Series #9 Preview: Nats at Braves

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The Nationals had dropped 9 of their last 12 before the Cincinnati Reds came to town, but since then the Nats have won 3-of-4 and appear to be finding their offense; even without Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos. Their 13-12 record leaves a little bit to be desired, but it is still April and Dan Haren’s starts have been more and more promising.

Now, it is time to faceoff once again against the Braves. The Braves have shown a little bit of a ding in their armor, as they have lost their last four games in a row. Paul Maholm was the talk of the MLB, boasting a 0.00 ERA through three starts, but had a rough day against the Tigers over the weekend. Justin Upton is still playing like a major contender for the NL MVP early in the season, but others in the Braves lineup have cooled off a bit.

A lot can happen in this series, when the dust settles. The Nats could be leading the division by 1 ½ games if they are able to complete a sweep, or they could be behind the Braves by 6 ½ games if they themselves are swept. More than likely, it will be somewhere in between. By the end of the series, though, Nats fans could have a better understanding on how the division will shake out. The Phillies, Mets, and Marlins are still under the .500 mark to this point in the season, and it is conceivable that the division will be determined based on how these two teams play against each other.

In typical Davey Johnson fashion, the Nats skipper said the series only mattered because, “they are ahead of us.” As always, I defer to Davey. The best way of viewing the upcoming series is as another early series that does not mean much, but it would be big for the Nats to pick up some wins against their NL East division rivals.

Game 26: Monday, April 29, Turner Field 7:10pm, Stephen Strasburg, RHP (1-4, 3.16 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran, RHP (1-0, 5.48 ERA)

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At the beginning of the season, no one would have guessed that the Nats ace, Stephen Strasburg would be 1-4 after five starts. However, most of the minds around baseball are not worried about him. There has been a little concern over Strasburg’s command, but as writers who have covered the Nats all season have said, “It is still early” and after a rough first inning, Strasburg’s last start against the Cardinals was encouraging. So, as April comes to a close and the first month of the 2013 MLB season is in the books, fans can still see many positives in Strasburg’s five starts. His ERA is only 3.16, which is still quite low, he has only walked eight batters and averages 8.0 SO/9.

Over his career, Strasburg has started against the Braves eight times. In those starts, he has amassed a 3-4 record over 42.2 IP. His 2012 campaign was his best year against Atlanta, where he beat them three times and only lost once. In 2013, he has faced the Braves once, where he pitched six innings, giving up five hits and two runs, none of which were earned. A Ryan Zimmerman throwing error required Adam LaRoche to lift his foot off of first base allowed the Braves to drag on the third inning, where eventually rookie the catcher Evan Gattis hit a two-run homer. Other than that, Strasburg battled some control issues early in his outing, but otherwise pitched a solid game. Of the Braves’ current lineup, Dan Uggla has faced Strasburg the most, with 23 PA’s. Uggla has accumulated a 1.372 OPS against him and has hit two home runs. Justin Upton, who has been playing arguable the best baseball of his career this season, has been shut down by Strasburg in the past. Upton has a never gotten a hit against the Nationals ace and has struck out three times in nine plate appearances.  

Current Braves vs. Stephen Strasburg

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Dan Uggla 23 20 9 2 0 2 8 3 7 .450 .522 .850 1.372
Freddie Freeman 13 10 3 1 0 0 3 1 2 .300 .308 .400 .708
Justin Upton 9 8 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .111 .000 .111
Chris Johnson 8 8 3 0 0 0 3 0 1 .375 .375 .375 .750
Juan Francisco 8 8 2 0 0 0 1 0 5 .250 .250 .250 .500
B.J. Upton 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533
Jordan Schafer 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400
Evan Gattis 3 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667
Tyler Pastornicky 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Andrelton Simmons 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Ramiro Pena 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Total 94 85 23 3 0 3 17 7 29 .271 .319 .412 .731
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

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Julio Teheran takes the mound in game one against the Nationals for the opening game of the series. He is a two pitch guy, relying heavily on his fastball that that averages 92-94 mph, but can reach upwards of 97 mph. He relies so heavily on his fastball because his secondary pitch, the curveball, has been inconsistent at times. Both lefties and right handed batters have had good success against Teheran’s curveball so far, as it looks more and more like a slider and less like a curveball. The pitch breaks early and batters can quickly recognize it and make contact. Teheran throws a pretty solid changeup, but it is not considered one of his regular pitches as he does not throw it very often. His fastball is deceptive because of his arm speed and the ball does not have consistent movement, but it always seems to move either with a sink or run. Throughout the April, Teheran’s fastball has not been as low in the strike zone as it has been in the past and has been steadily creeping up higher in the zone as the game progresses.   

