After dropping three straight games to the last place Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Nationals (33-43) look to stop the bleeding against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves (44-32). The Nationals managed to take two of three games from the Kansas City Royals prior to the series with Baltimore this past weekend; however, the Nationals lost three of the easiest games they will play all season. After leading the Orioles in each of their matchups, the Nationals succumbed to one-run defeats in each game. The team will now need to pick itself up and begin playing good baseball again as they face a pair of division-leaders (Braves and Padres) and two second place teams (Mets and Giants).
REVERSAL OF FORTUNES
What a difference a month and a half makes. When these two teams last met (May 5-7) the Nationals took two of the three games and left the Braves floundering. Atlanta left Washington at 12-16 and was five games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for first place in the NL East. Since that time the Braves have played .667 baseball, rattling off a 32-16 record which included a nine-game winning streak and a half-game lead in the division.
The key to the Braves' resurgence has been their offense, particularly their ability to get on base. Atlanta leads Major League Baseball with 333 walks and is tenth in average, all of which equates to the third-highest team on base percentage in the game. The Braves' offensive revival has been led by hot-hitting first baseman Troy Glaus. In 53 games over May and June, Glaus hit .300 with 12 HRs, 47 RBI, and a .407 OBP. Another important factor in their offensive growth has been the improved performance from the leadoff spot. Since May 4, Braves' leadoff hitters have raised their collective averages in that spot in the order by 60 points, and their combined on base percentage is just under .320.
Additionally, Atlanta's pitching staff has done well in the team's climb up the division standings. The Braves are seventh in baseball with a team 3.80 ERA, and even embattled starter Kenshin Kawakami got a win after dropping his first nine decisions. With right-handers Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, and Tommy Hanson at the top of the rotation, Atlanta seems poised to remain in the chase for a playoff berth for the foreseeable future.
Chipper Jones: 3-7, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 run, 3 RBI
Martin Prado: 5-12, 2 2Bs, 1 BB, 1 run, 1 SB
Yunel Escobar: 1-10, K
Monday, June 28: Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 1.78) vs. Tim Hudson (7-3, 2.54)
Tuesday, June 29: TBA vs. Derek Lowe (9-5, 4.42)
Wednesday, June 30: TBA vs. TBA