The Washington Nationals (40-72) will head down south for a two game series against the Atlanta Braves (58-52) this week.
Both the Nationals and the Braves are surging but towards very different destinies. The Nationals, who have won eight games in a row, and 12 of their last 16, have turned around what had potential to be one of the worst seasons in MLB history into one of the leagues hottest Augusts. The Braves on the other hand, who have won 15 of their last 23, are trying to claw their way into a wide open race for the National League East division lead.
The Braves are coming off a road trip where they captured five wins, suffered two losses, and took three of four from top team in the league, the Los Angeles Dodgers (68-45). With this streak, they are only 4.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies (61-48)
During their road trip, the hottest hitter for the Braves was former Washington National Ryan Church. Church batted .389 in that stretch, with five runs, three extra-base hits and five runs batted in.
Church has had a tumultuous journey since being traded from the Nationals after the 2007 season. Church saw two half seasons with the Mets that were marred by bizarre injury after bizarre injury, until he was finally traded to the Braves this season.
Atlanta has risen back to contention in the NL East this summer on the backs of the same group of people who carried them their year after year in the 1990’s, their pitching staff.
The club currently ranks third in the National League in Pitcher VORP, third in the majors in team ERA, and seventh in strikeouts. In the last month however, the club ranks first in the majors in ERA.
Once again the clubs pitching staff is anchored by its starting rotation, which features three aces.
- Javier Vazquez-10-7, 2.90 ERA, 171/32 K/BB, 1.04 WHIP
- Jair Jurrjens- 9-8, 3.01 ERA, 103/53 K/BB, 1.28 WHIP
- Tommy Hanson- 6-2, 3.22 ERA, 46/29 K/BB, 1.33 WHIP
Vazquez is an established veteran who started his career with Montreal. Jurrjens is 23-year-old up and comer who already has a full year of experience under his belt. Tommy Hanson is a rookie prospect who is making a strong case for rookie of the year.
The Braves rotation is filled out by off-season signing Derek Lowe (11-7, 4.15) and foreign import Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.12). That gives them 5 starters with an ERA below 4.15.
The Nationals will try to earn their ninth win in a row tonight, as the clubs ace, John Lannan, will face up against Tommy Hanson. Lannan admitted to not having his best stuff in his last start, although he earned his 15th quality start of the season. Lannan pitched six innings and gave up two runs against the Marlins.
Hanson on the other hand has come on strong in August with a six inning performance against the Padres where he allowed only two runs on five hits.