Dusty Baker talked before last night’s series opener with Atlanta about not taking the Braves lightly based on their overall record on the year.
Though Washington’s divisional rivals started the series 43-72, Atlanta had won six of their last nine and 10 for 16 going into the three-game set in the nation’s capital.
“You see the overall record and, ‘How can you get beat by a last place team?’” Baker asked rhetorically, “but they’re not playing like a last place team the last ten days. Which is what counts, or the last week, when they’re playing you.”
“Everybody is a professional hitter and any team can beat any other team at any point in time. You see the teams we’ve had trouble with are Milwaukee and San Diego and Cincinnati and some of these teams.
“So we just have to play up to our level and what we’re capable of doing...”
After the Nationals dropped the series opener, 8-5, Baker talked about the hard-throwing relievers the Braves ran out to the mound after 24-year-old right-hander Mike Foltynewicz was done for the night.
“I told you before, they have a much different team than we played last time,” Baker said.
“They come out of the bullpen throwing some gas.
“Everybody that came out was throwing gas. We’ve got to get on these guys tomorrow and we can’t bring this game back tonight.”
In the second game of three with the Braves in D.C., the Nationals are facing Rob Whalen, 22, a New York Mets’ 12th Round pick in 2012 who was acquired in the July 2015 trade that sent Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to NY.
Whalen’s (1-0) in two starts, one of them his MLB debut, with a 5.73 ERA, 5.23 FIP, five walks (4.09 BB/9) and 12 Ks (9.82 K/9) in 11 IP, over which opposing hitters have put up a .220/.333/.390 line.
Reynaldo Lopez is back up to start for the Nationals.
Here’s the Nats’ lineup for the second game of three with the Braves: