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Washington Nationals vs Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Nats’ slumping offense looks to wake up in Atlanta

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The Washington Nationals haven’t been the same offense without Bryce Harper, but they hope to build off their late-inning outburst from their series finale with the Dodgers.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (90-59) vs. Braves (67-81) Series Info:

Game 1: Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 7:35 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 7:35 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 21 at 7:35 p.m. EST (MASN2/106.7)

Pitching Matchups:

Tuesday: Max Scherzer (14-6, 2.59 ERA) vs. Luiz Gohara (1-1, 6.30)

Wednesday: Gio Gonzalez (14-7, 2.68) vs. Lucas Sims (2-5, 5.52)

Thursday: Tanner Roark (13-9, 4.43) vs. R.A. Dickey (9-10, 4.41)

What to watch for:

Nats’ offense looking for a spark

Although a late-inning outburst saved them from a sweep Sunday night, the Nats have struggled to get the bats going during their recent slide.

Washington’s scored three runs or less in five of their last seven games, losing four of those contests over that span.

Bryce Harper’s targeting the NLDS for his return, but the rest of the Nats’ lineup only has 13 games left in the regular season to get rolling before then.

Can Max Scherzer still win the Cy Young?

The Nats’ ace still has a few turns in the rotation left, but Max Scherzer’s case for the Cy Young took a hit in his last outing when he gave up seven earned runs in six innings.

Scherzer still leads the NL in strikeouts (246), WHIP (0.917), H/9 (5.7), opponents’ batting average (.179) and complete games (2), but Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg have crept up on him.

Kershaw leads the league in wins (17) and ERA (2.12), while Strasburg just wrapped up a scoreless-inning streak of 35 innings and leads the NL in FIP (2.78) and HR/9 (0.7).

Scherzer appears to be in the lead for now, but the picture’s a lot murkier than it was a few weeks ago.

Braves’ first season in SunTrust Park hasn’t gone as planned

Between a few rising prospects and some savvy veterans, the Braves expected to at least tread water in the playoff race this season to celebrate the opening of their new ballpark.

Instead, Dansby Swanson got off to a slow start and never really recovered, Bartolo Colon posted an ERA above 8.00 before being released, and Jim Johnson was a disaster in the closer’s role.

The team’s 34 wins at SunTrust Park is tied for the third fewest home victories in the NL, leaving the team firmly in the discussion for a top-10 pick in next year’s amateur draft.

Who to watch out for: Ozzie Albies

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Dansby Swanson may have gotten more hype as a minor leaguer, but Ozzie Albies — who was right behind him in the team’s prospect rankings — has found more success in the big leagues.

In 44 games this season, Albies is hitting .282 with four home runs and an .823 OPS.

The Braves’ offense doesn’t provide a ton of power, but it did score 18 runs off Nats pitching in their last series, so anything can happen.