Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nationals–Braves (6/30-7/2)

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Jun 20, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) throws to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer (9-5, 1.79 ERA) vs. Manny Banuelos (Major League Debut), 7:10 PM,  MASN

This looks like no contest. The current best pitcher on the planet against a rookie making his major league debut.

However, this game may not be as cut and dried as it appears. Manny Banuelos has made 15 starts for triple-A Gwinett in the Braves minor league system this year. He has a 6-2 record and an ERA of 2.29. He’s been in the minors honing his craft since 2008, and he is only 24 years old.

The Nationals often have trouble hitting a pitcher they have not seen before. The video of Banuelos is probably limited and the Nationals are mostly going to get their first look at this pitcher at the plate. That doesn’t tend to work out too well for the Nationals hitters.

Scherzer has turned in three dominating pitching performances in his last three starts, including a no-hitter. He gave up two runs in his last game against the Phillies, both after the fifth inning. In the two games prior to that against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers, he gave up no runs at all.

The issue for the Nationals in this game may not be Scherzer’s pitching, but the run support that the Nationals can provide to their ace starter. The Nationals have to find a way to score some runs against a pitcher with whom they are unfamiliar. This has been a tall task for the Nationals for years.

Scherzer has a six game hitting streak on the line going into this game. Hopefully, Max can get at least one hit and keep his streak alive. He is currently sporting a batting average of .257.

Advantage: Scherzer and the Nationals clearly have the advantage in this game, but you know what they say: You gotta play the games.

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