The Braves enter a three-game weekend series against the Nationals with eyes toward extending their division lead, which stands at 81⁄2 games entering play on Friday. Atlanta split a four-game series with the Phillies this week, but will now play head-to-head against Washington as they look to trim their magic number further. With 14 games remaining on the schedule, the magic number currently sits at eight, and will diminish by two with each victory over the Nationals this weekend.
Toeing the slab for Atlanta will be rookie Mike Soroka, who owns an impressive 11-4 record and 2.67 ERA this season, with 126 strikeouts in 1582⁄3 innings pitched. The right-hander has a 3.50 FIP, largely due to his middling strikeout rate, but supplements it with a 52.4% ground ball rate. Soroka has struggled in his previous two starts this month, including a loss to the Nationals on Sunday, in which he went six innings but allowed four runs and three homers. Those numbers will likely need to improve tonight as the Braves are set for a tough matchup offensively.
Max Scherzer enters play on Friday with a 10-5 record and 2.56 ERA, along with 216 strikeouts in 1542⁄3 innings pitched. In his most recent start, Scherzer limited the Braves to just one run in six innings, striking out nine. Recent back issues have limited his availability, but the right-hander looked every bit the ace we are accustomed to seeing on Sunday. Scherzer relies heavily on a fastball, slider, changeup combination that ranges from the high-90’s to the low-80’s, and is a matchup nightmare for hitters regardless of dexterity.
Career numbers for each team in this matchup would seem to favor the Nationals, as Juan Soto (5-for-9, 2 HR), Adam Eaton (3-for-10, HR), and Trea Turner (4-for-10) have all fared well against Soroka. Watch for those matchups tonight as Soroka looks to correct some of the mistakes made on Sunday.
For Atlanta, Ronald Acuña (4-for-11), Charlie Culberson (4-for-12, HR), and Matt Joyce (2-for-10, HR) have found success against Scherzer. It will be interesting to see what kind of lineup Brian Snitker deploys to counter some ugly head-to-head numbers throughout the starting lineup. It has been rumored that Nick Markakis could rejoin the club this weekend in Washington, and having another quality left-handed bat in the lineup would certainly be welcome for a matchup with Scherzer. We will monitor that situation for updates throughout the day.
Game Date/Time: Friday, September 13, 7:05 p.m. ET
Location: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network