The Nationals visit Turner
Field to face off in a three game series for the second time this season to
take on the Atlanta Braves. The Braves (32-21) have won seven out of their last
10 and are leading the Nats in the NL East race by 5.5 games. The Nationals
(27-27) are coming off a series with the Orioles, where they dropped three of
On a plus note, the Nats
offense is starting to wake up, especially in the home run category. Ryan
Zimmerman in particular is seeing the ball great and making opposing pitchers
pay for it. After the first month of the
season Zim was only batting .226, with an OPS of .670, not what fans expect
from him. However, since then he has raised his average more than sixty points to
.290. He played in twenty five games in May and got at least one hit in all but
five of those games. His most impressive performance came against the Orioles
on Wednesday when he hit three homers. He was on the cusp to break .300, but he
went 0-4 in the series finale against the Orioles. Even more encouraging,
probably, is the fact that his throwing errors have almost vanished, which
makes fans breath a lot more easily when a ball get sent to the hot corner.
The Nationals are still
battling injuries. Jayson Werth is expected to miss the entire road trip to
Atlanta, Ross Detwiler will miss his start in favor of Nate Karns and Manager
Davey Johnson is keeping a close eye on Danny Espinosa ailing wrist. The good
news is that Bryce Harper is expected to return for the entire series against
the Braves. His bursitis has healed enough that he will take his place in the
Game 55: Friday, May 31, Turner
Field 7:30pm, Stephen
Strasburg RHP (3-5, 2.49 ERA) vs. Julio
Teheran RHP (3-1, 3.67 ERA)
Strasburg takes the mound for
the first game of the series against the Braves and his 3-5 record looks a lot
better than the 1-4 record he had coming onto the last series with the Braves.
He seems to have quieted some of the voices in his head and has taken care of
business over his past few starts. He should be 3-0 in his last three starts,
but sadly Rafael Soriano blew a save against the Giants and Stas could not pick
up the win. He is definitely finding his control and over the course of the
season he has struck out 6.45 batters per outing.
He has faced the Braves twice
this season and has come away with a no decision, due to the bullpen, and a
loss. In both outings he lasted six innings. Over his career, Stephen has
started against the Braves nine times. In those starts, he has amassed a 3-4
record and 3.51 ERA over 48.2 IP. Of the Braves’ current lineup, Dan Uggla has
faced Strasburg the most, with 26 PA’s. Uggla has accumulated a 1.365 OPS
against him and has hit two home runs. Justin Upton, who has continues to play
well since his monster of a start to the season, has been very unsuccessful in
his appearances against Strasburg. Upton has only one hit against Stras and has
struck out four times in 12 plate appearances.
Braves vs. Stephen Strasburg:
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Julio Teheran will be facing
off against the Nats for the third time this season. In his two previous starts
against the Nats Teheran received two no decisions, but the Braves went on to
win both games, even though Julio gave up a total of six runs. He has improved
significantly from the beginning of the season where after the first game his
ERA stood at 9.00. However, since then he has lowered his ERA in every start he
has made, so the Nats offense better be prepared to see a little bit more
seasoned Julio Teheran. The Braves do
not let him stay on the mound for more than 90 pitches because that is about
the amount where he tends to fade and his fastball tends to creep higher and
higher in the zone. He is a two-pitch guy, relying heavily on his fastball that
that averages 92-94 mph. His secondary pitch, the curveball, is inconsistent.
Both lefties and right-handed batters have smacked around his curveball this
season. His curve breaks early and batters quickly recognize it and make
Teheran has faced the Nationals three times in his career, all occurring this
season. As a team, the Nats only have 42 plate appearances against him. Ian
Desmond, Bryce Harper and Denard Span are all batting .500 against him.
However, since the sample size is so small I would not place a lot of weight on
any member of the lineups past success or failure against Teheran.
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Nationals vs. Julio Teheran:
Game 56: Saturday, June 1, Turner
Field 7:15pm, Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.90 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson (4-4, 5.37 ERA)
For Saturday’s game against
the Braves, Gio Gonzalez will take the hill for the Nats. May was a rough month
for Gio. He received only two decisions in five starts. He either looks like
the credible Cy Young candidate from the 2012 season or Cy Young, the guy that
installed my cable last week. He has squared off against Atlanta this year and
both starts have been bloodbaths that I would rather not talk about. All in
all, he gave up 12 earned runs, eight walks and three home runs, all of which
are not very characteristic of Gio.
Gio has started six games
against them where he amassed a 6.75 ERA and a 2-4 record. In 30.2 innings of
work he has allowed 31 hits, 23 earned runs, while striking out 36 and walking
22. Pitching coach, Steve McCatty cannot be encouraged by his 1.64 SO/BB ratio
or his disturbing 1.728 WHIP. Gio’s body of work against the Braves is not the
largest, but he has done well against Dan Uggla and BJ Upton in the past. Uggla
only has a .100 BA against him and has struck out five out of his 17 plate
appearances. BJ Upton’s OPS is sitting at .414 and is sporting a WAR similar to
that of any regular fan lacing up the cleats to play a game in the majors.
