Washington Nationals: 5 to watch against Atlanta again

rjuckett
May 18, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters (32) high-fives second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) crossing home plate after Murphy hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters (32) high-fives second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) crossing home plate after Murphy hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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MATT KEMP

To say a 16-22 team is a playoff contender sounds weird. Yet, only the Nats stand in the way of the Braves and the division lead.

Whatever small chance they have took a huge blow with the Freeman injury. If they are to hold off the rest of the NL Eat, the offensive pressure falls to Matt Kemp.

His trade from the San Diego Padres last year salvaged Kemp’s career. After slugging 12 homers in 56 games with the Braves in 2016, he is on the same pace with 6 in 28 this year. A slash line of .336/.373/.588 gives him his best numbers since a runner-up MVP run with the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers.

If by miracle the Braves fight for a playoff spot this season, Kemp’s name will be on voter’s ballots again. His 12 doubles in 28 games is half of the 24 last year in 100. Remember, he did this with a stint on the 10-day disabled list already.

With Tyler Flowers having a career year and Dansby Swanson slowly coming out of a slump, the Braves are not completely doomed. They will need Kemp to keep mashing to keep Washington honest.

Kemp came off the disabled list in the last game of the Nats series and struck out three times in four at-bats. Chances are he has a better weekend.

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