There may not be a more important series in August than this one. Heck, there may not be a more important series in National League in terms of playoff projections. The Braves v. Nationals can swing the balance of power towards a division championship, or a wild card battle with a sweep either way. At the very minimum, I think we can all agree that the Braves have to win this series to stay in the division discussion. A 1-2 record here would put the Nats 6 games up, and we'd only have 3 left against them. That's pretty much impossible to cover unless they go into a tailspin. A series win makes it 4 games back with 3 to play. That just means you need a little help and a sweep. Still long odds, but not as long as others. On to the matchups!
Game 1: Hudson (12-4) v. Zimmerman (9-7)
Game 2: Maholm (11-7) v. Strasburg (14-5)
Game 3: Medlen (4-1) v. Detwiler (7-5)
Game 1 tonight is probably the most important of all the games, and luckily we have our Ace on the mound in Tim Hudson. We need to dazzle tonight, because you can't go down 0-1 right off the bat when you need a series win. The Braves have won 9 of Hudson's last 10 starts, including an 8 game streak going back to July 6th. Tim's coming off a 6.1 inning 2 hit performance where he dominated the Padres. Here's the bad news. That one loss out of ten? That was the Nationals. Huddy needs to keep an eye out for Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman. Desmond's hitting him for .297 across 37 ABs with 2 doubles and 3 walks, and Zimmerman roughed him up in the last outing for 3 hits and 4 RBIs. Meanwhile, Zimmerman is coming off a 1-6 loss against the Giants on the road where he gave up 2 runs. He's carrying a 2.38 ERA on the year, and the Nats have won 8 of his last 10 starts. The Braves lineup is batting .238 against Zimmerman, with the bright spot being Martin Prado, who is 4-8 against him lifetime. Here's the bad news. Freeman, Heyward, and Janish have never hit Zimmerman in 12 combined ABs. Uggla is batting 1-10, BMac is batting 1-7, Bourn is batting 1-6, and Chipper is batting 2-9. We'll HAVE to overcome our poor stats against Zimmerman to notch a win.
Game 2 is probably Strasburg's last start if they decide to shut him down. That being said, I expected to get his full attention on this pivotal series anyway. It's a match on a fire. Here's the thing. Despite his intimidating record, Strasburg is only 5-5 in his last 10 games, two of which he lost to us including that 10-11 late rally. I think we can get after him again. We're hitting .313 across the lineup with 3 bombs against the kid, and 7 doubles. Maholm goes against him, and he's 2-1 with our club. In his last 2 games, both wins, he's gone 16 innings and only given up one solo homer. That's the extent of his runs. Maholm is probably pitching at the top of his game right now, which couldn't have come at a better time. Against the Nats, he's had trouble with a couple of hitters, including the infamous Ryan Zimmerman (.333) and Jason Werth (.375). Otherwise, I actually think we have the better pitcher on the mound for this game, and it's one we'll certain have to win to take the series.
All Kris Medlen does is win. In fact, if he wins in Game 3, he'll set a record for most consecutive starts where the Braves won the game. Medlen has a 2.03 ERA on the year, and I think you all remember his complete game shutout against the Padres last week. Whereas he was tops on the list for probably getting sent to the bullpen after the 6 man rotation concluded, now I believe he's secured his spot at the top of the rotation with Huddy and Maholm. Medlen's only given up 3 runs in his last 4 starts, and Nationals hitters are only sporting a paltry .250 OBP against him. On the other hand, Detwiler has been reeling in his last two starts, going 10.2 innings with 7 runs on 9 hits. He's due for a buttkicking from guys like Chipper Jones (.308 against him) and Martin Prado who is lifetime 9-16 with 3 doubles and a triple! The downside is that Bourn is only 1-13 off Detwiler, so we'll need him to snap out of that to set the table. When it comes to an anchor game, I think this is our most favorable matchup of the whole series.
The key will be runs. Buckets of runs. I dare say that if the Braves don't score 20+ in this series, we may have some issues. Still, I think we can do just that. I think we can rough up these Nats who are expecting to cruise to the finish, shut down their best starters, and wait for us to collapse. NOT GONNA HAPPEN THIS YEAR!