As most of you know the Atlanta Braves are in town for the next three days in what may be the most important series for both teams up to this point of the season. Atlanta is currently facing a five-game deficit and is hopeful that they can gain some ground in DC. Since July 3rd, these two teams have been the best in all of baseball. Washington is 30-14 over that time frame, tied with Cincinnati for the best record in the game. Atlanta on the other hand is only one game off the pace, going 29-13 since the 3rd.
Tonight’s match-up features arguably both teams’ most consistent starters in Jordan Zimmermann and Tim Hudson. Zimmermann still holds the best ERA in the majors despite dropping his last start to San Francisco, sporting a remarkable 2.38.
Zimmermann has allowed three earned runs or less in 21 of his 24 starts this season. That my friends is the true definition of consistency. If his run support was better you would be looking at the odds on favorite for the Cy Young.
Hudson on the other hand has won eight straight starts and has become the anchor of this rotation since Brandon Beachy was lost to a serious right elbow injury in June. Hudson threw a gem in his last start by taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the lowly San Diego Padres but was banged around in Philly on August 8th, allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings.
In 25 career starts against the Nationals, Hudson is 14-5 with a 2.53 ERA. It is clear that things have changed in DC in a major way evidenced by how the Nats have hit Hudson this season. He is 0-2 and allowed 12 runs in just 12 2/3 innings. Hudson isn’t going to strike many batters out, but if his control is on he’s as good as they come.
Game 2 features Stephen Strasburg facing off against the recently acquired Paul Maholm. The former Cub has gone 2-0 in three starts with the Braves with his best start coming against the Mets back on the 10th when he hurled a three-hit complete game shutout. Maholm has worked into the 7th inning in his last seven starts and has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past month.
Strasburg has won his last three starts but has struggled a bit with his command issuing 4 walks in each of his last two starts. Sitting at 139 innings pitched, Strasburg has now thrown 30 more innings than he has at any level. Fatigue may be sitting in and the constant questioning of when he will be shut down may be wearing on him as well. In six career starts against the Braves he is 2-3 with a 4.70 ERA. He is also a much better pitcher on the road than at home with a 7-6 record at Nats Park opposed to a 13-3 mark on the road.
The series finale on Wednesday will showcase Ross Detwiler and Kris Medlen, who recently made the transition from the bullpen to the rotation. Since joining the rotation, Medlen has given up just three runs in 25 2/3 innings with a 22:4 strikeout to walk ratio. It’s worth noting that those starts came against the Padres, Mets, Astros and Marlins, not exactly a murder’s row.
Detwiler bounced back well against the Mets last Friday by allowing three runs over six innings. It was a welcome sign after he struggled against Arizona back on the 12th. Detwiler was bumped up a day in front of Edwin Jackson to make this start against Atlanta’s left handed heavy lineup. Davey Johnson said he did this to space out his lefties, but I think it was a great move to try to take advantage of the matchup.
I’m beyond excited for this series and hope to make it out to Nats Park Tuesday or Wednesday to catch one of the three in person.
Hopefully Nats Nation steps up and packs out the park over the next three days as this is as close to playoff baseball as it gets in August.