Braves have chance to alter the tide against the Nationals
Like the Braves had success against the Phillies before the All-Star break in 2009 and 2010, the Nationals had their way with the Braves during the first half of this season.
Now the Braves can only hope to follow the same second-half path the Phillies traveled during those two previous seasons.
The Braves went 7-2 against the Phillies before the 2009 All-Star break and 3-6 against them after the break. They finished seven games behind Philadelphia that season.
The Braves went 7-5 against the Phillies before the 2010 break and then won just one of the six matchups in the second half. That one win came on the regular season’s final day, when Philadelphia had already celebrated a fourth consecutive division title.
With the aid of six wins in this year’s first eight head-to-head matchups, the first-place Nationals enter this weekend’s four-game series with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Braves, who have righted themselves while winning eight of their past 10 games.
After Thursday’s much-needed win over the Giants, Tim Hudson said the Braves need to at least split this weekend’s four-game series. While it’s easy to understand the logic in this statement, the Braves could certainly make a statement by winning three of four.
Looking toward the season’s final two months, the primary concern about the Nationals’ starting rotation seems to center around how many innings Stephen Strasburg might complete before being shut down. As he prepares to face the Braves for the fourth time this season tonight, Strasburg has completed 105 innings.
Since the start of the season, there has been a belief that Strasburg would likely be limited to approximately 160 innings. Now it sounds like Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will not utilize a definitive stopping point. Instead he will monitor his prized right-hander over the next few weeks to get a feel for when he might shut him down.
Regardless of what has been said in the past, just a hunch that the division standings might influence the decision.
As for the Braves, the focus on their rotation centers around who might be added before the Trade Deadline.
The Braves recently asked the Red Sox about Jon Lester, who does not appear to be available at this time. In addition, they have closely monitored Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, who remains scheduled to start tonight’s game against the Cardinals.
Still the Braves primary focus appears to remain on Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke, who stands as the one available pitcher who could best match up against the other top starters that would be pitching in the playoffs.
With the Dodgers and Cubs struggling to complete a deal, the Braves are among the teams who could end up landing Dempster. Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have known Dempster for approximately 15 years, dating back to the days when they were with the Marlins together.
Because there is some demand for him right now, the Braves might have to put together a decent package to land Dempster, who will be a free agent at the end of this season.
Still even if the cost is not significant as the one needed to lure Greinke out of Milwaukee, the Braves might be more willing to go with Greinke, as long as they are confident they could keep him in Atlanta beyond this season.
The Braves are not interested in mortgaging their future for a two-month rental. So their interest in Greinke continues to hinge on the confidence they have in being able to sign the former Cy Young Award winner to a multi-year deal.
It appears they are willing to provide the former Cy Young Award winner approximately $20 million a year — a price that would rival what Matt Cain recently received.
In addition, Greinke has made it known that he would like to play for the Braves, who annually hold Spring Training within 20 minutes of the neighborhood he was raised in Orlando. So even if the Braves do not land Greinke via trade, there is a good chance they will make a run at him on the free agent market this winter.