I like that we start a 4 game series against the Nats only 3.5 back. Mentally, it lets you know that if the series goes well, you are within striking distance of the lead. Also, given our robust road record we have the capability to at least take a series split in our nation's capital. On to the matchups!
Game 1: Hanson v. Strasburg
Game 2: Sheets v. Jackson
Game 3: Delgado v. Lannan
Game 4: Jurrjens v. Detwiler
The game tonight between Hanson and Strasburg is about as marquee a matchup as you're likely to see this month. If you don't watch this game, I question your fanhood, your commitment, and your love of the game. It's that good. Why is it that good? Because this is one of the few times you're ever going to see TWO 10 win pitchers under the age of 25 face off in July. There's only 21 pitchers in the majors right now with 10 wins or more, and two of them are going to pitch in this game. Can I hype it more? Do I need to? Hanson is sporting a 4.02 ERA, but his road ERA is only a 3.00 and he's holding RH batters to a .220 average. There are 5 of those in the Nats lineup. The guy Tommy needs towatch out for? Danny Espinosa who is hitting .375 off him. Strasburg is trucking along with a 2.66 ERA on the year, holding RH hitters to a .185 average. HOWEVER, we employ 5 Lefties in our lineup, and Strasburg has a mediocre .265 average against them. In fact, Chipper, McCann, and Uggla all have .300+ averages against Stephen, and Dan has managed 8 RBIs. How great would it be for him to get off the shnide in this game?
Game 2 we're getting Sheetfaced again. Sheets in his career against the Nats hitters has had major issues with DeRosa and LaRoche. Then again, that was back in the stone age practically, so who knows what happens here. We're all just along for the ride with the Sheets experiment. Edwin Jackson is one of those guys you'd never hear about in the league unless you play him. He's a 5-5 guy with a 3.89 ERA, but his games of late have been really bad. We're catching him at the right time. In his last 3 starts, Jackson has gone 13.2 IP with 16 runs, 3 HRs, and 6 walks. Also, Michael Bourn has a lifetime average of .444, and Bmac and Prado have a .333 average in 18 combined ABs. I like these odds if Sheets can stay breezy. Get it? Breezy? Moving on.
Game 3 is the second half of the double header and Delgado is on the mound. Here's my analysis. Delgado's lost 5 in a row. He's averaged 1.8 runs per game of support in those losses. The Hope Diamond has a less formidable curse on it than this kid. We're doomed, the game is doomed, and I don't like the fact the we still haven't sent the kid down to get the stink off of him. We go against Lannan who is getting called up from AAA after going 4.60 ERA with a losing record in the minors. If you know ANYTHING about how the Braves hit against guys who supposedly suck and are coming back into the majors, Lannan will likely throw a no-hitter.
Game 4 is JJ coming off his worst start of the year, versus Detwiler coming off his best start of the year. I'd love to see those positions reverse in this matchup. Detwiler pitched ineffectively against us in Atlanta back on June 29th, but the Nats won the game because we let them hang 5 on us compared to our 4 runs. Guess what? That was a Delgado game! Shocker we lost. Anyway, with JJ on the mound I have a lot more hope of a victory. The main thing JJ needs to watch out for is hanging pitches to Zimmerman. The dude is 12/33 against JJ with 2 doubles, a dinger, and 5 RBIs. Flipside, Detwiler is a younger guy who will walk some folks if you are patient. I'm looking at you Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Both you guys have hit poorly against Detwiler because you're freewheeling up there. Take a note from Martin Prado who's hitting .538 and slugging .923 against the kid.
This is a great series, people. This is the type of series where you carve out time on the weekend to see how your postseason might look. You can't win the division in this type of series, but you can sure lose it if things go sideways. That goes for both clubs. Also, this is Dan Uggla's last chance to get off my list. If he can't come up big in our biggest series of the second half? Screw him. We've got better guys we can put at second base who can hit better than .200 and not commit errors. I want him to succeed so badly because the team wins when he's right, but we can't wait until mid-August for him to figure things out. Get out there and get some runs, guys!