The only time Julio Teheran has faced the Nationals was in the meeting between the two teams on April 12 of this year. Teheran lasted 6.0 innings and gave up four earned-runs, six hits and allowed Bryce Harper to hit his fifth home run of the year in the first inning. 

Current Nationals vs. Julio Teheran:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Bryce Harper 3 2 1 0 0 1 2 1 1 .500 .667 2.000 2.667
Denard Span 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333
Adam LaRoche 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167
Ian Desmond 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667
Jayson Werth 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667
Kurt Suzuki 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333
Danny Espinosa 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 24 20 6 0 0 1 4 3 6 .300 .391 .450 .841
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

Game 27: Tuesday, April 30, Turner Field 7:10pm, Gio Gonzalez, LHP (2-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Tim Hudson, RHP (2-1, 4.50 ERA)

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For the second game of the series, Davey Johnson is sending Gio Gonzalez to the hill for the Nats. To say that Gio was roughed up by the Braves in his only appearance against them would be putting it lightly. On April 14, Gio gave up seven hits, seven earned-runs and walked three over the course of five innings. Two of the seven hits given up to the Braves were homers by Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons. However, Gio has bounced back and had a great outing against the Cincinnati Reds. In Gio’s last start, he pitched eight innings and only gave up one hit, a home run to Joey Votto. His command was on point and he dispatched the Reds quickly, striking out seven and setting up Rafael Soriano for the save.

Gio has had trouble with the Braves in the past. He has started five games against them and has a 2-3 record overall. His record is actually better than one would be expect for a pitcher who is sporting a 6.08 ERA against them. His ERA is a little deceptive, though, because Gonzalez had a respectable season against the Braves in 2012, where he only has a 4.57 ERA. In his last appearance against Atlanta, he went five innings and his ERA ballooned to 12.60, making it seem like he has fared much worse against the Braves than is actually true. The Braves current roster only has 84 plate appearances against Gio, but Andrelton Simmons has done well against him in the past. Simmons has a 1.556 OPS against him with 3 RBI’s and 3 walks. Both Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton have struggled against him. Uggla has a .125 BA and three strike outs in 14 PA’s. Upton, who also has 14 plate appearances against him, has an abysmal .357 OPS and four strike outs against Gio

Current Braves vs Gio Gonzalez:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Dan Uggla 14 8 1 1 0 0 1 6 3 .125 .500 .250 .750
B.J. Upton 14 14 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .143 .143 .214 .357
Andrelton Simmons 9 6 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 .333 .556 1.000 1.556
Freddie Freeman 9 8 2 1 0 1 4 0 3 .250 .222 .750 .972
Justin Upton 6 4 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 .250 .500 1.000 1.500
Chris Johnson 6 6 3 0 0 0 2 0 2 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Reed Johnson 6 6 1 0 1 0 2 0 2 .167 .167 .500 .667
Ramiro Pena 4 4 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Gerald Laird 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .250 .000 .250
Evan Gattis 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000
Tyler Pastornicky 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Tim Hudson 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500
Total 84 68 15 5 1 3 16 13 20 .221 .341 .456 .797
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

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Tim Hudson might be the poster boy for the effectiveness of Tommy John’s surgery. Since getting the surgery in 2009, he has won at least 16 games a season and his ERA has not risen above 3.62. Hudson is 37 years old, but he does not look like it with how he has been pitching the past three seasons. 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.

