MLB: September 14, 2018, SunTrust Park, Smyrna, GA, 7:35 PM ET
The Washington Nationals will look to continue their late-season surge against the Atlanta Braves on Friday in the final series of the year between the NL East rivals.
Fresh off a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals are looking to move into second place behind the Braves and potentially shake up the playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Braves are hopeful of a better home performance and securing their comfortable spot at the top of the division.
Washington’s Max Scherzer will be the first to take the mound, and the Braves will counter with right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman.
Can the Nationals keep up the streaky play?
A 4-3 slip up to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday shouldn’t distract from the fact that the Nationals have been playing great baseball in the last stretch of the season. Before the loss, they were on a five-game winning streak with victories over the Cubs and Phillies.
A closeout win over the Phillies had Bryce Harper smashing his 33rd home run over the wall, followed by a couple more homers from Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto, and pitcher Stephen Strasburg had his best game since returning from injury—nine strikeouts, five hits and only one round allowed in seven innings on the mound.
Even in the loss to the Cubs, it took extra innings for the best team in the American League to shut down the streaky Nationals.
Everything is coming together for the Nationals at the right time, and they could make some noise in the division if they take the series against the Braves. No one wants to see this team this late in the season, especially ball clubs vying for playoff positioning.
Will the Home woes for the Braves continue?
The Braves have looked like a legitimate playoff contender on the road. It’s quite ironic that they actually seem to play better when people are booing them as opposed to cheering. They are 6-1 in their last seven games on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants, but things have been drastically different when the backdrop is SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
They are 3-10 in their last 13 games at home, including losses to the Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays. It’s an ugly stat for a team that will be heavily dependent on home wins in an upcoming 10-game homestand.
A single by pinch hitter Tyler Flowers in the ninth inning drove in a run and helped the Braves hold off the Giants on Wednesday.
- Braves are 0-5 in last 5 games at home against teams with a winning record
- Braves are 0-8 in last 8 games at home against teams with a winning record on the road
- Braves are 3-8 in last 11 games at home against a right-handed starter
- Nationals are 5-0 in last 5 against a team with a winning record
- Nationals are 6-1 in last 7 games on the road
- Nationals are 6-1 in last 7 games against a National League East opponent
- Nationals are 37-15 in Scherzer’s last 52 starts on the road
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Nationals are in a good spot to go into Atlanta and shock the Braves in Game 1 of the series. They are leading off with Scherzer, a three-time CY Young winner who is already making his fourth bid for the prestigious award in 2018. He is matching up against a Braves offense that hasn’t hit consistently in their home building.
On the other side of the ball, the Nationals are hitting incredibly well right now. Even with a good pitcher like Gausman on the mound, they still should be able to pull ahead with Scherzer being the great equalizer. He has owned the Braves in 10 of his last 14 starts against them. Thursday’s game won’t be any different.
Braves third baseman Johan Camargo is also dealing with a groin injury, which has put his availability in jeopardy. This match-up reeks of a trap game.
Prediction: Washington Nationals
Full-Game Total Pick
The under is 4-0-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings between these two teams in Atlanta, but that stat isn’t nearly as important as the mound being occupied by two exceptional pitchers to start the series. Scherzer and Gausman won’t give up many hits, and the expectation here is for the relief to hold up strong as well. There won’t be many runs scored in this one.
Prediction: Under 7.5