The last time the Braves took the field, they earned a walkoff victory against the Miami Marlins, delivering another NL East divisional crown to the Washington Nationals. Now, these two teams will face off in a mid-September contest as the Nationals will vie to usurp home field advantage in the playoffs from the reeling Dodgers.
Washington is now just four games back of the Dodgers for the NL’s best record. But, the Braves have been a surprisingly tough opponent against them, as the Nats have beaten them in just seven of 13 tries. The Braves actually haven’t lost a series at Nationals Park in over a year, which is kind of silly if you think about the respective fortunes of these two clubs.
The pitching matchup in the series opener will feature Julio Teheran and Gio Gonzalez.
Teheran had one of his best stretches of what’s been a horrendous season in August, stringing together four okay-to-great starts between August 14 and August 30, where he gave up just eight runs in 27 innings. However, his first start in September went poorly once again, as the Rangers knocked him around for three runs in five innings, including a miserable 5/3 BB/K ratio. On the year, Teheran has a ghastly 4.77 / 5.21 / 5.02 pitching triple slash, and unless he really dazzles in his few remaining outings, this will go down as his worst season to date.
With his season tally just an out short of 180 innings, Gio Gonzalez has once again put up a solid, durable season in age where pitchers fall by the wayside with severe injuries every day. Gonzalez has pitched at least 175 innings in each of the past three years, and at least 158 innings in every year since 2010. He’s also been quite good: his lowest fWAR mark in that span is last year’s 2.8, and only 12 pitchers have been more valuable than him since 2010 (including two teammates, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer). After various happenstances that led to him underperforming his FIP over the last three years, the worm has turned for Gonzalez, who currently features a 2.50 / 3.89 / 4.28 triple slash, thanks to a BABIP-against under .250. His FIP and xFIP have risen steadily since 2010, but that in part mirrors the league-wide offensive rise, and he’s been fairly consistent at preventing runs about 10 percent better than the average pitcher throughout his career.
With that said, though, Gonzalez has not had his usual success against the Braves this season. One of his worst starts of the season came against them in May (four runs, didn’t make it out of the sixth, and yes, this qualifies as a bad start for him); his other start (three runs in six innings) against Atlanta was just average. Teheran, meanwhile, has faced the Nats thrice this season with mixed results: he was obliterated by them in April (four innings, seven runs), pitched well against them in June (six innings, two runs), and dominated them in July in one of his best starts of the year (seven scoreless).
Overall, in case you’ve forgotten, the Nats are pretty good. They have one of the best offenses in the NL, are a very fast team, and play good defense. The rotation has also been stellar. Their weakness was once their bullpen, but trade deadline additions Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler have all pitched well, making them tough to handle.
But, the Braves can still play home field advantage spoiler, and it’s always fun to beat the Nats. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 7:05 pm ET
Nationals Park, Washington, DC
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM, Braves Radio Network