WASHINGTON NATIONALS (9-5)
at ATLANTA BRAVES (6-8)
First pitch: Thursday, 7:35 p.m. ET
Line: Washington -165, Atlanta +155, Total: 7.5
The Nationals will be going for their fourth straight win when they face the Braves on Thursday.
Washington is on a tear right now, as the team has won three straight games and six of its past eight. The Nationals were hot at the plate on Wednesday, racking up 20 hits on their way to scoring 14 runs against this same Braves team. Atlanta, meanwhile, only had eight hits on Wednesday, and this team is going to need to be a lot better offensively in order to prevent a three-game losing streak on Thursday. The starters in this Thursday night matchup are going to be RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 19 K) for the Nationals and RHP R.A. Dickey (1-1, 3.86 ERA, 10 K) for the Braves. One trend that favors Atlanta in this game is the fact that the team is 38-14 against the money line versus teams averaging 3.5 or more extra base hits per game since 1997. The Braves do, however, have Dickey on the mound, and the righty is just 8-20 against the money line when facing division opponents over the past three seasons. OF Jayson Werth (Undisclosed) is questionable for the Nats in this game, and OF Trea Turner (Hamstring) is still on the DL for Washington. Turner is, however, reportedly feeling healthy, so he should be back with the team very soon.
Stephen Strasburg is healthy for Washington right now, and that is all the Nationals can really ask of the 28-year-old righty. Strasburg has always been elite when he is able to pitch for this team, but he has been injured the past few postseasons. Now that he’s healthy, Strasburg looks as good as new for the Nats. He has pitched seven innings in each of his starts this season, allowing three or fewer earned runs in all of those contests. It wouldn’t be surprising if he blanked the Braves in this one either. Offensively, OF Bryce Harper (.404 BA, 6 HR, 18 RBI) is the player to watch in this one. Harper is on fire right now, as he is 9-for-12 with three doubles, four homers, and 10 RBI over the past three games. Dickey is definitely a tough pitcher to hit, but Harper will take advantage of any pitches that don’t knuckle properly here. 2B Daniel Murphy (.344 BA, 2 HR, 10 RBI) should also provide some offense for Washington. Murphy spent plenty of time with Dickey in a Mets uniform, so he should know him pretty well. This is just the matchup he needs after two hitless games in a row.
The Braves have lost two straight to the Nationals, but they could get back into the win column in this one. While the team is going up against a very talented pitcher, there are plenty of guys on this roster that have been able to get to the righty. One of those is 1B Freddie Freeman (.440 BA, 6 HR, 8 RBI), who has emerged as one of the league’s best hitters this season. Over the past three games, Freeman is 8-for-9 with three homers and five RBI. He also happens to be 14-for-35 with four homers and 13 RBI against Strasburg in his career. That means he should be in for a solid performance on Thursday as well. Another guy that has hit Strasburg hard is 3B Adonis Garcia (.170 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Garcia has struggled this season, but he is 6-for-13 against Strasburg in his career. If he can get on base then it’d be a big plus for Atlanta. As for Dickey, the righty will just need to turn in a quality start in this one. He is facing a very good offense, so anything else would be a major plus for the veteran. If his pitches aren’t knuckling then there could be trouble, though.