|4:20 PM PT5:20 PM MT6:20 PM CT7:20 PM ET19:20 ET23:20 GMT7:20 4:20 PM MST6:20 PM EST6:50 PM VEN3:20 UAE (+1)6:20 PM CT, September 5, 2019
SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Georgia Attendance: 28,831
Nats send out Strasburg to help track down Braves
The presence of a pennant race in the National League East will be determined over the next 10 days, when the division-leading Atlanta Braves and second-place Washington Nationals meet seven times.
The drama begins on Thursday when the teams begin a four-game series at Atlanta's SunTrust Park. The Braves open the series holding a seven-game lead.
The matchup for the opener features Atlanta left-hander Max Fried (15-4, 4.05 ERA) against veteran Washington right-hander Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3.47). The two pitchers rank second and first, respectively, in wins in the National League.
Washington has been hot, going 17-5 since Aug. 11. But that stellar play has not shown up in the standings, since the Braves are 17-4 over the same stretch. Atlanta did not play on Wednesday. The Nationals lost to the Mets 8-4 on Wednesday, one day after their unlikely seven-run ninth-inning comeback.
"The great thing about baseball is you have to go out and do it night in and night out," Atlanta third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We also know in the division, there are some really tough teams. But we feel confident in the team we have here and who we are as a team."
Strasburg is considered among the favorites to win the Cy Young Award. He ranks third in the league in strikeouts (215), tied for fifth in WHIP (1.04) and fifth in opponents' batting average (.216).
"He can attack you in multiple ways," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "Changeup, fastball, two-seam, four-seam, curveball. And throw them all for strikes."
Strasburg has been outstanding in his last three starts, allowing two runs over 21 innings. That includes a seven-inning scoreless stint against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 20 and an eight-inning shutout effort against the Miami Marlins on Aug. 31.
Strasburg has pitched well at SunTrust Park. In five career starts there, he is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA, 49 strikeouts and only seven walks. That's much better than he fared at Turner Field, the Braves' former home, where he was 4-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 10 career starts.
In his last start against the Braves on July 18 in Atlanta, Strasburg earned the victory after he allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Fried has won his last six decisions. The lines on his last two starts weren't impressive, but they were smudged by bullpen failure. In his last outing against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 30, Fried pitched six innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits, one walk and 11 strikeouts, which matched his career high.
"You might not come out of a situation the way you want," Fried said after his last start. "But as long as I can learn from each outing, I feel it's a positive."
Fried has made three previous outings, two starts, against Washington, going 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA. Fried has faced the Nationals once this season and lost to them on May 28. He allowed four runs on nine hits, three walks and two hit batters in 5 2/3 innings in that outing.
The series features the majors' co-leaders in RBIs: Washington's Anthony Rendon, who drove in two runs on Wednesday, and Atlanta's Freddie Freeman each have 114.
"We've got to go out and try to win the first game of the series," Martinez said. "We get to play head-to-head and see what happens."
--Field Level Media
Updated September 5, 2019