Can Braves keep beating Nats? Wild-card hopes could rest on it

View Caption Hide Caption
Freddie Freeman follows through on one of the nine home runs he's hit against the Nationals.

 

  WASHINGTON – The Braves have won nine of 13 games against the Nationals this season including four of seven in D.C., and they need to keep that upper hand in the three-game series that starts tonight if they’re to avoid losing ground in the wild-card standings and also if they hope to chip away whatsoever at Washington’s commanding lead in the NL East.

The Braves, after losing two of three at Miami to start this nine-game trip, find themselves a half-game behind Pittsburgh for the second and final NL wild card with 19 games to go, and a whopping seven games behind the Nationals, whose 80-61 gives them the NL’s best winning percentage (.567), slightly ahead of the Dodgers (81-62, .566).

Even though the Braves have been in the Nats’ noggins for more than 24 months now, by virtue of a 26-10 record against them in the past 36 games between the teams, it remains to be seen if the Braves can continue that kind of dominance against their chief division rival in the last six games  between the teams this season, given the direction that each has been headed in recent weeks.

The Braves have been shut out five times during a 6-8 stretch in which they’ve hit .216 and totaled 34 runs in 14 games. Yikes.

Meanwhile, Washington is 17-8 with a 3.04 ERA, 39 homers and 119 runs scored in 25 games since Aug. 12.

However, it should be noted, the Nats are only 5-7 with a 3.44 ERA in their past 12 games, despite totaling 24 homers and 50 runs. They scored eight runs three times in that 12-game stretch, but scored three runs or fewer seven times.

Still, here’s a sobering stat for the Braves: The Nationals have seven multi-homer games in their past 13 games, while the Braves haven’t had a multi-homer game in 17 games. That stretch began after they put together three consecutive two-homer games Aug. 17-19 against Oakland and Pittsburgh.

Freddie Freeman follows through on one of the nine home runs he's hit against the Nationals.

Freddie Freeman follows through on one of the nine home runs he’s hit against the Nationals.

And yet…there’s always that 26-10 record against the Nats since Aug. 22, 2012. The Braves have a 2.20 ERA and 37 homers in that 36-game stretch against the Nats. And until the NL East leaders prove otherwise, the Braves own the head-to-head matchup since late in the 2012 season.

Of course, the Braves have also shown that it doesn’t matter how well you play against your rival if you don’t play half as well against so many other teams on your schedule.

CJ, Freeman needed: The would be a good time for Chris Johnson to get going again. The Braves third baseman hasn’t been a run-producer in recent weeks, but has a .320 career average (32-for-100) with eight extra-base hits (two homers), 13 RBIs and a .346 OBP in 26 games at Nationals Park.

And this would obviously be a good place for Freeman to get over his Marlins nightmare quickly. Against the Nationals, he has a .324 career average with nine homers, 40 RBIs and a .380 OBP and .512 slugging percentage in 67 games, including .312 with 10 extra-base hits (two homers) and a .367 OBP in 34 games at Nationals Park.

Freeman had a hit in each of his last five games against the Marlins, but the All-Star first baseman still finished the season with a staggering .135 average (10-for-75) against Miami with three extra-base hits (two homers), six RBIs, seven walks, 21 strikeouts and a .210 OBP and .230 slugging percentage in 19 games.

It was the lowest single-season average ever against the Marlins by any hitter in at least 60 at-bats.

Freeman has hit a combined .314 with 57 extra-base hits (16 homers) and 64 RBIs in 124 games against everyone else this season, including .481 (25-for-52) against the Nationals with 10 extra-base hits (four homers), eight RBIs and a .533 OBP and .827 slugging percentage in 13 games.

  • Tonight’s matchup: It’s a good one to get the series started, with resurgent Mike Minor (6-9, 4.65) facing Nats righty Doug Fister (12-6, 2.66).

Minor is 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA and .183 opponents’ average in his past five starts, after going 2-3 with a 7.33 ERA and .357 opponents’ average in his previous 10 starts and having his rotation turn skipped once at the end of that stretch. He’s allowed three homers  in 35 2/3 innings overe his past five starts, after allowing 12 homers in 54 innings over the previous 10 starts.

Meanwhile, Fister is trending the opposite direction than Minor. Fister is 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA and .365 opponents’ average in his past three starts, after going 7-1 with a 1.57 ERA and .238 opponents’ average in his previous 10 starts.

In 10 career starts against the Nationals, Minor is 3-2 with a 4.64 ERA, including 0-1 with a 3.04 ERA in four games at Nationals Park. He has no decisions and a 4.79 ERA  in four starts against Washington since the beginning of the 2013 season.

Minor has faced them just once this season, when he allowed seven hits, two runs and two walks while collecting 11 strikeouts in seven innings for no decision in a June 20 Braves win at Washington.

Against the lefty, Wilson Ramos is 6-for-10 with a homer, Scott Hairston is 6-for-16 with a homer, Danny Espinosa is 5-for-15 with a homer, Jayson Werth is 4-for-13 with a homer, Ian Desmond is 6-for-24 with a homer, Adam LaRoche is 6-for-15, and Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-23 with eight strikeouts.

Fister allowed just five hits in eight scoreless innings of a June 21 win against the Braves, and has a 2-0 record and 1.80 ERA in two career starts against them.

Against Fister, Johnson is 3-for-6, Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons are 2-for-6 apiece, Ryan Doumit is 4-for-14 with a homer, Emilio Bonifacio is 3-for-14, Justin Upton is 1-for-5, Freeman is 1-for-6, and B.J. Upton is  1-for-9.

I wasn’t a big fan of their most recent album, but here’s a great one from Arcade Fire‘s outstanding second full-length LP, Neon Bible.

“NO CARS GO” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

Hey!)
(Hey!)

We know a place where no planes go
We know a place where no ships go

(Hey!) No cars go
(Hey!) No cars go
Where we know

We know a place no space ships go
We know a place where no subs go

(Hey!) No cars go
(Hey!) No cars go
Where we know

(Hey!)
(Hey!)
(Cars go!)

(Hey!) Us kids know
(Hey!) No cars go
Where we know

Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream

Little babies, let’s go!
Women and children, let’s go!
Old folks, let’s go!
Don’t know where we’re going


View Comments 0