Oh those pesky Nats. Not so pesky in the last month or so. If we go in there now and take 2 of 3 games in their house? They will be about a week from completely derailing any hopes they have left. On to the matchups:
Game 1 - Minor (11-5) v. Strasburg (5-9)
Game 2 - Teheran (8-5) v. Gonzalez (7-4)
Game 3 - Medlen (8-10) v. Zimmerman (13-6)
Minor and Strasburg will be the marquee matchup, mostly on name value. In reality, it's a mismatch. The Braves lineup has always hit Strasburg well, at a .300+ team clip. Plus he's never received a win in 3 games against the Braves this year alone. Minor on the other hand hasn't faced Washington this year yet, but he's been about 10x as sharp as his prior year efforts thus far. Take that logic and apply it to Minor's last 4 starts. He's 3-1 with only 5 earned runs total in those 4 starts. That's pretty solid. What about Strasburg? Try 0-3 with 15 earned runs. That's two guys trending in totally different directions. I love the matchup here.
Teheran has been a surprise to some, but not to me. I knew from spring training that this kid was special, and he's proving me right start after start as we get deeper into the season. The Braves are 3-0 in his last 3 starts, and he's only given up 2 runs in 18 innings of work. That's an ERA of 1.00 for those of you at home. The bad news? The Nats have lit him up in the past. I mean destroyed. Their lineup is hitting at a .359 average off him with a 1-1 record in his starts this season. Meanwhile, the Braves haven't hit the Gonzalez much at all as a lineup, with a paltry .235 BAA against the lefty. The upside is that Gonzalez hasn't been himself lately, with a 5.34 ERA in July. His last outing was a 10 earned run beatdown by a hot Tigers team. We know what that feels like. Maybe we can inflict similar pain, although the matchup doesn't favor us.
If you put arrows on the two pitchers in the anchor game, both would be trending up, but for the wrong reasons. Both Medlen and Zimmerman have had inflating ERAs in the month of July, and that's mostly due to a bad habit of giving up early runs and big homers. Zimmerman gave up 6 homers in 5 starts in July, while Medlen just gave up 3 in his last start in Philly. This is the kind of matchup that can go either way, but historical hitting trends favor Zimmerman's approach against the Braves. Our lineup doesn't hit Zimmerman well at all, for only .200 across the team, with several guys like Simmons, BJ, and Gattis not having a hit off him at all. Medlen does a decent job against the Nats lineup, but it's nowhere near that dominant. The key here will be for Medlen to not give the Nats anything early, and for the Braves to manufacture a few runs off Zimmerman before getting to the bullpen fast. The more pitches he has to throw, the better.
The CPA is on a good run, going 2-1 over the weekend, 58-37 on the whole. Let's look at the first match between Minor and Strasburg.
CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Nats 4
This game could be decided by bullpens. We haven't traditionally done well on the road until the last series, so maybe the Braves can carry over the momentum. However, it eventually will wear out and it's only a matter of time. The numbers on this are closer than I would like because Strasburg is better at home, but bad against the Braves. The Braves need to get to Strasburg in the first two innings and run up his count so he doesn't settle into a groove.