Quite possibly the next team to clinch a division crown after the Dodgers printed their tickets to October earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves take on the Washington Nationals in the Nation’s Capital looking to shave a couple games off their magic number on Sunday. The Braves have been rolling of late, but can the Nationals slow them down enough keep themselves atop the NL Wild Card standings?
First pitch for the game between the Braves and Nationals is scheduled for Sunday, September 15, 2019, at 1:38 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. The matchup will be shown on TBS.
You can bet on MLB odds at BookMaker.eu every day of the season.
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Nationals who started the year a dismal 19-31 but have gone 61-33 since. Few teams can match that record since May 24, but one team that can is the Braves. In fact, Atlanta has been a bit better at 63-33 in that time.
More recently, Atlanta has the recent trends in its favor, going 8-2 since the start of September and 20-4 since August 17. The Braves are rolling right now with everything seeming to click at the right time as they try to maintain their groove as they prep for October.
Washington, of course, has some work to do before October baseball is a sure thing, but they’ve began to stumble a bit, going 4-6 in September. That could just be a little blip as they’re 19-9 in their last 28 contests.
Head-to-head, the Braves have the slight edge, winning nine of their 16 meetings with the difference being the Braves taking three of four against Washington last weekend in a four-game series in Atlanta.
This one offers an interesting pitching matchup with a former Braves hurler on the bump for the Nationals against one of the surprising young guns of the Braves toeing the rubber for Atlanta against Washington.
Anibal Sanchez gets the start for the Nationals. He resurrected his career with a strong year for the Braves in 2018. That earned him a contract with Washington. While he’s regressed some this season, he’s still been an above-average hurler with a 115 ERA+.
The 35-year old right-hander is 8-8 on the year and the Nationals are 14-13 when he takes the ball, saying more about the bullpen than anything as Sanchez hasn’t averaged too many innings per start at just a bit over five.
Sanchez has a 4.04 ERA and 1.320 WHIP this season. His 4.51 FIP is a hit inflated compared to the ERA, but not too bad as he’s not been a strikeout pitcher but has done well enough keep the ball in the yard and not walking the world.
In his most recent starts, Sanchez looked good against the Twins. Minnesota has been one of the better offenses in baseball this year, but Sanchez held them to two runs in seven innings. Despite the strong performance, he took the loss in the game, his second straight after tanking in five innings against the Mets the game prior.
This will be Sanchez’s fifth start against his old team this year. He hasn’t exactly thrived against his old team with just one quality start in his four starts in 2019. He went five innings, giving up four runs in his most recent start against them.
Looking to outduel Sanchez, Max Fried is getting the start for the Braves. The 25-year old left-hander has been one of the bigger pitching surprises for Atlanta this year.
After a couple early relief appearances, Fried established himself as a mainstay in the rotation, and in the Majors after jostling between the Majors and minors the last two years.
The young southpaw has made 30 appearances this year, including 28 starts, and has a 16-5 record in that time. He’s posted a 4.02 ERA and 1.328 WHIP. The ERA and WHIP are comparable to Sanchez but Fried has had the better FIP at 3.79.
Fried is a strong strikeout pitcher with 164 strikeouts in 154.1 innings of work. He’s also done well limiting walks, but does have a high batting average against him, somewhat driven by a high BABIP.
While the overall numbers are strong, Fried has struggled a bit of late. He’s got just one quality start in his last five games, though that was a one-hit, seven-inning shutout against this same Nationals team. And, even with the struggles, the Braves are 4-1 in his last five starts. They’re 21-7 in his starts this year.
The one concern for Fried right now is fatigue. He has thrown 43 more innings this season than he had all last year combined between the Majors and minors when he tossed 111.1 frames.
Given Fried’s innings total and Sanchez’s lower innings average per start, the bullpens figure to play a sizeable role in this game which is not a good thing for the Nationals.
Washington has the second worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 5.77, better only than the Orioles. The Braves, meanwhile, have been much better.
Atlanta’s pen did struggle shortly after the trade deadline with the newly acquired arms struggling. Shane Greene was supposed to be the closer. He had issues and so did Chris Martin. Mark Melancon, however, settled into the closer’s role and has been 10-for-10 since. Greene and Martin, meanwhile, have bounced back nicely forming a good late-game trio.
In addition to those three, Anthony Swarzak, A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, and Josh Tomlin all provide the Braves options and different looks. After missing the whole year, Darren O’Day—a sidearmer—is also now on the roster to give Washington a different look.
As for the Nationals, they have Sean Doolittle who is an excellent closer and former All-Star, but he’s struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness in the second half of the year after being overworked early on.
He was really the only reliable arm in the first half out of the pen for Dave Martinez and while the team added some arms at the deadline, Daniel Hudson and maybe Fernando Rodney are the only relievers offering any consistency now.
Given the pens, this one leans towards the Braves who also happen to have the offense to back it up. Of course, the National’s offense is just as good.
These two teams are about as balanced offensively as they come. On the year, they’ve scored virtual the same amount of runs and produced a nearly identical team OPS. The Nationals have been a bit better in the second half but narrowing it down to the month of September and the numbers are nearly identical again.
On the season, the Nationals have a .263/.339/.454 slash line. Their average is a bit better than the Braves, but Atlanta has a few more homers and nearly the same OBP and slugging numbers with a .259/.337/.457 slash line.
Both teams have star power with Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rendon on the fringes of the MVP debate while Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. are two of the best young hitters in the game.
Both starters have some questions and both offenses are strong, but the difference in this one is in the bullpen. Look for the Braves to take advantage of the National’s bullpen woes and grab the lead for good late in the game.
Neither starter figures to last much more than five or six innings from there, the Braves have the more proven crop of relievers to close out the final three or four innings whereas the Nationals’ options have more question marks associated.
Both offenses should make it tough for either pitching staff, but in the end, the arms for the Braves are just a bit better even if there are questions about durability for Fried this late in the year.
MLB Odds: Braves 6, Nationals 5
Load your betting bankroll from your smartphone with BookMaker’s new cashier feature! Depositing and withdrawing funds from your account has never been easier. BookMaker's live betting platform means you always have access to odds and lines to every sporting event. Click here and start wagering today!