasburg and Anibal Sanchez limiting the Braves to just two runs in their combined outings in Atlanta.
Can a rested Strasburg replicate what he did in dominating the Braves on May 28th over 7.0 innings? That is what the Nationals need tonight as they piece together a bullpen to finish the game if Stras cannot throw a complete game.
As the Nats prepare against the left-handed Keuchel, all Nats batters who have faced him except for Kurt Suzuki have batting averages of at least .333 against him. On top of that, the Nationals lead the NL with a .361 OBP against southpaw pitchers.
Since May 24th the Nationals have picked up 10-games in the standings with a .708 winning percentage, and the key is finishing what the Nats started. Without looking too far ahead, after this Atlanta series, the Nationals final dozen games before the All-Star break are against all teams with winning percentages below .375. The Nats play Miami, Detroit, and Kansas City after this weekend. Obviously you have to play good baseball against those teams too, but the rule of thumb when you start the season is to crush the bad teams and play better than .500 baseball against the good teams. Two weeks ago we circled the Arizona, Philadelphia, and Atlanta series as the pivotal part of the 11-game stretch on the June calendar to get back to the .500 mark as the team nears July 1st.
Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, FOX Sports South, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):
The #Nats against LHP Dallas Keuchel
Tonight vs. ATL
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats2) June 21, 2019