Manager: Brian Snitker (2nd season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (.400/.481/.867 with 5 HR, 6 RBIs), 2B Bandon Phillips (.326 with 4 SB), CF Ender Inciarte (4 HR, 7 RBIs), RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 0.95 ERA), RHP Jim Johnson (1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP with 3 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (4-15 in 2016)
April 18: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz, 7:35 p.m., MASN2
April 19: RHP Joe Ross vs. RHP Julio Teheran, 7:35 p.m., MASN2
April 20: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP R.A. Dickey, 7:35 p.m., MASN2
Inside the Braves:
A lot has changed for the Braves since the end of last season. A busy offseason brought in some new faces to a still rebuilding club to help them open a brand-new stadium this year. This three-game set against the Nationals is just the second series to be played at SunTrust Park, where the Braves are undefeated after completing a four-game sweep of the Padres in the inaugural series. SunTrust Park is also proving to be a hitter-friendly stadium for the home team after the Braves outscored the Padres 23-10.
As for the new faces, the Braves put a focus on the rotation this offseason. Right-handers Bartolo Colón and R.A. Dickey both signed one-year contracts as free agents, and left-hander Jaime García came over from St. Louis in a trade for righty John Grant and two minor leaguers. Off the mound, the Braves also signed second baseman Sean Rodríguez to a two-year deal, but he suffered a shoulder injury in a car crash in January, was placed on the 60-day disabled list and is unsure if he will be able to play this season. The Braves then traded for second baseman Brandon Phillips, sending two minor league pitchers to Cincinnati, added former National Kurt Suzuki as a backup catcher and signed longtime Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to a minor league deal just last week.
After being shut out on opening day by the Mets, the Braves have actually been able to produce offense pretty consistently over the season’s first two weeks. First baseman Freddie Freeman leads the team with a slash line of .400/.481/.867 and five home runs, while adding six RBIs. Right fielder Nick Markakis and center fielder Ender Inciarte are tied for the team lead with seven RBIs, and Inciarte is right on Freeman’s heels with four homers. Phillips is batting .326 while proving to still be dangerous on the bases with four stolen bags. Outfielder Matt Kemp was off to a hot start to the season, going 8-for-16 with two homers, four doubles and four RBIs in four games, but was placed on the 10-day disabled list a week ago with a strained right hamstring.
Mike Foltynewicz, 25, will be the first of three right-handers to start for the Braves this series. He is off to a rocky start to the season, posting a 6.35 ERA over his first two outings, one start and one relief appearance. He gave up two runs in just 3 2/3 innings in a start against the Pirates and then gave up two runs in two innings of relief against the Marlins. In the lone start, Foltynewicz’s pitch count got up to 91 in a short outing. He went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Nationals last year. Julio Teheran is off to a great start to 2017, bringing his 1-0 record and 0.95 ERA over his first three starts to Wednesday night’s game. He’s only allowed four runs (two earned) in 19 innings while striking out 15. But the Nationals may pose a tough matchup for Teheran, who went 0-1 with a 5.50 ERA against Washington last year. Dickey will get his first look at the Nationals since returning to National League East. The knuckleballer and former Met is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his first two starts with Atlanta and is 4-7 with a 3.86 ERA over 16 career appearances (14 starts) against the Nationals.
If the Braves get a lead late, they feel confident handing the ball over to the back end of their bullpen. Right-hander Arodys Vizcaíno didn’t give up a run over his first six innings of work, but did allow two runs in just two-thirds of an inning last night. And righty Jim Johnson has recorded two wins and three saves over seven scoreless innings with a 1.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP to start the season.