ATLANTA - I’m going to rattle off some numbers for you this morning.
I know it’s early and some of you might not like numbers at this hour, but if you’re a Nationals fan, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy most of what I’m about to pass along.
Through their first nine games of the season, the Nats have seven wins, tied with the Brewers for the most in the majors. They have a run differential of plus-22, also tied with Milwaukee for tops in the big leagues.
If it seems like the Nats’ bats have really come alive late in games, well, it’s because they have.
As a team, the Nats are hitting a ridiculous .307/.398/.535 in the seventh inning or later. They’ve scored 26 runs after the sixth inning, most in the majors, and those numbers are even more impressive when you consider Matt Williams’ team has only played one extra inning so far.
On the pitching side, the Nats have allowed just seven runs in the seventh inning or later so far.
Nats pitchers are holding opposing hitters to a .165 batting average in such situations, and have posted a 0.89 WHIP from the seventh inning on.
Score a lot of runs late in games and hold the opponent in check in the late innings and you’re bound to have some success.
I feel I need to mention right-hander Aaron Barrett, who has just been tremendous to start the season. The rookie has faced 13 batters and retired 12 of them, six via the strikeout.
He came into a huge spot in the eighth inning yesterday, protecting a one-run lead with a runner on and Giancarlo Stanton - only one of the most feared power hitters in the game - at the plate. Barrett calmly attacked Stanton with his slider, and notched a huge strikeout.
For what it’s worth (which might not be much at all), the Nats have scored 49 runs in their nine games, while the Braves have scored just 23. Yes, 23 runs in nine games.
Freddie Freeman (.419/.514/.677) and Andrelton Simmons (.321/.323/.357) are the only Atlanta hitters batting over .265 this season.
Don’t expect Freeman to get much to hit in this three-game series that starts tonight at The Ted.
The Nats have won just seven of their 22 games against Atlanta dating back to last season. Last year, just like this year, the Nats started an impressive 7-2, then faced the Braves for three games.
They got swept by their division rivals, dropped nine of their next 12 games overall, and never really got back on track. This weekend set here in Atlanta is a chance to keep the ball rolling this year and deliver a little payback to the Braves.
It’ll be Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Gio Gonzalez for the Nats this series. Should be fun.