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Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves Series Preview: Top rookies go head to head

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The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves each have one of the two front runners for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Who will be more impressive: Ronald Acuña Jr. or Juan Soto?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals (74-73) vs. Braves (82-64) series info:

Game 1: Friday, Sept. 14 at 7:35 p.m. ET (MASN2/106.7 The Fan)

Game 2: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1:05 p.m. ET (FOX/106.7)

Game 3: Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1:35 p.m. ET (MASN2/106.7)

Pitching matchups:

Tuesday: Max Scherzer (17-6, 2.31 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (9-10, 3.89)

Wednesday: TBA (Jefry Rodriguez?) vs. Julio Teheran (9-7, 3.95)

Thursday: TBA (Tanner Roark?) vs. Sean Newcomb (12-8, 3.82)

What to watch for:

Youngsters go head to head

It’s a fun baseball conversation that will likely be discussed for the next half decade: Would you rather have Juan Soto and Victor Robles on your team or Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies? Soto and Acuña are going to finish this season in the top two spots of this year’s NL Rookie of the Year voting, while neither Robles nor Albies are over the age of 21.

The edge probably goes to the Braves’ duo right now, but more so because Albies has proven himself at the major-league level while Robles spent most of this season on the disabled list and has yet to play for an extended stint with Washington. This series will mark the first time all four players are on the same field, and should make for an exciting storyline to watch.

Nationals’ rotation not yet set

Seven different starting pitchers are on the Nationals’ roster and as a result the team hasn’t decided who will be pitching the latter two games of this series. Jefry Rodriguez and Tanner Roark are the next up in the current rotation, but weather postponements have given several pitchers enough days off to be rested enough for this weekend.

In addition to Scherzer, Roark and Rodriguez, Jeremy Hellickson and Erick Fedde are both available for this weekend. Joe Ross (who pitched Thursday) and Stephen Strasburg (Wednesday) round out the list of starting pitchers on the active roster.

Freeman’s MVP case

Despite putting together a season that will likely result in his first career Silver Slugger, Freddie Freeman’s chances at the NL MVP award are by no means guaranteed. This season will see a crowded ballot with names like Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt and Christian Yelich.

Freeman doesn’t lead the National League in any major offensive statistics but enters play Friday tied for second in hits (173) and third in bWAR (5.7) while ranking fifth in both batting average (.307) and doubles (T-38). Given that he doesn’t play a premium defensive position, Freeman is going to need a surge these last few weeks to make a serious case for the award.

Series history:

The Nationals lead the all-time series (2005-present) by a margin of 133-123. In Atlanta, however, the Braves boast a .548 winning percentage (69-57). This three-game set will decide who wins the season series, as the Braves currently lead 9-7.