Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year
Last 10 games: 2-1
Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (.333/.500/1.000, 2 HR, 2 RBIs); RF Jason Heyward (.250/.308/.500, 1 HR, 2 RBIs); RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 3.00 ERA); RHP Craig Kimbrel (2 saves, 0.00 ERA)
Season series vs. Nats (2013): 13-6, 73 runs scored, 49 runs allowed
One of baseball's up-and-coming rivalries resumes when the Braves visit Washington for the Nationals' first home series of the year.
Atlanta opened 2014 by riding its severely diminished pitching staff to take two of three from the Brewers on the road. The Braves lost starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to elbow injuries last month, and instead have Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana on board - but Santana isn't yet ready to join the rotation after signing on March 12.
In Milwaukee, however, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Harang combined to allow three runs in 19 2/3 innings for a 1.37 ERA. As a team, Atlanta permitted just four runs in the first three games. Harang even took a no-hitter into the seventh in a 1-0 win on Wednesday.
The downside so far has been the offense, which managed just six runs over the first three contests. Freddie Freeman leads the way with two homers in three games thus far.
Things always seem to heat up when the Braves meet the Nats, and that could especially be the case with Washington a common pick to win the National League East this season. The contests between these two mean twice as much, so it'll be fascinating to see how the teams stack up early.
Tune in for an excellent pitching matchup Saturday, when the Braves send Teheran out against the Nats' Stephen Strasburg. With Medlen out, Teheran is arguably Atlanta's staff ace despite being just 23 years old.