Braves' 5-game home streak on line vs. surging Strasburg

As we head toward the final weekend of this long, strange, frequently frustrating, largely disappointing but often interesting Braves season, we do so with your Braves riding a five-game home winning streak and looking to complete a three-game sweep of the preseason NL pennant favorite Nationals, who are now barely above .500.

Like we said, it’s been a strange, interesting season.

The Braves, after their 42-42 start, had one of the worst two-month stretches you’ll ever see a major league team have, or at least we hope you never have to watch a major league team have one that bad again.

But now, far too little and too late, but at least in time to give them something to feel better about going to the offseason, the Braves have won seven of their past 11 games  including the five-game home streak wen mentioned, which came directly on the heels of a 1-14 stretch at home that included a 12-game home skid that was the franchise’s longest in a century. Tonight, they’ll try to extend it when they face a formidable foe in Stephen Strasburg.

If the five-game winning streak wasn’t improbable enough, consider that in those five games the Braves have scored just 10 runs – two in every game – and batted .229 with two homers. They’ve won it mostly on the strength of pitching, which had been the biggest of their multiple weaknesses during the 1-14 home stretch that preceded this, when the Braves posted a 6.62 ERA. During the five-game home streak, they have a 0.80 ERA. Just four runs allowed.

They’ve won by scores of 2-1 (four consecutive times) and last night’s 2-0 shutout by Williams Perez and three relievers, each of whom pitched a perfect inning.

The Braves have a respectable 3.51 ERA during their past 11 games (7-4) after posting an absolutely terrible 5.53 ERA during the previous 63 games (15-48).

But like we said, it won’t be easy to complete this sweep, even against a Nationals team playing as if it’s season ended last weekend, which it did, of course, after they were eliminated from playoff contention one day and saw their veteran closer (Jonathon Papelbon) pick a fight with their superstar slugger (Bryce Harper) the next.

Despite the depressed state of the Nationals, who’ve lost seven of nine and scored 23 runs in that stretch, the Braves will be running another rookie starter out there tonight in Ryan Weber, who hasn’t had time to go through a rough patch and then finish strong as have both rookies Ryan Wisler and Williams Perez, who won the past two nights. For Weber, it’s just his fifth major league start, and he’s 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA.

Still looking for his first major league win, in his last start of the season Weber will face Strasburg, who comes in on quite an impressive roll.

Strasburg is 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA and .168 opponents’ average in his past 12 starts, with 103 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 76 innings.

Spending  more than a month on the DL in the middle of that span didn’t do anything to slow him down, and he’s working on a four-start streak with double-digit strikeout totals. In those four starts he’s posted a 1.48 ERA and .144 opponents’ average, allowing only 15 hits and four walks with 50 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.

Strasburg is 5-7 with a 4.01 ERA  in 18 starts vs. Braves, his highest ERA against any team he’s faced more than four times. He’s 48-30 with a 3.00 ERA in 113 starts against everyone else.

However, in his past two starts against the Braves – one in September at Turner Field, the other in June at D.C. – he’s 2-0 with nine hits and no runs allowed  in 12 innings, and has 13 strikeouts with one walk in 12 innings.

Besides the Braves, the only other team he has more than four losses against is the Marlins, who are also the only team he’s faced as many or more times than he has the Braves. Strasburg is 10-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts against the Marlins.

He doesn’t have more than three losses against any other teams. And besides the Braves, the only team Strasburg has a losing record against in more than four starts is St. Louis; he’s 0-2 despite a 2.81 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals.

Strasburg is 2-3 with a 5.60 ERA in eight starts at Turner Field, his worst ERA at any of the seven ballparks where he’s made more than three starts. The only place he’s had a worse ERA in multiple starts is Cincinnati’s Great America Ball Park, where Strasburg has a 7.50 ERA in three starts.

To get some idea of  how bad Freddie Freeman’s wrist is hurting, consider that he’s not in the lineup tonight despite being 12-for-28 (.429) with three homers against Straburg. Freeman said Wednesday that he might be limited to pinch-hitting duty the rest of the season.

Others who’ve faced Strasburg plenty and or had success against him: Nick Markakis 3-for-7, Andrelton Simmons is 3-for-19, and Michael Bourn is 2-for-15.

Here's a great one from a while back by Band of Horses.

"ODE TO LRC" by Band of Horses

In the lobby of the LRC
Well, I knew I'd find something
A hundred stories sittin' there to read
I got my focals out, I put 'em on

And all is calm, all is calm

There's a doggie coming here to eat now
Which dated back to 1993
I don't care what the people say 'cause
That dog, he don't come around here anymore

No, no the dog is gone, the dog is gone
No, no the dog is gone, the dog is gone

The town is so small
How could anybody not
Look you in the eyes?
The way that you drive by

The world is such a wonderful place
The world is such a wonderful

I see everyone before me, there was birthday sex and sleep
Some weren't getting along
Nobody's outside trying to murder
Nobody's outside, there's no one really at all

What the hell I saw, the hell I saw
The hell I saw, the hell I saw

The town is so small
How could anybody not
Look me in the eyes?
The way that I drive by

The world is such a wonderful place
The world is such a wonderful place
The world is such a wonderful place
The world is such a wonderful place
La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah, la-dee-dah, la-dee-dah