Jul 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) throws during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Strasburg Takes the Mound as Nationals Start Crucial Series in Atlanta

After the Nationals’ thrilling, extra-inning victory over the Mets Thursday afternoon, the team traveled to Atlanta for a critical series against the second-place Braves.

The Nationals lead the Braves by 4 1/2 games in the NL East, and with October less than two months away, this weekend’s series gives the Nationals a chance to widen the gap between them and the struggling Braves.

Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.39 ERA) gets the start for the Nationals as he looks to continue his recent stretch of success. Strasburg has improved significantly of late after struggling for most of the summer.

In his last two starts, Strasburg has pitched 14 innings while allowing just one run and dropping his ERA from 3.67 to 3.39. The right-hander turned in his best performance of the season his last time out, holding the Phillies to just three hits over seven shutout innings while striking out 10. In his career against the Braves, Strasburg is 3-5 with a 4.04 ERA.

The Braves will counter with right-hander Ervin Santana (10-6, 3.59 ERA). Santana has pitched well of late, allowing just three runs in his last 22 innings of work. The Braves’ right-hander held the Padres to just two runs over 6 2/3 innings his last time out. In his career against the Nationals, Santana is 0-1 with a 3.82 ERA in 33 innings.

“It’s a matter of time before they turn it around. That’s why we need to keep doing our thing and not worry about that,” first baseman Adam LaRoche told MLB.com. 

The series will be a good test for the Nationals, as the Braves have dominated them all season, winning seven of the 10 games they’ve played against each other. But the Braves are on a downward slide that has seen them lose their last eight games and 12 of their last 16.

That being said, a lot can change in the next three days and the Nationals will need to have a good series if they want to keep a healthy distance between them and the Braves heading into September.

Here are the lineups for tonight’s game:

Washington Nationals @ Atlanta Braves, 7:35 P.M. ET

Nationals
  1. CF: Denard Span
  2. 2B: Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. 3B: Anthony Rendon
  4. 1B: Adam LaRoche
  5. SS: Ian Desmond
  6. LF: Bryce Harper
  7. C: Wilson Ramos
  8. RF: Steven Souza Jr.
  9. SP: Stephen Strasburg
Braves
  1. CF: B.J. Upton
  2. 2B: Tommy La Stella
  3. 1B: Freddie Freeman
  4. LF: Justin Upton
  5. RF: Jason Heyward
  6. 3B: Evan Gattis
  7. C: Chris Johnson
  8. SS: Ramiro Pena
  9. SP: Ervin Santana
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Tags: Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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