Found June 29, 2012 on The Nats Blog:

espibourn

In what has become a common theme in the NL East, the two top teams in the division will meet in a critical mid-season contest. The Washington Nationals (43-31) and the Atlanta Braves (40-35) will face off at hot and steamy Turner Field this weekend as the Nats try to maintain a 3.5 game lead in the division. The Nats swept the Braves in their last Atlanta meeting over the Memorial Day weekend and lead the season series 4-1.

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

The Nats offense will try to keep their hot streak going down in Georgia in the midst of record temperatures. The forecast has Atlanta temperatures maxing out at 105, 105, and 104 in each of the next three days. The Nats have scored 33 runs in their last three games at hitter-friendly Coors Field in warm temperatures as well. They will try to use the heat and humidity to their advantage letting the ball fly.

Despite coming off a nice offensive weekend, the Nats rank in the bottom third in almost ever relevant offensive category (average, runs, OBP) while the Braves rank in the top half in nearly all of them. The Nats will use their pitching to try to switch those roles this weekend.

Key Injury

Just over a week ago, the Braves lost their best pitcher, Brandon Beachy, to season-ending Tommy John surgery. He was the favorite to start the MLB All-Star Game for the NL with a league-leading 2.00 ERA and an incredible 0.96 WHIP in 13 starts. It’s a huge loss for a Braves team that has struggled with pitching this season. 

Pitching Breakdown

Randall Delgado (4-8, 4.52 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.09 ERA)

Mike Minor (3-6, 6.14 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (9-2, 2.60 ERA)

Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.58 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (10-3, 2.78 ERA)

The Nats have three favorable pitching matchups as they look to end this road trip at the .500 mark. They’re 3-4 on the current road swing and would have to win the series to get home at or above .500 over the last 10 games.

Ross Detwiler looked outstanding in his first start since returning to the rotation, but he might have to throw more than 100 pitches for the first time this season after the bullpen got involved early in Edwin Jackson’s ugly outing on Thursday. Strasburg matches up well against the struggling Mike Minor, while the Hudson vs. Gonzalez matchup is the most evenly-matched of the series. 

Battle Of The Closers 

Craig Kimbrel, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, has certainly not suffered from a sophomore slump this year. He give up his first home run of the season yesterday, but he has the second-highest WAR for NL relievers (Aroldis Chapman has the highest). He is 22 for 23 in save opportunities.

Meanwhile, Tyler Clippard is among the NL’s hottest closers. So much, in fact, that he will retain the job even after Drew Storen returns from injury. He hasn’t blown a save since taking on the job a few weeks back. He’s given up just one hit and no runs in the 14 games as a closer. This series may come down to these two guys.

Who’s Hot?

Michael Bourn (CF) - .323 AVG, 6 SB in June. Has hit safely in all but four games this month. 

Jason Heyward (RF) - .370 AVG, 1.111 OPS, 6 HR in June 

Andrelton Simmons (SS) - .321 AVG, .850 OPS in rookie season

Who’s Not?

Brian McCann (C) - .213 AVG, .630 OPS in June

Matt Diaz (PH/OF) - .194 AVG, .466 OPS in June

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Nationals' Strasburg falls apart in Atlanta heat

It seemed the kind of day that would set up well for Stephen Strasburg. He'd already defeated the Atlanta Braves twice this year. He'd already won at Turner Field. He'd already won a head-to-head matchup with Braves starter Mike Minor. And even if he wasn't at his best, surely his teammates would score plenty of runs against Minor, who entered with a 6.14 ERA, more...

Q&A: Tim Hudson, Evolution of a Repertoire

Tim Hudson has had a long and successful career. The 36-year-old right-hander owns a 187-100 recrod and a 3.41 ERA in 389 big-league appearances. Now in his eighth season with the Atlanta Braves — after six years in Oakland — he has accumulated 50.5 WAR. Primarily a sinkerball pitcher, Hudson has been a consistent front-line starter despite a pedestrian 6.11 K/9. Hudson talked...

Drew Storen vs. Tyler Clippard

  The Nationals have tons of “what if” scenarios because of so many key players going on the DL, as well as the emergence of young talent.  With the Nats in first place and looking fairly decent, the answers to these questions actually mean something for the first time since they have been in DC. Once Jayson Werth gets healthy, what will the outfield look like? If Davey keeps...

Heat causes Strasburg to exit after 3 innings

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg left his start Saturday after just three innings because of heat-related issues. Laboring in 104-degree conditions, Strasburg didn't return to begin the fourth against Atlanta, tying for the shortest outing of his 33-start career. Chien-Ming Wang replaced Strasburg, who allowed two hits, three runs and four walks. Making 36 of...

Braves wrap up interleague, beat Dbacks… ready for Nats

Jair Jurrjens has been solid since return from AAA. 13.1 inn, 3 ER. When the Braves began the 5-series stretch of interleague play, they were fresh off a sweep of the surging Miami Marlins. Their ace, Brandon Beachy, was heading for an All Star Game appearance. The Braves offense was surging, due in part to the massive new stadium in Miami. And, the Braves had the best road record...

FanGraphs Audio: Fredi Gonzalez, Andrelton Simmons

Episode 206 David Laurila, curator of FanGraphs’ Q&A Series, talks with Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things. Audio after the jump. (Approximately 21 min. play time.)

Braves comeback bid falls short vs. Nats

ATLANTA (AP) -- Michael Morse had four hits, including the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning after Washington had blown a four-run lead, and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Friday night. Andrelton Simmons' two-run homer off Ross Detwiler capped Atlanta's four-run seventh inning which erased the Nationals' 4-0 lead. Morse had a quick answer by hitting...

Hudson seeks second opinion; surgery likely

PHOENIX Daniel Hudson did not know it at the time, but he may have been staring directly at his future in Atlanta last Tuesday. Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, also on the mound that night,has won 41 games, made an All-Star team and finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008. Daniel Hudson is expected to undergo a similar procedure after...

Bryce Harper Calls D.C. Home and Wants to Stay

He's found a home Bryce Harper is young. Bryce Harper is a phenom. Bryce Harper has found his home. According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Harper has fallen in love with Washington D.C. and hopes to play his entire career in the city. Being born and raised in Las Vegas, Harper always considered Vegas as his home. Now, the 19 year-old man has found the place where he...

Braves beat Strasburg thanks to summer heat

ATLANTA (AP) -- Mike Minor won for just the second time in 12 starts and the Atlanta Braves overcame 104-degree heat to beat Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 7-5 on Saturday. Strasburg (9-3) left after just three innings because of weather-related issues. He didn't return to begin the fourth, tying for the shortest outing of his 33-start career. Braves officials...

Kimbrell allows first HR in loss to D-backs

ATLANTA (AP) -- Chris Young hit a tiebreaking homer against Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, lifting the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-2 victory over the Braves on Thursday night. Jason Kubel had a two-run double in the sixth to tie the score for the Diamondbacks. Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2011, did not receive a decision in his major-league debut...

Young's home run leads D-backs over Braves

ATLANTA (AP) -- Chris Young hit a tiebreaking homer against Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, lifting the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-2 victory over the Braves on Thursday night. Jason Kubel had a two-run double in the sixth to tie the score for the Diamondbacks. Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2011, did not receive a decision in his major-league debut...

Nationals Report Card: June 22-28

This past week was a rough one for the Washington Nationals in terms of results, despite a few exciting offensive outbursts at Coors Field in Colorado. I’m not one to think that this is a prophecy of things to come, but the job of this feature is to grade the past week for the Nats. Grade: C- It’s hard to be terribly mad about the series in Baltimore by the results alone. The...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.