Opposite dugout: Braves counting on trio of rookie pitchers to halt Nats' 2015 domination

braves-logo.jpgManager: Fredi Gonzalez (5th year)

Record: 62-94

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: RF Nick Markakis (.297 with 51 RBIs), 1B Freddie Freeman (18 HR, 66 RBIs), CF Cameron Maybin (10 HR, 22 SB), RHP Arodys Vizcaino (1.80 ERA, 7 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 3-13

Pitching probables:

Sept. 29: RHP Tanner Roark vs. RHP Matt Wisler, 7:10 p.m., MASN
Sept. 30: RHP Jordan Zimmermann vs. RHP Williams Perez, 7:10 p.m., MASN
Oct. 1: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Ryan Weber, 7:10 p.m., MASN

Inside the Braves:

The Braves, who have lost three straight games and enter the penultimate series of the regular season 32 games under .500, might be just the tonic to cheer up the Nationals, whose postseason hopes were officially ended over the weekend. Atlanta is 3-13 against the Nats this season, which has become a rebuilding effort that the Braves front office will translate into a more competitive club once SunTrust Park is opened in suburban Cobb County in 2017.

So little has gone right for the Braves in 2015, and it remains to be seen whether manager Fredi Gonzalez will survive to manage after their season ends Oct. 4. Based on Atlanta's offseason moves, which removed a lot of high-priced veteran players from the roster in exchange for useful but untested prospects, it's actually not a surprise that the Braves are trying desperately to stay out of last place in the National League East.

Right fielder Nick Markakis, the big free agent signing last winter, has been his usual productive self, hitting .297 with a .372 on-base percentage and playing strong defense. First baseman Freddie Freeman leads the Braves with 18 homers and 66 RBIs, despite battling a sore right wrist in recent weeks - he's hitting .282 in September with three homers and 16 RBIs. Keep an eye out for third baseman Hector Olivera, the key acquisition in a trading deadline megadeal with the Dodgers. The 30-year-old rookie is batting .264 with two homers and 11 RBIs.

All three pitchers the Braves will throw at the Nationals during this series made their major league debuts this season, further proof that the Braves have engaged in a makeover after being the Nats' top challengers for the top spot in the division over the past several years.

Right-hander Matt Wisler, who starts the series opener Tuesday night, was part of Atlanta's haul in the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres just before the season opener. His victory on Sept. 22 at Citi Field over the Mets ended a string of seven straight losses over 10 starts dating to his last win on July 26. He's pitched better at Turner Field, where he's 3-3 with a 3.80 ERA, than on the road, and opponents are slashing .273/.343/.410 off him at home. With none on, foes hit .347 off Wisler, but he's limited opponents to a .233 mark with runners in scoring position. When he gets ahead 0-1, opponents hit .242 off him; at 1-0, they boast a .346 average. From his first through 15th pitches, Wisler allows a .357/.413/.696 line, so expect the Nationals to be aggressive early. The Nats have seen a lot of the rookie righty - he's made five appearances, including four starts, and gone 1-2 with a 7.62 ERA versus Washington.

Righty Williams Perez starts Wednesday, and he made his major league debut with one-third of an inning of relief against the Nats on May 8. He's trying to close out a successful September that has seen him go 2-1 with a 3.64 ERA. But he's only 3-3 with a 5.70 ERA in nine home starts. He also struggles early in starts: From his first through 30th pitches, opponents are hitting .374 with three homers and 28 RBIs. Overall, foes are slashing .292/.372/.441 against the rookie and .309/.381/.452 at home. He has trouble with runners on base (.314) and in scoring position (.292).

In the series finale, right-hander Ryan Weber gets the call. He's 0-2 in four September starts, but his only clunker came in his last outing, when he allowed seven runs on nine hits in two innings at Miami on Sept. 25. Before being summoned to the Braves rotation, Weber had gone 6-5 with a .235 ERA and four saves in 38 games (nine starts) between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. Overall, opponents are slashing .263/.333/.421 off Weber, but only .163/.265/.256 at home. First innings have been a problem - foes are teeing off to the tune of .353/.421/.588 off the youngster.

If the Braves can get a lead to the ninth inning, they'll call on righty Arodys Vizcaino to close out the game. He's been good since moving into the closer's role and has seven saves in eight chances to go along with a 1.80 ERA and 1.23 WHIP for the season.

Papelbon suspended by Nationals after dropping app...
Scherzer set to face Reds in makeup game (with lin...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/