The NL East-leading Washington Nationals swept a struggling Atlanta Braves team last week before failing to win a game during their most recent series. The Nationals could have a hard time regrouping Friday night against a Braves club that appears to be back on track - even with Stephen Strasburg on the hill. Strasburg looks to end his struggles against Atlanta as these division rivals open a three-game set in the nation's capital. Washington also could see the season debut of Michael Morse, who led the team with 31 homers and 95 RBIs in 2011 but has been sidelined with a strained lat suffered during spring training.
Johnson's club took all three matchups in Atlanta last weekend but followed with three consecutive defeats at Miami, capping a 5-4 road trip. The Nationals (29-21) scored a combined 22 runs versus the Braves in their last series against each other. Washington hasn't dropped four consecutive games since a season-worst five-game slide April 26-May 1. Atlanta (28-24) saw its longest losing streak in more than two years reach eight Monday in an 8-2 defeat to St. Louis before posting back-to-back victories over the defending champions. Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman both went deep and drove in a combined seven runs during Wednesday's 10-7 win.
The Braves will look to keep things going against Strasburg (5-1, 2.64 ERA). He's gone 1-2 over three career starts against Atlanta while compiling a 5.28 ERA - his highest against any opponent he's faced more than once. The hard-throwing right-hander yielded four runs, six hits and a season-high four walks in five innings but earned the win during Saturday's 8-4 victory at Turner Field. He's had an especially difficult time with Dan Uggla, who's gone 6 for 8 with two homers in their matchups - the most hits by any player against Strasburg. Atlanta's Mike Minor (2-4, 6.98) will start after giving up four runs - including another homer - over five innings opposite Strasburg last weekend. The left-hander has surrendered an NL-worst 13 long balls and ranks last in the league in ERA. Minor is 0-3 with a 9.08 ERA over his last seven outings.
We get a steal of a price this evening and we feel Strasburg could have a tough time figuring out his struggles against the lieks of Uggla (.267 8 31), Freddie Freeman (.257 8 35), Brian McCann (.249 7 28) and even Michael Bourn (.299 5 16) who has even shown opposing pitchers some power out of the leadoff spot. This Braves lineup averages nearly 5 runs per contest, and should get enough support for Minor, who moreso than Strasburg needs to find his niche. Adam Laroche (.287 8 35) and Ian Desmond (.264 8 23) have done the job keeping the Nats in contention as have a core few of other hitters while guys like Jayson Werth continues to recover from a broken wrist. Let's hope we can notch our 5th straight after a well deserved respite as a select few didn't meet much of the criteria this past week. Best of luck however you play!