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Nationals hope Games 10-12 vs. Braves go better this time around

Apr 11, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

After beating the Miami Marlins on Thursday to secure their second series sweep of this young season, the Nationals moved to 7-2 through nine games on the year. That’s a .778 winning percentage, and a pretty good start, right?

Well, what if you were told the Nationals started each of the last two seasons with the exact same record? In 2012 they went on to post the best record in baseball with 98 wins, but in 2013 they missed the playoffs. Though things are going well now, a long season is ahead.

The Nationals actually head to Atlanta this weekend to face the Braves in Games 10, 11 & 12, just as they did last season. A year ago Atlanta swept them at Nationals Park and never really looked back on their way to a division title.

Will it go different this time around? The Nationals certainly hope so.

“Hopefully it goes better this time,” Jayson Werth said. “You saw what happened last year. They jumped out to a big lead and we couldn’t get back at them. So of course these games are important.”

You play 162 games it seems like every year it comes down to the last couple of games. So you can’t take any of these games for granted, for sure. It is early, but against a division rival, a top-notch team like the Braves you’ve got to come out playing your best ball.”

The Braves were 8-1 heading into Game 10 last year, but this season have started off slow. Despite taking two of three against the Nationals a week ago, the Braves are 5-4 and coming off a series loss against the Mets. They have lost three of their last four games overall.

The Braves are struggling to score runs this year, ranking second-to-last in the majors with 23 runs through nine games. That’s an average of 2.6 runs per game.

The Nationals, on the other hand, are faring much better at the plate. They have scored more than twice as many runs so far (49) and average 5.4 per contest.

In terms of runs allowed, the Braves are once again proving a lethal pitching staff. They’ve surrendered the fewest runs in the majors with a total of just 22. Even with their pitching injuries, they continue to keep opponents off the scoreboard. The Nationals aren’t too shabby as a staff either, with the 7th fewest runs allowed at 27.

We’re less than two weeks into the 2014 season, but the Nationals could create some early distance between them and the Braves. After this weekend the teams will not see each other again until late June. By that time in 2013 Atlanta had built a 7 1/2 game lead in the division.

  1. David Proctor - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Last year, we were 7-2 with a run differential of 0. This year we have an MLB best run differential of 22. Last year, the Braves were 8-1 and this year they’re 5-4. Not the same teams. Win 2/3 and then you’re in the driver’s seat.

    • Eric - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I like it. If we win tonight, we are guaranteed to remain in front of them at the end of the series, which might make it easier to relax for games 2 and 3 and expand our lead even further.

      Set the tone tonight fellas!

      • Theophilus T.S. - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        Relax? Anathema to Wms. (Unlike Johnson, who I think resigned himself to the “fact” he was going to lose certain games.) Exhibit A? Sunday game w/ scrubinis in the lineup. Williams concedes nothing.

      • Eric - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        There’s a big difference between being relaxed and being complacent. IMO we were playing very tense baseball last year, especially early on, and it hurt us.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        I’m with you Eric. Let the Nats play mistake free and see how that goes.

      • Eric - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        +1

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        Theo, all indications are that MW agrees with Ms. Savoy: in “hitting a baseball, you just gotta relax and concentrate.”

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      +1

    • letswin3 - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Lets Win 3

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    I hope all the “early birds” who kept espousing after games 10 and 11 that they mean nothing, never trivialize the sprints within a marathon.

    JDub with a great quote above.

    Also listen to letswin3.

    • Brookstoor - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      Absolutely Ghost and this is going to be an important sprint early on. I want them to take 2/3, that at least evens up the games played so far. Seeing a 3 game sweep would make my weekend. I hope we blow them out at least one game, but beating them in the close games is what we couldn’t do last year so I would be just fine with 3 one-run wins.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        Me too and I expect they are working on how to thwart Rendon, Werth and LaRoche specifically.

        It’s time for Span, RZim, Harper and Desi to step up big.

        If all 7 are hitting, we can turn 2013 on them!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        Span has a 1.032 OPS and .389 BA in 19 PAs against Teheran. LaRoche is even better and Harper is the best of all at 1.467 and 2 HRs in 15 PAs.