Since breaking into the big leagues in 1999, he has made it a hobby of his to beat up on the Nationals. He has started 27 games against the Nats and has come away with 15 victories and only five losses. His ERA is a very low at 2.60 and he has kept the tradition alive in 2013, where he has already managed a victory over the Nats allowing only four hits and one earned-run, while striking out three over the course of seven innings. Hudson may have had his way with the Nats in the win-loss column, but he has had one major problem against them and that is Jayson Werth. Werth has a 1.160 OPS against Hudson over the course of 43 PA’s. He has also accumulated four home runs and 11 RBI’s. Werth could definitely see his batting average rise after this series with Atlanta. 

Current Nationals vs. Tim Hudson:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Ian Desmond 46 41 12 2 0 1 4 4 5 .293 .356 .415 .770
Jayson Werth 43 39 15 4 0 3 11 4 6 .385 .442 .718 1.160
Adam LaRoche 27 24 6 0 0 0 3 2 2 .250 .296 .250 .546
Danny Espinosa 24 21 5 1 0 1 1 2 7 .238 .333 .429 .762
Roger Bernadina 23 21 4 1 0 0 2 1 9 .190 .217 .238 .455
Chad Tracy 16 14 3 1 0 0 0 2 2 .214 .313 .286 .598
Bryce Harper 13 12 3 0 0 0 1 1 1 .250 .308 .250 .558
Steve Lombardozzi 8 8 2 2 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750
Denard Span 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286
Kurt Suzuki 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Zach Duke 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333
Gio Gonzalez 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333
Jhonatan Solano 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Tyler Clippard 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 237 214 52 11 0 5 23 18 38 .243 .302 .364 .667
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

Game 28: Wednesday, May 1, Turner Field 7:10pm, Jordan Zimmermann, RHP (4-1, 2.00 ERA) vs. Paul Maholm, LHP (3-2, 3.30 ERA)

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Jordan Zimmermann has been on a tear this season. The only thing Nats fans can complain about when it comes to Jordan Zimmermann is that his outings are too efficient and short for them to get their money’s worth. Two of his last three starts have been complete games and his ERA is next to non-existent. His command has been very good and even though he is not striking out batters like Strasburg does, he is getting the job done. Both he and Detwiler have been consistent all season and Davey has not had a bad thing to say about either of them.

To close out the series Zimmermann will make the start against the team he debuted against in 2009. Since then, Zimmermann has held his own against Atlanta amassing a 3.81 ERA in five starts. Jordan’s spot in the rotation tends to not overlap with when the Nats faceoff against the Braves because since his debut he had only pitched 18.1 innings against them. Just like Strasburg and Gio, Zimmermann has owned Dan Uggla. He has faced him 14 times and Uggla has only managed two hits and a .445 OPS. The rest of the Braves lineup has had varying success against Zimmermann in the limited plate appearances he has had against them. 

Current Braves vs Jordan Zimmermann:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Dan Uggla 14 13 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .154 .214 .231 .445
Justin Upton 8 7 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .429 .500 .429 .929
Freddie Freeman 8 5 1 1 0 0 1 3 1 .200 .500 .400 .900
Chris Johnson 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .400 .600
Jordan Schafer 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400
Reed Johnson 4 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .750 .750 .750 1.500
B.J. Upton 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 53 46 11 3 0 0 1 5 9 .239 .327 .304 .631
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

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Lefty Paul Maholm will pitch against right hander Jordan Zimmermann in the third game of the series. Maholm is a classic four pitch guy. None of his stuff blows batters away, but due to his variety of pitch usage he tends to succeed because he keeps batters off balance trying to figure out what pitch he will throw next. His fastball clocks in between 89-92 mph. His changeup ranges between 79-83 mph. He throws his curveball at around 70-76 mph and his slider gets up to around 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.

Maholm devastated the Nats a couple weeks ago in his only appearance against them this season. He went 7.2 IP and only gave up four hits and no earned-runs, while striking out seven. However, since that outing he has been hit by both the Pirates and Tigers. His once 0.00 ERA over three games has ballooned to 3.30. His dominance in his only appearance against Washington this season might be an aberration because he has not fared well against them in the past. In eleven starts, since 2006, Maholm is only 2-6 when facing the Nats and has amassed a 4.91 ERA.  In those eleven ill-fated starts Maholm allowed a total of 13 home runs. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi and Kurt Suzuki all are batting north of .300 against Maholm, so it should be a fun game to watch. Bryce Harper has never gotten a hit off of Maholm, so it should be interesting to see how Harper adjusts to the lefty in the 3rd game. 

