Friday, 7:35 p.m. -- RHP Livan Hernandez (5-8, 4.01) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (8-6, 3.57)
TV: MASN Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. -- LHP John Lannan (5-6, 3.64) vs. RHP Tommy Hanson (10-4, 2.44)
TV: MASN, MLB Network Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
Sunday, 1:35 p.m. -- LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-6, 3.94) vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens (12-3, 1.87)
TV: MASN, Ch. 50 Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM
The Nationals have gone 23-15 since June 1, their best prolonged stretch of baseball in quite some time, yet they've actually lost two games in the wild-card race. Why? Because the Braves have been better than anyone else in the NL over that same span, going 24-12.
Atlanta has been able to sustain such a torrid pace because of stellar pitching across the board. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens has enjoyed a breakthrough season, leading the league in wins (12) and ERA (1.87). Fellow young hurler Tommy Hanson has been nearly as impressive, going 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings.
The real domination, though, has come out of a bullpen that boasts a 2.90 ERA (second-best in the majors) and a whole lotta power arms. Billy Wagner's retirement has been an afterthought thanks to new closer Craig Kimbrel (28 saves, 70 strikeouts in 46 innings), top lefty Jonny Venters (1.46 ERA, 0.958 WHIP) and their cast of pen mates.
Offensively, the Braves are surviving despite lackluster performances so far from Jason Heyward (.226 average, 22 RBI) and Dan Uggla (.185 average, .257 OBP). Chipper Jones is on the DL after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last weekend. Super-utilityman Martin Prado is expected to return from the DL in time for tonight's series opener after missing 31 games recovering from a staph infection in his right calf.
WASHINGTON BATTERS VS. ATLANTA PITCHERS
Nats' best vs. Hudson -- Matt Stairs (5-for-6, 2 2B, BB), Laynce Nix (7-for-16, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 K), Jayson Werth (8-for-25, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K).
Nats' worst vs. Hudson -- Jesus Flores (0-for-5, RBI, 2 K), Danny Espinosa (1-for-7, BB, 2 K), Ryan Zimmerman (7-for-37, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 6 K), Ian Desmond (5-for-23, 2 BB, 4 K).
Nats' best vs. Hanson -- Wilson Ramos (3-for-5, 2B), Jayson Werth (4-for-10, 3 2B, 4 BB, 4 K), Ian Desmond (5-for-17, HR, 3 RBI, K).
Nats' worst vs. Hanson -- Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-15, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 6 K), Roger Bernadina (2-for-9, 2 K), Danny Espinosa (0-for-2, RBI, BB, K).
Nats' best vs. Jurrjens -- Ryan Zimmerman (9-for-25, 2B, RBI, BB, 6 K), Ian Desmond (2-for-6, HR, RBI), Laynce Nix (1-for-2, RBI).
Nats' worst vs. Jurrjens -- Alex Cora (1-for-8), Matt Stairs (1-for-6, 2 K), Jayson Werth (4-for-18, 3 BB, 2 K).
ATLANTA BATTERS VS. WASHINGTON PITCHERS
Braves' best vs. Hernandez -- Brian McCann (10-for-26, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, K), Julio Lugo (9-for-23, 2B, 2 BB, 5 K), Jason Heyward (4-for-12, 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 6 BB, 2 K).
Braves' worst vs. Hernandez -- Alex Gonzalez (6-for-54, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 11 K), Nats McLouth (2-for-21, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 7 K), Dan Uggla (4-for-30, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 5 K), Eric Hinske (6-for-28, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 5 K).
Braves' best vs. Lannan -- Dan Uggla (6-for-17, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB, K), Alex Gonzalez (6-for-13, 2B, RBI, 3 K), Nate McLouth (5-for-17, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 5 K).
Braves' worst vs. Lannan -- David Ross (0-for-9, BB, K), Jason Heyward (1-for-6, 2 BB, K), Brian McCann (7-for-27, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K).
Braves' best vs. Gorzelanny -- David Ross (4-for-7, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, K), Dan Uggla (2-for-5, HR, RBI, BB, K), Jason Heyward (2-for-4, K).
Braves' worst vs. Gorzelanny -- Brian McCann (0-for-10, BB, 2 K), Alex Gonzalez (2-for-9, 2B, RBI, BB, 2 K),