The starting rotation will need to lead the way against Atlanta.
The last time the Nationals faced Atlanta, Washington’s roster was completely different. Due to COVID, the Nationals were without 11 players and consequently, dropped two of three to their rivals. With the rematch looming, Washington’s roster has returned to almost full strength.
Despite Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, and Will Harris missing time due to injuries, Washington has still found ways to win. Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Harrison, Yadiel Hernandez, and Trea Turner have carried the offense while the bullpen has been excellent. The starting rotation, Washington’s bread, and butter, have been inconsistent. However, recently they seem to have turned a corner.
While Soto was reinstated earlier today, he will still need to work himself back up to speed. Washington’s offense is lacking the firepower to go toe to toe with Atlanta’s offense, especially with Kyle Schwarber and Josh bell both in the midst of a slump. That is why the starting rotation will be pivotal in the upcoming series.
A New Big Three?
Washington will have Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Jon Lester on the mound while Atlanta will have Huascar Ynoa, Max Fried, and Drew Smyly. Outside of Max Scherzer, Ross and Fedde have been giving Washington the best chance at winning.
After missing the majority of the 2019 season due to recovering from Tommy John and opting out of 2020, Joe Ross is picking up right where he left off. The 27-year-old is 2-1, with a 4.64 ERA, and 18 strikeouts. Runs have become scarce when facing Ross. Besides his disaster of an outing against the Cardinals where he allowed 10 runs, Ross has been almost untouchable. In his other three starts, the righty old has allowed only one run.
Since being shelled against the Braves in his first outing, Erick Fedde has posted a 2.61 ERA across his last four starts. The righty has looked like a completely different pitcher, racking up the strikeouts and commanding the strike zone with ease. Thanks to an increase in his cutter usage and an uptick in his velocity, Fedde has finally become a consistent starter.
Jon Lester missed the beginning of the season due to recovering from Thyroid surgery and then landing on the COVID list. He returned last week and impressed in his Nationals debut. Against the Marlins, Lester was in total control, throwing five shutout innings. He only struck out one, but his defense were able to do their job.
Second Time’s The Charm
In the team’s first meeting, Stephen Strasburg was the National’s lone starter to have a solid outing. Scherzer allowed four solo homers, while Erick Fedde couldn’t get out of the second inning. A lot has changed since then, with Washington’s starting rotation finally performing up to expectations.
Besides the Dodgers, the Braves offense is a different animal from what Washington has faced this year. Leading the way is Ronald Acuna Jr., who has been on a tear, hitting .333, with nine homers, 20 RBIs, and an OPS of 1.139. Behind him are Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Marcell Ozuna, and Dansby Swanson, who have all tortured Washington in years past.
Despite the National’s rough start, they find themselves atop the NL East, with a half-game lead, thanks to a four-game win streak. Atlanta on the other hand has lost four straight. In order to come out of this series on top, Ross, Fedde and Lester will need to be on their A-game and help out the offense as much as possible.