Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals vs. Braves (5/8-5/10)

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Apr 21, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Friday: Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. Eric Stults (1-2, 4.91 ERA), 7:05 pm EST, broadcast on MASN

Making the first start for the Nats this series is Gio Gonzalez. Gio sports a 3.86 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP, but he has been a bit inconstant this year. Out of his five starts, Gio has allowed no runs in two starts and five runs or more in two starts. He has not faced the Braves so far this year, but last year the Braves had Gio’s number. In 2014 Gonzalez gave up 15 hits in 10.1 innings over two starts against Atlanta.

Freddie Freeman has seen Gio a few times over the years and for the most part, Gonzalez has been able to keep him under wraps. Freeman has seven hits and seven strike outs over a span of 24 at-bats.

Eric Stults makes the start for the Braves with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Stults was fortunate enough to face the Nats the game before their come from behind breakout game in that series and recorded the win. He went 6.1 innings, only giving up four hits and two runs and received great run support on the way to a Braves’ 8-4 victory.

Stults did not fare well against the Nats last year, giving up 18 hits and eight runs over  7.2 innings pitched in those two starts. In a limited sample size, Danny Espinosa actually has the most success against Stults, going 5-for-9 with a home run. 

Bryce Harper has only seen Stults once in his career last series and went 1-for-5. Bryce has historically struggled a bit against left-handed pitching and that trend has continued this year. In 31 plate appearances, Bryce has hit .182/.419/.318 vs. lefties. The good news is Bryce continues to be an on-base machine even against lefties and this should help generate runs for the Nats.

This is a hard matchup to call because of the inconsistencies with Gio so far this year and Stults’ lefty advantage may neutralize Bryce, but I have to go with Gio for this game. Look for a few runs in this matchup and each team going to the bullpen early and often. The Nationals’ bullpen has been a question mark, but Tanner Roark seems to have found his way and they have been solid the past few games. The bullpen for the Nats may have to win this one or keep it close enough for another late inning comeback for the Nats to pull off a series opening win.

Next: Next: Saturday's Matchup