Braves have made the most of their opportunities against the Nationals
Once again, the mood of a baseball season has been reversed within a span of 24 hours. Most of the frustration that had built around the Braves over the previous nine days, evaporated over the course of the nine innings played during Monday night’s 3-2 win over the Nationals.
After losing seven of their final nine games of the 10-game road trip that concluded late Sunday night in Detroit, the Braves returned to the unfamiliar surroundings of home and won their eighth straight game against the Nationals dating back to last year.
While winning each of the first four games they have played against the Nationals this year, the Braves have batted .265 and averaged 1.25 home runs per game. In the other 21 games they have played this year, they have hit .239 and averaged 1.5 home runs per game.
We are obviously dealing with very small sample sizes here. But the Braves have been more successful at taking advantage of their opportunities against the Nationals than they have against the other teams they have played this year.
The Braves have hit .306 (11-for-36) with runners in scoring position against the Nationals and .203 (38-for-169) with runners in scoring position in their other 21 games.
From a pitching perspective the Braves have posted a 1.70 ERA against the Nationals and a 3.54 ERA against all of their other opponents.
Since scoring four runs in the first two innings of this season series against the Braves, the Nationals have totaled three runs in the 35 innings that have followed.
Tim Hudson will attempt to extend this success when he makes his third bid for his 200th career victory tonight. Hudson’s 15 wins against the Nationals and Mets stand as the highest totals he has recorded against any Major League club.
Hudson went an incredible 10-1 with a 1.55 ERA in his first 17 career starts against the Expos/Nationals. He has 5-4 with a 4.65 ERA in the 10 starts that have followed. But after allowing allowing 16 earned runs in the 18 2/3 innings he completed against the Nationals last year, he limited them to one run in seven innings at Nationals Park on April 13 – his only start against them this year.
During Monday night’s series-opening win, the Braves showed good plate discipline against Stephen Strasburg, who is downplaying the right forearm stiffness that manager Davey Johnson mentioned his pitcher was feeling last night. Regardless of whether Strasburg does make his next start, this revelation has at least created reason to wonder if Strasburg’s career path will mirror the one traveled by Mark Prior.
The Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound tonight with the hope that he proves more successful than he was when he allowed the Braves seven earned runs in five innings on April 14.
While making his first career start against the Braves last year, Gonzalez allowed one hit and two earned runs over seven innings. But the sometimes erratic Gonzalez has not completed more than five innings in any of the four starts that have followed against Atlanta.