Manager: Brian Snitker (2nd year)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (25 HR, 30 doubles), CF Ender Inciarte (21 SB), RF Nick Markakis (69 RBIs, 36 doubles), RHP José Ramírez (25 holds), RHP Arodys Vizcaíno (10 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: 6-7
Inside the Braves:
Fresh off a come-from-behind extra-inning win over the Marlins that locked up the National League East crown for the Nats, the Braves come to Washington with no intention of obliging the Nationals again. And if nothing else, the visitors certainly bring some momentum, having taken three of four from the Fish, with each win coming in walk-off style.
Even though he recently said he’s lost some strength in the wrist fractured by a fastball in May, Braves star Freddie Freeman (.319/.417/.608) seems none the worse for wear. Since his July 4 return after nearly eight weeks on the disabled list, Freeman has batted .306 with 19 doubles, 11 homers and 40 RBIs. He’s had multi-hit games in six of his last nine. First-year All-Star Ender Inciarte (.307/.352/.410) is not stealing bases at the same rate he was in the spring, but he continues to hit, going 10-for-27 over his last six games. Corner outfielders Matt Kemp (.282/.323/.470) and Nick Markakis (.282/.364/.402) and catcher Tyler Flowers (.283/.377/.445) are in a dead heat for second place for the club’s batting title. Kemp’s average, however, has slid nine points since the end of August. Markakis, who has doubled four times in his last nine games, also leads the Braves in RBIs. Flowers just got back from the disabled list after a wrist contusion.
Julio Teheran (10-11, 4.77 ERA) gets the start in tonight’s opener. He has notched wins in his last three starts, bouncing back from a stretch in which he took losses in five of seven. Teheran last faced the Nationals on July 8, blanking them for seven innings to pick up a victory in a 13-0 blowout at Nats Park. September call-up Luiz Gohara (0-1, 13.50 ERA) brings a 98 mph four-seam fastball to his second big league start tomorrow. His first one, Sept. 6 against the Rangers, did not go well. Over four innings of work, Gohara surrendered just four hits, but they included a double, a triple and a home run, and netted the Rangers six earned runs. Over 25 starts and one relief appearance in the Braves farm system, however, the lefty logged a 2.62 ERA while striking out 147 over 123 2/3 innings this year. Mike Foltynewicz (10-12, 4.74 ERA), who pitches the Thursday finale, was on a roll through most of June and July, but has been saddled with losses in his last six starts. Foltynewicz recorded quality starts in the most recent two, however, while the Braves offense put up just one run over both games combined. The righty will come at the Nats with a 96 mph sinker.
José Ramírez (2-2, 2.28 ERA) leads the Braves in appearances (64) and ERA. A 98 mph fastball has helped him to compile 25 holds. Until Dee Gordon took him over the wall in Sunday’s tilt with the Marlins, Ramírez hadn’t given up a run since Aug. 12, and over that period posted a 0.84 ERA. As on-again, off-again closer Jim Johnson (6-3, 5.81 ERA, 22 saves) has continued to struggle, Arodys Vizcaîno (5-3, 2.53 ERA) has secured his place as the Braves’ ninth-inning man. Since the beginning of August, he’s put up eight of his 10 saves for the season, without any blown opportunities. Over that time he’s also recorded one loss - he entered the game on Aug. 26 with the Braves and Rockies tied, and gave up three runs in the ninth - and in a Sept. 9 win as the Braves got one of their walk-off wins over the Marlins. Johnson, meanwhile, has blown a save, taken a loss and picked up one hold while pitching to a 13.03 ERA during the same period. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 4.