The Braves are set to face off against the division-rival Washington Nationals tonight in a game that will feature National League strikeout leader Max Scherzer, one of the league’s leading contenders for the Cy Young Award. The Nationals have been as advertised this season, lead by a strong starting rotation and surprisingly potent offense despite Bryce Harper’s struggles (by his standards). Washington has dominated the Braves in 2016, with a 14-2 record versus a team that dominated them in recent years. The tables have turned this season, and Washington currently owns baseball’s second-best record along with a 10-game lead in the NL East. Their magic number sits at seven entering play Friday night.
Scherzer has been one of baseball’s best this season, leading the league in strikeouts while posting a 16-7 record and 2.78 ERA. If there is one blemish on Scherzer’s impressive season however, it would be his propensity for allowing home runs, as the right-hander has given up 26 thus far in 2016. However, if the Braves are going to improve upon their 2-14 record versus Washington, they will have to make some adjustments, as Scherzer is 3-0 against them this season.
Taking the mound for the Braves on Friday will be right-hander John Gant, who may be the most well-traveled player in the Braves organization in 2016. Gant began the season in Atlanta’s bullpen, but after struggling initially was sent to Gwinnett and stretched back out as a starter. Since then Gant has changed teams 10 times, bouncing back-and-forth between Gwinnett and Atlanta. He currently owns a 1-3 record along with a 4.40 ERA with the big club.
Though this series may mean very little for the Braves from a competitive perspective, the improvements the team has made offensively should bode well for a potential rebound against Washington. Regardless of the team’s status with regards to a rebuilding, losing 14 of 16 games against a division rival is inexcusable. The Braves have been much-improved since August 1, and whether that can be attributed to the arrival of Matt Kemp or not, the team has payed its best baseball since his arrival. Since that time the Braves are hitting .277 as a team and are averaging more than a home run per game, an astounding feat considering the incredible power outage that we saw early in the season.
Friday, September 16, 2016, 7:35 pm ET
Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, 680 AM / 93.7 FM