The Atlanta Braves run into one of the hottest starting pitchers in baseball when they take on the Washington Nationals in the finale of a three-game series at Nationals Park on Thursday night.
Scott Olsen (2-1, 4.35 ERA) takes the ball for the Nationals, and while his overall numbers aren't spectacular, he's been lights out lately. After starting the season slowly, Olsen hasn't allowed a run in his last 13 innings - a span of two outings for the lefthander.
Washington won both of Olsen's last two starts against the moneyline, something they haven't been able to do with regularity when Tim Hudson (2-1, 2.87 ERA) gets the call for Atlanta. The Braves are 7-2 in Hudson's last nine starts against the Nationals.
Hudson is back to his old self after missing most of last season following elbow surgery, and he'll need to pitch well to keep Atlanta in the game on Thursday night: The Braves' offense ranks in the bottom five in MLB in team OPS (.689) and home runs (17).
Elsewhere in the National League, the Chicago Cubs close out their three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night at PNC Park.
The Cubs and Pirates are both battling to rise above the .500 mark in the NL Central, but it's only a matter of time before Pittsburgh falls out of contention. The Bucs are at or near the bottom of baseball in runs per game (3.42), team batting average (.236), team ERA (6.60), and quality starts (6).
Pittsburgh is looking to get another solid outing from Brian Burres (1-1, 6.00 ERA) on Thursday night, while Chicago counters with Randy Wells (3-0, 3.45 ERA). Burres is coming off his best start of the season when he tossed 5 1-3 scoreless innings to get the win in the Pirates' 2-0 road victory over the Dodgers as +260 underdogs last Friday.
Over in the American League on Thursday night, the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays kick off a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. The teams split a four-gamer earlier this season at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
It's a battle of lefthanders on the hill in the opener, as Chicago's John Danks (3-0, 1.85 ERA) matches up with Dana Eveland (2-1, 4.76 ERA) for Toronto. Danks gave up only one run over seven innings to earn the win in an 11-1 White Sox (-115) payday against the Blue Jays on April 14.