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Washington Nationals Series #10 Preview: Braves Opposition Research

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The Braves again? I know. Same old, same old. To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Atlanta Braves. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

Just over a week ago, the Nationals went down to Georgia and some strange sort of magic happened.  They scored 30 runs in three games while allowing 24 runs and came away with two wins.  Then they went on to score 2 runs in their next three games while allowing 4 runs and also came away with two wins.  There's no telling what will happen this weekend.  The Braves are still half a game ahead of the Nats in the standings, which is not acceptable in this town.  Time to see how the Braves fare at Nationals Park against a rotation that does not include A.J. Cole.

The Braves are putting up the same pitchers that the Nats faced last time around.  Two of the Nats starters from last time are back as well.

Friday, 7:05 pm - Gio Gonzalez vs Eric Stults
Stults got the win last time around with 2 runs over 6.1 IP.  He since has added a 6 run, 7 IP outing to his resume and his ERA is up to 4.91.  Gio pitched seven shutout innings vs the Fish last time out, but had a 6 run horror of his own the time before that.  The edge goes to Gio, but hold on to your seats!

Saturday, 4:05 pm - Doug Fister vs Julio Teheran
Teheran got a non-decision against the Nats thanks to Uggla (10 hits over 5.2 IP), then turned around and threw six shutout innings last Sunday.  Fister lost to the Braves (10 hits over 5.2 IP), then turned around and threw six shutout innings last Sunday.  This one could be close!  Or not close!

Sunday, 1:35 pm - Jordan Zimmermann vs Alex Wood.
Lefty Wood allowed 5 runs and took the loss vs the Nats last week, then gave up 3 runs to the Phillies this week.  Zimm gave up 3 runs vs the Braves but took home a win, then gave up 1 ER vs the Fish and got a no-decision.  Alex Wood has a WHIP of 1.62.  Edge goes to Zimmermann if he gets any kind of run support.

The Braves Lineup

The Braves offense is about league average.  That means it's better than what the Nationals have been trotting out there.  Don't underestimate the power of the dark side.

RF - Nick Markakis
+ bat (lefty)
-? power
- glove

Markakis has been really solid at the plate except for his total lack of power.  Only four of his 31 hits have been for extra bases.  His .390 OBP is quite respectable to start off the order, though.

SS - Andrelton Simmons
+??? bat
+++ glove

We know Simmons.  He is a beast on defense but tame at the plate, right?  Not this year.  His .292/.359/.462 line this year is well above his career average.  Is it for real?  Can he be tamed again?
1B - Freddie Freeman
+++ bat (lefty)
- glove

Freeman is on fire as usual, with a career best .318/.376/.561 line and 5 home runs to date.

C - A.J. Pierzynski
+?? bat (lefty)
+ glove
Another puzzling offensive threat, Pierzynski is batting .344/.377/.541, which is not what anyone expected from this guy who had put up league average numbers three times in 14 years.

LF - Kelly Johnson
average bat
+ power
- glove

Kelly Johnson is overperforming his career numbers and earning starts both in LF and at 3B.  He leads the team with 6 HR, so expect to see plenty of him, though he may sit vs Gio.

3B - Alberto Callaspo
- bat (switch)
- glove

Callaspo has been getting on base regularly, but that is all that can be said for him.
2B - Jace Peterson
- bat (lefty)
- power
+ glove
Jace has bounced back from his rookie campaign and is putting up serviceable numbers, though still below league average.
CF - Cameron Maybin
+?? bat
average glove
Yet another Braves bat that is wildly overperforming.  He is on pace for over 30 HR even though he has never hit more than 9 in a season before.  No guesses as to what's in the water in that clubhouse.


LF - Jonny Gomes:  There is one more name that has to be mentioned, because he is making it into the lineup most nights of late.  He is not having a good season, but his power somehow keeps him in a job for the time being.

I do want to point out some strikeout rates.  Both Andrelton Simmons and A.J. Pierzynski have an absurdly low 4.3% K rate.   This is less than half of their respective career rates.  I'm not sure what they are doing to achieve this, but whatever it is is working wonders for them.


The Braves Bullpen

The Braves bullpen walks a lot of people and it allows a lot of people to score.  Yes, the Nats and their 13 run games may have helped skew the numbers a little.

The bullpen is led by righties Cody Martin and Brandon Cunniff, who have been quite solid.  Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli have been eating up innings as well.  Trevor Cahill has joined the bullpen after struggling as a starter, but may not stay there long.

The only lefty in the Braves pen is Luis Avilan, who has been okay, but not all that great vs lefties this year.

Can They Be Swept?

The Nats just won their third straight series, so would only be a small step for them to sweep a series next.  To crush the Braves at Nationals Park is merely something that ought to be done to bring happiness to young children and aged people alike.

Clearly, it would be a shame if the Nats don't  win every game.  One does not win 147 games by losing games.  The Nats pitching has begun to click, and the offense (aka Bryce Harper) has not entirely forgotten how to score runs.  These guys have what it takes, and they love playing hard in front of their fans.

The Nats have not yet begun to fight.  They believe that they are part of a great team and that they should win every game.  Don't second guess them.  Go cheer for them.  Buy an Uggla jersey if you want to be ironic, or a Roark jersey if you want to look awesome.

Never give up!  Never surrender!