        Desi has a 359 BA.

        RZim is 0-11 and Werth is 2-13. Espi 2-10 and Rendon has a .389 OBP.

        Frandsen is 2-3.

        This should be interesting for MW.

      • Candide - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        …I would be just fine with 3 one-run wins…

        I would be just fine if the Nats scored 6-7 runs in the first inning of each game, and then slowly pulled away.

        I don’t want the Barves thinking, “Meh, they took two of three here, but they were all close, all could have gone either way. We’re just as good as they are.”

        I want the Barves thinking, “How did we end up lying on our backs in a ditch?”

        Score runs, then pile on. We never did that last year.

    • laddieblahblah - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Yup. That attitude bugged the heck out of me, last year. Matt’s approach is entirely different, and way better. I didn’t think Werth ever bought into that, last year. You can bet Harper didn’t.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        Werth only wants to be known for winning. He doesn’t like drama or excuses. Davey allowed drama to creep in and instead of answers tried to dazzle with BS and the toothy grin.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        Sigh.

        For the record, NO ONE on this board or any other Nats fan site that I have seen ever said last year that any games were “meaningless” or “don’t [didn't] matter.” That is the statement/attitude that is attributed to any fan who refuses to panic at the slightest sign of trouble. Remember what Annie Savoy said (as quoted up the tread) “relax and concentrate.” Well, one person’s “sense of urgency” is another person’s “squeezing the bat handle too hard.” One is good, the other bad, but the only way to tell which is which is to attempt to piece it together in hindsight – and even then, subsequent events color the analysis of things that happened earlier. The doomsayers felt vindicated by 2013 – were they ever abashed by 2012?

        FWIW, the premise that the games don’t matter as much as we make out of them at this point (but do matter some, obviously) cuts both ways. As demonstrated by 2012 and 2013, a 7-2 start promises much but guarantees nothing. Struggles in any one series, or even over some weeks, can be overblown (in 2012, Nationals fans were constantly melting down at the slightest sign of trouble; the players not so much). As proven in baseball year after year, a hot start can easily fade over the long season (the Orioles did this many times over the past couple of decades) and a slow start can be overcome (2013 Dodgers, etc). Whatever happens this weekend will become a small part of the larger story that is the 2014 season. Let’s enjoy them, but keep them in perspective.

        Or not. If your thing is the manic/depressive cycle of fandom, knock yourselves out – certainly that sort of thing runs rampant in these parts (“we suck” followed by “we’re going to win it all” and back again – lather, rinse, repeat). To each their own. :-)

      • adcwonk - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        To “therealjohnc”

        +1000

        Well put. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I’m also curious to see if Matty uses LOOGY and ROOGY logic more in specific matchups.

    JUpton got hot yesterday and time to cool him back down.

    I see some tendencies on Freeman on his spray chart which is playing him up the middle and in more in CF and LF. I think you need to force him to swing longer and get some Ks out of him.

    Will be interested to see if Mark Weidemaier does anything specific 2nd time around with the defense.

    • laddieblahblah - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      I’ve been thinking we could see Blevins against Freeman tonight, if the right situation came up, even if he did pitch an inning yesterday. He comes in on a tough angle for lefties to square anything up. No FBs straight down the pike, unless he wants to jam the hitter, or catch them leaning over the plate. Would much rather see Matt bring in Blevins to pitch to him than Clip or Storen.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        LBB, Good points on Blevins!

      • jd - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        So with all of that. How did Freeman hot the ball 400 ft against Blevins last Sunday?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 11, 2014 at 1:49 PM

        Blevins missed his spot.

      • letswin3 - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        Nice article about Blevins in The Post this morning. They reckoned that Blevins was brought over to the Nats especially to match up with Freeman and Heyward … they barely mentioned the remaining 143 games that will have been played this season. Actually, I could probably settle for him delivering a little kryptonite on those two, if that’s the only reason he’s here, although I’d like to think that he has more value than just those two hitters (ala yesterday’s nice job).

      • JW - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        Detwiler would also be available.

