Atlanta begins the second half with a 52-42 record and just a half game behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East lead. The Nationals battled their way through a largely disappointing first half and are 48-48 and 5.5 games back.
The Braves are 6-4 in head-to-head matchups against the Nationals this season.
Friday, July 20, 7:05 p.m. ET (Fox Sports South)
Anibal Sanchez (12 G, 11 GS, 4-2 W-L, 23.7 K%, 7.3 BB%, 2.60 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 4.03 xFIP)
Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb probably deserve mention but the biggest pitching surprise for the Braves in the first half has to be the performance of Anibal Sanchez who has provided a veteran presence to the staff.
Sanchez has posted a 2.60 ERA in 65.2 innings and his peripheral stats continue to improve as well. He has allowed just seven hits and two runs over his last 12.2 innings. He has 14 strikeouts and just one walk over that span.
Sanchez has made two appearances against the Nationals this season including one start and has allowed just two unearned runs over 10 innings.
Stephen Strasburg (13 GS, 6-6 W-L, 29.1 K%, 5.8 BB%, 3.46 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 2.98 xFIP)
Stephen Strasburg will make his first start since June 8 when he returns from the disabled list in Friday’s opener. Strasburg was sidelined due to a shoulder injury. He made two rehab starts before he was declared ready to return.
Strasburg has faced Atlanta twice this season allowing three earned runs in 14.2 innings. He struck out 18 and walked just two in that span.
Saturday, July 21, 7:05 p.m. ET (Fox Sports South)
Sean Newcomb (19 GS, 8-5 W-L, 22.2 K%, 11.9 BB%, 3.51 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 4.34 xFIP)
After a pair of rough starts, it looked like more of the same from Sean Newcomb when he walked the bases loaded in the first inning against the Diamondbacks. However, he escaped having allowed just one run and went on to turn in a solid performance allowing four hits and three runs over 5.2 innings. That came after he had allowed 10 runs in just 6.1 innings in his previous two starts.
Command has been his largest issue. Newcomb walked a total 10 batters over five starts in June (30.1 innings). He has walked 12 in his last three starts alone (12 innings).
Gio Gonzalez (19 GS, 6-6 W-L, 21.2 K%, 10.8 BB%, 3.72 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 4.14 xFIP)
Gio Gonzalez will get the start for the Nationals on Saturday. Gonzalez struggled in June posting an 8.44 ERA in five starts but has pitched somewhat better in July. He has allowed two runs in each of his last two games.
Gonzalez allowed five hits, three runs and struck out nine over seven innings against the Braves back on June 2.
Sunday, July 22, 1:35 p.m. ET (Fox Sports South)
Mike Foltynewicz (18 GS, 7-5 W-L, 28.9 K%, 10.1 BB%, 2.66 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 3.52 xFIP)
Mike Foltynewicz is fresh off of his first All-Star Game appearance but will be looking to bounce back after allowing 10 runs over his last two starts.
Foltynewicz was cruising through his last outing against the Blue Jays before things unraveled in the seventh inning. Devon Travis eventually hit a grand slam which put a damper on what had been a solid performance.
Foltynewicz matched up against Max Scherzer back on April 4 and allowed four hits and one run while striking out eight over 5.1 while picking up the victory.
Max Scherzer (20 GS, 12-5 W-L, 34.5 K%, 6.5 BB%, 2.41 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 3.14 xFIP)
Max Scherzer returns to action after making his second straight All-Star Game start. Scherzer put together a dominant first half but has struggled a bit in July before the break. He has allowed 10 runs over his last three starts which is a span of 20 innings.
Scherzer has faced the Braves twice this season allowing just eight hits and two earned runs over 14 innings.