After an impressive sweep in NYC, the first battle with the Braves awaits

Happy home opener, everybody. Hope most of you are either able to make it out to Nationals Park this afternoon or sneak away from the office for a few hours and catch today’s game against the Braves on MASN HD.

Tell your boss you have to attend a lunch meeting with a Mr. Kolko. That should do the trick.

They’re calling for a high of 65 degrees today, which I like. They’re also calling for 30 percent chance of rain during the afternoon, which I don’t like as much.

We still don’t know who will start today’s game for the Nationals, but Jordan Zimmermann is listed as the probable starter on the team’s game notes. The Nats hope that Zimmermann will be well enough to pitch this afternoon after missing yesterday’s scheduled start with flu-like symptoms, but if he isn’t, the Nats will likely turn to reliever Craig Stammen to make the spot start.

Stammen used to be a starter, of course, but he was laughing with reporters last night that he really would prefer not to be thrown into that spot today. He wants to see his buddy Zimmermann on the mound this afternoon.

Through the Nats’ first three games up in New York, pretty much everything went as well as Matt Williams could have hoped, with the exception of Wilson Ramos’ injury and Zimmermann’s illness.

The Nats already have 15 extra-base hits, the most of any team that has played just three games so far. All three of their starting pitchers went six innings and bounced back to keep the game close after allowing at least one run in the first inning. The bullpen has been tremendous, holding opposing hitters to a .091 batting average, and Nats relievers have 18 strikeouts to just three walks in 10 innings.

span-running-to-third-white-sidebar.jpgFive different Nats have home runs. Denard Span already has four extra-base hits and has drawn two walks. Adam LaRoche has six RBIs through three games. Jayson Werth is clubbing the baseball. Danny Espinosa has two line-drive doubles and a walk in six plate appearances. Anthony Rendon has a homer, two doubles and five RBIs.

It doesn’t matter where Williams slots his hitters in the lineup right now. They keep raking, scoring runs late in games and leading to comeback wins.

“Early leads are just that - early leads,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We continued to grind out at-bats and score some runs here and there and have a big innings. That’s kind of what we did.”

Now, the Braves come to town. The Nats went just 6-13 against Atlanta last season, a big reason why Fredi Gonzalez’s team was able to pull away and win the National League East title, wrestling it away from the Nats, who won the division in 2012.

The Nats know they have to be more competitive with Atlanta this year, and that can all start this weekend.

“They’re a good team,” Espinosa said. “They were a good team last year. It’s going to be another battle, another grind with them. It’ll be a fun series. A lot of competition between the two teams. I think it’ll be good.”

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