      • chaz11963 - Apr 11, 2014 at 5:01 PM

        I don’t think so… Freeman is very hot (419/514/ 677) but hardly no one else on the Braves is hitting right now. Maybe J Upton and Simmons a bit, but nothing else. Just pitch around Freeman, don’t waste Blevins on him.

  4. scnatsfan - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Never too early to make a statement

  5. laddieblahblah - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    The Nats staff has a total of 105 Ks over the first 9 games, the most of any team in over 100 years of baseball. The Braves are a swing for the fences, FB-hitting, strike out team.

    They did not score that much against the Nats the last time, except for that one meltdown inning from Strasburg, a FB pitcher, and they don’t figure to score that much this time, especially since Roark and TeeJay are not power pitchers. Roark, in particular, is more of a command and control guy.

    I am very intrigued by how Matt will handle his pitching staff. He certainly knows all of those parameters, and a lot more. Will he play small ball against the Braves, or go for the big inning? He probably will not need that many runs to win, and he manages his game to give his team its best chance to win.

    His lineup will probably give us a hint. I wonder if he will play Zim tonight? Just one error in a critical game situation could make the difference between winning and losing. But one big hit could also be the difference. Zim’s offense or Danny’s and Rendon’s defense?

    That is the kind of decision a manager can make to influence the outcome of a game. Maybe he’ll just flip a coin, but I doubt it.

    • David Proctor - Apr 11, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Zim starts, double-switch him out late. If Zim makes an error early on, so be it. But we need his bat for most of the game at least.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        David, errors happen. McLouth had one in the 1st inning and Desi had one later. Strasburg pitched through it.

        Some errors you can pitch through and some you can’t.

        RZim is 0-11 vs Teheran. Lets see how MW shapes his roster.

        BTW, Andrelton Simmons still out with the injured wrist

  6. passedappetizers - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Off topic, I know, but do any of the posters on here sit in Section 311? If so, are you familiar with the two middle-aged, balding white brothers who fancy themselves good singers/creative hecklers/chant starters? Man, are they annoying.

  7. lplipty - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Ghost., Espy is 2-11 vs Teheran, so i think its a moot point…unless Fradsen can play 2B

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      You are on top of it and Fandsen’s sample size is small. Probably a lack of knowing how to pitch him.

  8. letswin3 - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    Off topic again: I’ve been wondering just how bad Walters minor league defense really is. Is there information available for comparing his minor league errors/defense to say Rendon, Desmond, Espinosa, Lombardozi etc? If so, I would love to see them …. thanks.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 4:01 PM

      I saw him in Arizona Fall League and I didn’t like his footwork and how he sets up for throws. He also boots balls that he doesn’t get to quickly that the official scorer may give a H instead of a E. I think if there were advanced MiLB UZR records he would be rated even worse.

      I’ve said since the Nats traded for him that he is a butcher with the glove and an underwhelming trade for Marquis. Arizona didn’t want him because of his defense. Fact is he has improved his hitting and now has become viable if they can do a position change. Still needs to work on offense, don’t get me wrong but you can see some potential now.

      I’m sure we will have Walters discussions a lot more on this subject.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    “@Nationals: #Nats lineup @ #Braves: Span CF, Rendon 2B, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Zimmerman 3B, Harper LF, Desmond SS, Lobaton C, Roark P”

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      A little surprised Harp isn’t hitting #2 but so far Matty has been money.

  10. veejh - Apr 11, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    The tables have turned. Last season we couldn’t hit for shlt. This season, the Braves are feeling the pain. Now they know how we felt. I hope they endure months of this just like we did.

  11. jd - Apr 11, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    NL,

    Agreed. To me the people you shouldn’t let hurt you in their lineup are Freeman (by far) and Jason Upton when he’s hot. I think you can manage the rest of their lineup especially when Heyward is not producing.

  12. naterialguy - Apr 11, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Hit a Grand Salami and get rewarded by batting #7

  13. realdealnats - Apr 11, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Even though we’re missing Ramos, I wish Simmons was playing. it feels better beating a team at full strength.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 88 64 --
ATLANTA 76 76 12.0
MIAMI 74 78 14.0
NEW YORK 73 80 15.5
PHILADELPHIA 70 82 18.0
Through Thursday's early games
x-Clinched division title

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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