Series Preview: The NL East is as tight as ever and the Braves are coming to town
On April 21st, the Nationals’ best hitter, Juan Soto, was put on the IL. Since then, the Nationals are 6-3 and go into this week with a share of first place in the NL East. Baseball is weird, and it is why they play. The pitching has held this team up and been the elite pitching we expected it to be.
Currently, the Nationals’ bullpen has the best ERA in the NL East and has looked like a strength. The team is still missing Wander Suero, Will Harris, and Stephen Strasburg. Once these three return, the pitching could get even better. The Braves, on the other hand, have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, with a 4.72 ERA. Their starters aren’t looking too great, either, having a combined ERA of 5.30. As always, this series is going to be interesting. Expectations are sure to rise if the Nats can win this one.
Tuesday, May 4: RHP Joe Ross (2-1, 4.64 ERA) vs. RHP Huascar Ynoa (2-1, 2.96 ERA) | First pitch 7:05 pm EST
Huascar Ynoa has been quite the surprise for the Braves, posting a 2.96 ERA and a 3.66 FIP so far. He has already faced the Nationals once this year, and he did very well over five innings, where he only gave up two hits and no runs. His performance has been solid all year. Expect him to lean on his high 90s fastball to get him through another game with the Nationals. Hopefully the batters will have a better performance against him the second time around.
Joe Ross is in the middle of a great start to his season. He has only had one bad start this year, and that was in New York against the Mets. Outside of that start, he has given up only one run all year. As always against the Braves, you cannot let Freddie Freeman beat you. That is especially important for Ross. Freeman has hit .500 against Ross over his career with two HRs in 10 ABs. This will be an interesting matchup to start the series, and Ross is responsible for keeping this momentum moving.
Wednesday May 5: RHP Erick Fedde (2-2, 4.43 ERA) vs. Max Fried (0-1, 11.45 ERA) | First pitch 7:05 pm EST
The Nationals have another pleasant surprise starting on Wednesday. Erick Fedde has been extremely impressive so far this year, and he really has only had one bad start. Unfortunately, that bad start came against the Braves. Since then, Fedde has only given up more than one run once.
In that start, there was a clear difference in change-up use, and Fedde has since spoken about having a better pitch sequence. He has to rely on his cutter and mix in that sinker and change-up to be successful. Fedde had one of the best starts of his career in his last outing and looks to build on it Wednesday. The Braves have announced Max Fried as their starter.
Thursday May 6: LHP Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (0-2, 8.05 ERA) l First pitch 4:05 pm EST
Just you wait – the series finale on Thursday will be Youtube’s Game of the Week.
Jon Lester made his first start as a National this past week. He did exactly what the team needed him to do. He went out there and he threw strikes. I doubt the team expected him to give up no runs, but they do expect him to be a quality pitcher and fill in that fourth spot successfully. He was saved by the double play a few times during his last start, and he won’t be able to count on that every outing. Lester has had a good amount of experience against current Braves players in the past. There aren’t many that have had much success against him, but Marcell Ozuna has hit three home runs against him in the past.
The Braves will send out one of their big offseason acquisitions, but so far, Drew Smyly has not looked like he is worth the money. He’s got an ERA over 8 and an FIP that is up there as well. His fastball velocity is down a little bit, but this seems to be more of him regressing. Of course that could all change on Thursday, but for the Nats’ sake, let’s hope he continues to pitch this way. Keep an eye on Yan Gomes in this matchup, as he has had some real success against Smyly in the past, boasting an OPS over 1.200 in 16 ABs.
Series Notes for the Nationals-Braves:
- The Nationals are currently tied for first place in the NL East
- Juan Soto could return this week
- The Nationals currently have the best bullpen ERA in the NL East