Current Nationals vs Paul Maholm:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Jayson Werth 32 30 10 4 0 1 5 2 5 .333 .375 .567 .942
Ian Desmond 15 13 4 1 0 1 1 2 3 .308 .400 .615 1.015
Adam LaRoche 14 12 3 1 0 0 2 2 3 .250 .357 .333 .690
Danny Espinosa 11 10 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .100 .182 .100 .282
Chad Tracy 8 7 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 .571 .625 .571 1.196
Roger Bernadina 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .143 .143 .143 .286
Bryce Harper 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000
Steve Lombardozzi 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333
Kurt Suzuki 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333
Denard Span 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Zach Duke 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Tyler Moore 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 109 100 27 6 0 2 10 7 25 .270 .324 .390 .714
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

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Game 29: Thursday, May 2, Turner Field 7:10pm, Dan Haren, RHP (2-3, 6.29 ERA) vs. Kris Medlen, RHP (1-3, 3.26 ERA)

In the final game of the 4 game series, Dan Haren will take the mound for Washington. Haren has showed continuous improvement in his recent starts, showing Nationals fans a little bit of what should be expected of him. As he gets more starts, it should not come as a surprise to see Haren more be efficient and go deeper into games. Throughout his career, he has been able to go deep into games and give his team a chance to win. Haren has struggled with going deep and giving his team a chance so far in 2013, but his most recent game against the Cincinnati Reds was quite good against a strong lineup. In that game, Haren allowed only 2 runs and struck out 5 over 6 innings of work.

Haren has not faced many on the Braves, but he has done well overall against the 6 batters he has faced in a fairly small sample. Perhaps the most noticeable is B.J. Upton, who in 31 at bats has 5 home runs and a 1.161 OPS against Haren. Haren will also have the benefit of a pitcher's park while in Atlanta, as Turner Field has a deep outfield and has a tendency to be a fly ball graveyard.

Current Braves vs Dan Haren:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
B.J. Upton 31 31 10 1 0 5 5 0 11 .323 .323 .839 1.161
Reed Johnson 19 18 4 0 1 0 3 1 4 .222 .263 .333 .596
Gerald Laird 12 12 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 .083 .083 .083 .167
Dan Uggla 11 9 2 0 0 0 2 2 5 .222 .364 .222 .586
Justin Upton 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667
Jordan Schafer 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 81 78 19 2 1 5 11 3 27 .244 .272 .487 .759
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

Kris Medlen will go up against the Nationals in the final game of the set. Since coming up with the Braves, Medlen has faced the Nationals in 11 different games as both a starter and as a reliever. In that time, Medlen has started 2 games for the Braves and compiled a 2-1 record over 27 innings pitched. The Nationals have had a little bit of trouble getting on base against Medlen in the limited sample size, so it should be the Nationals intention to make contact on the ball as much as possible.

Current Nationals have had few appearances against Medlen and have not had the best success against him in that time. Jayson Werth leads the Nationals in PA's against Medlen, where he has succeeded in getting 3 base hits, 2 of them for extra bases. Harper is the only current National to have successfully drawn a walk against Medlen.

Current Nationals vs Kris Medlen:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Jayson Werth 14 13 3 2 0 0 0 0 2 .231 .286 .385 .670
Adam LaRoche 12 12 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .333 .583
Danny Espinosa 10 10 2 0 0 0 0 0 6 .200 .200 .200 .400
Ian Desmond 9 9 3 2 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .556 .889
Bryce Harper 7 6 2 0 0 1 1 1 1 .333 .429 .833 1.262
Kurt Suzuki 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333
Roger Bernadina 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000
Chad Tracy 2 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500
Steve Lombardozzi 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Tyler Moore 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Zach Duke 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 75 73 17 6 0 1 4 1 22 .233 .253 .356 .609
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/29/2013.

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