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

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May 3, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister (58) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday: Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82 ERA), 4:05 pm EST, MASN

Doug Fister starts the second game of the series with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. In Fister’s last start against the Braves, he got knocked around a bit,going 5.2 innings giving up five runs on ten hits. So far this year, Fister has struggled a bit with his command and he has had to grind his way through his starts. Traditionally a groundball pitcher, this year his ground ball rate is down from 48.9% to 42.2% and his line drive rate is significantly up from 16.9% to 24.5%. If Fister leaves the ball up in the zone, he could get hit and hit hard leading to a long afternoon for the Nationals.

Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman have fared the best against Fister. each batting .333 and .364 respectively. Both lefties matchup well against Fister due to the lefty-righty split and both are good low-ball hitters. Fister will have to pitch carefully to these two if he wants to have a successful outing.

Julio Teheran makes the start for the Braves with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Teheran was the starting pitcher in the wild, 13-12 game against the Nats that sparked their current run. Although Teheran earned a no decision, he did not pitch well with an eight run lead giving up ten hits and seven runs, only three earned, over 5.2 innings pitched. Instead of going after the Nats hitters, Teheran floated offspeed p

itches most of the night and he gave up two homers as a result.

Fastball usage is key to Teheran’s success. Historically, he throws the fastball 60% of the time, but against the Nats, he only threw the fastball 49.4% of the time. Julio knows his fastball rate is key to his success and increased his fastball rate to 65.7% his last start against the Reds. That lead to good results as gave up three hits over six innings. Look for how much Teheran is throwing his heater early to gauge how well his day will go.

Bryce Harper has had the most success against Julio Teheran on the Nats roster, going 8-for-19 with three doubles and two homers.

This is another hard matchup to call as the Braves have two great left-handed hitters that fare well against Fister and he has been inconsistent with his location so far this year. Bryce Harper is on fire and coming off a three-homer game and matches up well against Teheran.

The key for Fister is to keep the ball low in the zone and the key for Teheran is to continue to pound hitters with his fastball. I have to give a slight edge to Julio Teheran in this game because I think he has figured out he is a much better pitcher when he is throwing heat and Fister has been too inconstant this year to be counted on to carry the team. Look for a pitchers duel with the Braves winning a close one.

Next: Next: Saturday's Matchup