On the morning of May 24, the Washington Nationals had the second-worst record in the National League.
Today, they’ll arrive at SunTrust Park with the league’s fourth-best record.
The Braves will open a four-game series against the Nationals at 7:20 p.m., a series that might provide a hint or two about how the NL East race will unfold over the next 2-1/2 months.
The series begins with the first-place Braves leading the second-place Nationals by 6-1/2 games in the division. Since May 24, the Nationals have gone 31-13, the best record in MLB over that stretch.
The Nationals looked like a nonfactor in late May. They were 19-31, 10 games behind the NL East-leading Phillies and 8-1/2 games behind the second-place Braves. But the Nationals’ rebound since then is a firm reminder of the fallacy of jumping to conclusions amid the long haul of a baseball season.
The key for Washington has been its formidable starting pitching rotation.
Max Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA, has struck out a major league-leading 181 batters in 129-1/3 innings and has held opponents to a .215 batting average. Stephen Strasburg is 11-4 with a 3.46 ERA, 144 strikeouts in 122-1/3 innings and a .219 opponents batting average. Patrick Corbin is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA, 139 strikeouts in 119-1/3 innings and a .226 OBA. Former Brave Anibal Sanchez also has pitched well, allowing two runs or fewer in six of his past eight starts.
The Nationals’ starting rotation has a combined 1.76 ERA over the team’s past 12 games, making for a compelling matchup against the Braves’ usually robust offense.
Scherzer is on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, but he could be activated to pitch in this series, likely Sunday, depending on how he’s feeling. Sanchez is likely to start Saturday after Strasburg goes tonight and Corbin on Friday.
Should be quite an interesting series.
TODAY’S LEADOFF LINKS
>The Braves expect big crowds for the big series. See story here.
> Is Nick Saban a bad boss? Depends on how you feel about winning, Mark Bradley writes from SEC Media Days.
> Clemson is hardly wigging out about more expectations of dominance, Steve Hummer writes from the ACC Football Kickoff.
> Two days after agreeing to terms with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on a four-year, $68 million contract, the Falcons reached a four-year, $57 million deal with middle linebacker Deion Jones. See D. Orlando Ledbetter’s report here.
> Seven MLB teams have announced this summer that they'll extend the protective netting in their stadiums. Will the Braves also do so? It's under consideration. See story here.
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