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Series Preview: Atlanta Braves at Nationals (June 13-15, 2022)
After the offense got red hot against a really good Milwaukee Brewers team, the Nationals continue their homestand against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are hot right now, winning 11 of their last, well, 11. They have a 34-27 record, good for second in the NL East. This is the second time these teams will face each other this season, with the Nationals up 2-1 for the year.
Monday, June 13, RHP Josiah Gray (6-4, 4.33 ERA) vs RHP Ian Anderson (5-3, 4.53 ERA) | First Pitch: 7:05 ET
Josiah Gray has been outright dominant in June, and if you loop in his May 29th start against Colorado they look even better. The most promising part of his latest start against Miami was the singular walk allowed. Walks have been an issue for him and the entire Nationals pitching staff and hopefully, he has figured something out to keep those down. He also coaxed lots of ground balls, which is rare for Gray. If he can continue those trends his ceiling will only continue to grow.
After great rookie 2020 and 2021 seasons, Ian Anderson is now experiencing what many call a sophomore slump. He is striking out fewer batters, walking more, and allowing more hits. His expected statistics say he will have some positive regression, but let’s hope that waits for at least one more start.
Tuesday, June 14, RHP Stephen Strasburg (0-1, 13.50 ERA) vs LHP Max Fried (6-2, 2.64 ERA) | First Pitch: 7:05 ET
Stephen Strasburg threw a major league pitch for the first time in over a year. That in itself is a success. His velocity was down, averaging 90.4 MPH on his fastball, a pitch that in 2019 was averaging 93.9 MPH. He was not using his curveball as much as he did in the past, which might be due to not having a full feel for his pitches again yet. The big talking point from his start was his changeup, which was getting more drop than it has in the past. Either way, he did better than the stat line suggested, but he has a tough task ahead of him facing a dangerous Braves lineup.
The Nationals are having tough luck in the starters they run into, facing Sandy Alcantara two series ago, and now facing the Braves’ young ace Max Fried. Fried has built himself into the premier left-handed pitcher in the league right now and will look to continue his dominance against the red-hot Nationals.
Wednesday, June 15, RHP Erick Fedde (4-4, 4.87 ERA) vs RHP Spencer Strider (2-2, 2.35 ERA) | First Pitch: 7:05 ET
As I have been saying in almost every series preview that Fedde has appeared in this season, he was overperforming his ERA according to his ERA estimators, but now it is more in line with those. Fedde is good for quality starts, but he is not going to be the dominant arm that he was to start the year.
Spencer Strider is quietly having one of the most dominant seasons in the majors right now. He is 92nd percentile in whiff percentage and in turn, 99th percentile in K%. He does this with a 98 MPH fastball and slider combo while mixing in a changeup occasionally. His fastball is dominant and the key behind all his success. If the Nationals can get to that, then they are set.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is back and is now getting regular playing time in right field. He has accumulated 1.5 fWAR in 31 games, which is more than any National hitter.
The Braves bullpen continued right where they left off, having one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, with the fifth-best ERA. They are doing this without two of their better relievers, Luke Jackson and Tyler Matzek.
Young catcher William Contreras is having a breakout season, hitting .282/.371/.635 in 26 games.
Soto is starting to heat up, oh, and his BABIP is still hovering at .224. It will only rise. Do not worry.
More Nats notes in our new article about their first two months, check it out here.