Opposite dugout: Braves hope to seize chance to get back in NL East race

braves-logo.jpgManager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year Record: 74-69 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: LF Justin Upton (.284/.359/.511, 31 doubles, 26 HR, 91 RBIs); 1B Freddie Freeman (.289/.386/.473, 38 doubles, 18 HR, 70 RBIs, 89 R); RHP Ervin Santana (14-7, 3.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP); LHP Mike Minor (6-9, 4.65 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats: 9-4, 53 runs scored, 38 runs allowed Pitching probables Sept. 8: Mike Minor vs. Doug Fister, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD Sept. 9: Ervin Santana vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD Sept. 10: Aaron Harang vs. Stephen Strasburg, 4 p.m., MASN2 HD Series breakdown No matter whether the Braves are coming in on a high or a low, they always seem to own the Nats this season. Atlanta has won nine of 13 meetings between the division rivals, outscoring Washington 53-38. The Braves will have to hope that trend continues if they want to maintain a realistic shot of catching the first-place Nats for the National League East crown. The Braves enter the series second in the division, seven games behind the Nats and a half-game behind the Pirates for the second wild card. Atlanta hasn't been closer than within six games of the Nats since the margin was five on Aug. 13. The margin has hovered between six and eight games ever since. This will be the second-last meeting between the teams this season, so the Braves will be trying to make each of their direct opportunities to make up ground on the Nats count. Atlanta has struggled away from home this season, going 34-38 on the road. But the Braves are 4-3 at Nats Park. The Braves haven't been at their best lately, but they're playing better than when they took an eight-game skid into their last meeting with Washington only to win two of three. Atlanta has lost four of six heading into the series. Lack of offense has been the main problem, as the Braves have been shut out four times in the last eight games, scoring more than one run in just three of those eight contests. The pitching hasn't helped much either, holding an opponent to fewer than four runs only twice in the last eight games. Producing runs has been an issue for the Braves all year, as they've scored the second-fewest runs in the NL (528) while ranking ninth with 15 homers and 11th with a .244 average and a .676 OPS. That's despite having two of the NL's elite in left fielder Justin Upton and first baseman Freddie Freeman. Upton is tied for third in the NL with 91 RBIs and fourth with 26 homers. He leads the club with an .870 OPS and ranks second with 31 doubles. Freeman is fourth in the NL with a .386 on-base percentage, third with 38 doubles and fourth with 89 runs scored. He also has an .859 OPS, 18 homers and 70 RBIs. Catcher Evan Gattis leads all major league catchers with 22 homers to go with 52 RBIs. Right fielder Jason Heyward and third baseman Chris Johnson have driven in 56 and 55 runs, respectively. Atlanta has fared much better on the mound, ranking fourth in the NL with a 3.33 team ERA, a 3.44 rotation ERA and a 3.09 bullpen ERA. In six games this month, however, the Braves have a 5.09 ERA, the third-worst mark in the NL. The Nats catch a break in the series, as they'll miss ace Julio Teheran. But two of the three probable starters in the series have been performing well of late. Mike Minor's meeting with Doug Fister in tonight's series opener might be the best match-up of the set, even if the Braves left-hander's numbers haven't been too impressive this year. Overall, Minor is 6-9 with a 4.65 ERA in 22 starts this year. But he has a 2.52 ERA with a .183 opponents' average over his last five starts. Right-hander Ervin Santana takes a 14-7 record and a 3.61 ERA into his start against Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday. Santana pitched to a 2.41 ERA over his eight starts before allowing four runs in six innings his last time out. He hasn't permitted more than four runs since June 12. Veteran right-hander Aaron Harang will look to put a halt to his slump when he pitches against Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday afternoon. Overall, Harang has been good with a 10-10 record and a 3.87 ERA. But he's 1-4 with a 6.91 ERA over his last five starts to elevate his ERA by a half-run. Out of the bullpen, the Nats will again have to watch out for closer Craig Kimbrel, who is tied for the major league lead with 43 saves while pitching to a 1.61 ERA. No matter when or where the Braves meet the Nats, it's a quality series. With so much on the line for Atlanta and with Washington having an opportunity to put the Braves away, this should be as intriguing of a set as these clubs have played all year.

Nationals announce 2015 schedule
A chance to bury the Braves

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