Current Braves vs. Gio
No doubt about it, Tim Hudson
owned the month of April. However, in the month of May he has been showing his
age. In May he has three losses, one no decision and one win. He has made it
past the fifth inning only twice in those five starts and once he did not even
make it to the fourth inning because he was getting lit up so bad. This season,
Tim Hudson has started twice against the Nats and picked up two wins. Both
outings lasted seven innings; where he combined to only walk two batters, give
up two earned runs off of seven hits.
Hudson lives and dies by his
sinker, which clocks in at 84-92 mph. He also employs a cutter (84-88 mph),
slider (80-82 mph), traditional curve (73-78 mph) and changeup (80-84 mph).
With a two strike count he tends to throw his cutter to right-handed batters and
stays with his sinker for left-handed batters.
Hudson has started 28 games
against the Nats and has come away with 16 victories and only five losses. In
190.2 innings he has been nothing less than dominant. His ERA is 2.55, which is
almost unheard of for a player who has squared off against any team as much as
Hudson and the Nats have. He has gotten the better of the majority of the Nats
lineup, with one exception, Jayson Werth. Sadly, Jayson Werth will not be
facing Hudson during this game because he is still battling an injury because Werth
has a 1.160 OPS against him. Other than Werth, the only other Nats player that
has continually challenged Hudson’s dominance has been Ian Desmond. Desmond has
a respectable .354 OBP when facing Hudson and has only five strikeouts in 49
Nationals vs. Tim Hudson:
Game 57: Sunday, June 2, Turner
Field 1:35pm, Nathan Karns (0-0, 6.23 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm (6-4, 3.74 ERA)
Nathan “Nate” Karns did not
look like the next Stephen Strasburg when he made his Major League debut last
Tuesday, but he looked like he belonged on the mound against big league talent.
In his 4.1 innings he struck out three, walked two and gave up three earned
runs. Kurt Suzuki and the rest of the team did a good job of settling Karns
down and reminding him to pitch his game. At several points it looked like the
adrenaline might get the best of him, but Zook has no problem trotting out to
the mound to remind him to slow things down. In the end, he did a very
effective job against a Baltimore team that hits the hell out of the ball
against everyone. He threw 85 pitches, 50 of them were strikes. His
performance, coupled with Ross Detwiler’s lingering back issues, provided him
an opportunity to make his second start big league start to finish out the
series with the Braves.
Say when you want about Nate
Karn’s young career, but you have to realize he is a winner. His winning
percentage throughout his minor league career is .692, which most major
leaguers would kill for. This season in the minors he is 4-2 with a 4.60 ERA
over the course of 45 IP at AA Harrisburg. Karns throws three pitches: fastball
(90-95 mph), curveball (84-86 mph) and a changeup (85-87 mph). He relies almost
exclusively on his fastball and his curveball. His changeup is still in the
early stages of development and he only throws it seven percent of the time.
His fastball has a good amount of sink to it. However, scouts believe that his
best pitch is his curveball, which has a tight spin and a nice overhand break.
However, like most young pitchers Karns still relies heavily on his fastball.
to this being Karn’s second start of his career he has never faced any member
of the Atlanta lineup.
Paul Maholm has pitched
extremely well this season. He had a nonexistent ERA for the first couple of
games, but has cooled off a little as of late. Just like Teheran and Hudson,
Maholm has started two games against the Nats this season. He has one win and
one loss, but has only given up seven total hits to the Nationals this year.
The Nats offense has perked up a little more as of late, but do not expect the
home run derbys that the lineup, especially Ryan Zimmerman, has had against
Maholm. Maholm has only given up five homers all season. Maholm is a four pitch
guy, fastball (89-92 mph), changeup (79-83 mph), curveball (70-76 mph) and
slider (79-84 mph). His fastball has the traditional left-handed tailing motion
associated with it and his changeup is only a few miles per hour slower than his
fastball, which tends to challenge most hitters. He will throw his curveball to
anyone, but will predominantly only throw his changeup to right-handed batters
and his slider to left-handed batters. For the Nats to be successful they need
to hit the ball in the air against Maholm because when he induces grounders,
which he is known for, he is very successful.
Maholm has had trouble with
the Nationals throughout his career. Dating back from 2006, when he debuted to
the present he has started twelve games against the Nats, but has only come
away with a 2-7 record and a 4.64 ERA. He has allowed the Nats 14 home runs, 78
hits and 40 earned runs over the course of 77.2 innings. Both Ryan Zimmerman
and Ian Desmond have been thorns in the side of Paul Maholm. Zimmerman is
batting .292 against him in 25 plate appearances and Desmond is killing him with a 1.139 OPS in 18
Nationals vs. Paul Maholm:
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