The Braves veteran right-hander will be overshadowed by all the hype of the opposing pitcher, but I have a feeling the final spotlight will be placed on him.
Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
Washington squandered a lead for the third consecutive game on Sunday, dropping the final game of a road series, 4-3, against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. “I’m not going to call any team the worst team in baseball,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “Certainly when you have leads and you give them up, that’s frustrating.” The Nationals have lost 10 of their last 12 games and have been held to 34 runs over that span. Washington is now 7-17 in June this season (-690) and 25-52 the last three years (-2,480). The club now faces a difficult stretch before the All-Star break, as they play four teams that have record above .500 (Braves, Mets, Padres, Giants).
Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg is 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA, while setting a Major League record for most strikeouts (41) in a pitcher’s first four starts (-210). He picked up his first career loss in his last start against the Kansas City Royals on June 23, giving up a single run on nine hits. “For the most part, I went out there and threw strikes,” Strasburg said after the loss. The right-hander has made just a single start away from Nationals Park, picking up a 9-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians (+100). He lasted a season-low 5.1 innings due to allowing his only five walks of the year. The Nationals have provided just one run of support in his last two outings, after supplying 14 runs in his first two starts.
Atlanta had its seven-game home win streak and 11-0 record in home day games snapped by a 10-4 loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers. The Braves finished the interleague season with an 11-7 record. The club is still a dominating 26-8 at home ($1,520) and continues a 10-day, nine-game homestand on Monday night in front of a national audience. All eyes will be on manager Bobby Cox’s lineup card, as the fans hope to see rookie outfielder Jason Heyward take on the Nationals’ phenom. Heyward has been battling a sore thumb and is expected to get an MRI on Monday. He was used as a pinch hitter on Saturday and sat out Sunday due to hitting just .181 in June. The Braves hope to improve its record against the NL East Division with the end of interleague play, as the team is 9-11 against division opponents (-370).
Braves SP Tim Hudson is a solid 7-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 15 starts this season (+40), allowing opposing batters to hit just .223 against him (.295 in 209). The right-hander is 1-2 over his last three starts due to the offense managing to score just six runs in those games. He has allowed seven runs and 17 hits in 22 innings of work over that span. Hudson is a dominating 8-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 14 career starts against the Nationals, but picked up a no-decision in his only start against the Nationals this season (7IP/2ER). He has received a decision in all five of his starts at Turner Field, going 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA (+300).
Bettors should remain cautious in playing the rookie phenom on the road, especially with the Nationals being 1-7 as a road underdog of +100 to +125. Considering Atlanta has lost back-to-back games at home just once this year (April 21-22), it’s going to be hard not to pull the trigger.