The Atlanta Braves suffered their 82nd defeat of the season Tuesday night at the hands of the National League East champion Washington Nationals, securing their fourth consecutive losing season and sixth since the turn of the century.
In the midst of a three-game losing skid after winning seven of nine, Atlanta will look to get back in the win column Wednesday night as it sends rookie right-hander Lucas Sims to the mound to take on Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals at SunTrust Park.
Sims is 2-5 through seven starts with the club in 2017 and boasts a 5.73 ERA, 5.54 FIP and 5.45 xFIP over 37 2⁄3 innings of work. The 23-year-old’s last four appearances have come out of the bullpen, as he’s allowed 3 earned runs through 6 1⁄3 innings while striking out five and walking two. He was roughed up at Wrigley Field in his last start on Sept. 2, when the Chicago Cubs got to him for seven earned runs on six hits, ending his day after 73 pitches through three-plus innings.
Despite the short outing in Chicago, Sims has pitched into or past the sixth inning in five of his seven starts with Atlanta. He has used his fastball, which has an average velocity of 91.5 mph (per FanGraphs), roughly 45.4 percent of the time this season. His slider has an average velocity of 86.8 mph, his curveball an average velocity of 76.6 mph and his changeup 83.3 mph.
Washington will counter with Gonzalez, who enters with a 14-7 record through 29 starts and boasts a 2.68 ERA, 3.87 FIP and 4.21 xFIP. The man who turned 32 years old yesterday is 0-2 in three starts against the Braves in 2017, allowing 12 earned runs through 16 2⁄3 innings while compiling 19 strikeouts and issuing six walks.
Gonzalez’s last start came against Atlanta at Nationals Park on Sept. 12, in a game in which he allowed five earned on seven hits and was removed after five innings of work as the Braves went on to win 8-0 behind Julio Teheran’s seven shutout innings.
Freddie Freeman went 1-for-4 at the plate Tuesday and is now slashing .317/.414/.607 with 160 wRC+ through 105 games this season. He’s 13-for-42 (.310) in his career against Gonzalez with five doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs.
Ender Inciarte left Tuesday night’s game after the fourth inning due to left-thumb soreness. Inciarte initially hurt his hand sliding into first base against the Nationals on Sept. 12 and, due to aggravating the injury, is expected to miss at least tonight’s start. If he does find his way into the game, however, he’ll be worth keeping an eye on as he currently sits 10 hits shy of being the first Braves player to eclipse 200 hits in a season since Marquis Grissom in 1996 (207). Additionally, he’s 11-for-22 (.500) lifetime against Gonzalez with a pair of doubles and an RBI.
In light of Bryce Harper’s absence due to injury, National League MVP candidate Anthony Rendon leads Washington’s offensive assault with 144 wRC+ through 138 games. After going 2-for-5 with an RBI Tuesday, Rendon has a slash line of .305/.403/.541 with 24 home runs and 95 RBIs. The Nationals’ arsenal also includes Ryan Zimmerman (.304/.358/.563, 136 wRC+) and Daniel Murphy (.318/.379/.5.38, 133 wRC+), who missed Tuesday’s game due to tightness in his left hamstring.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, September 20, 7:35 p.m. ET
Location: SunTrust Park
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, Braves Radio Network