Opposite Dugout: Braves host Nationals with NL East lead at stake

braves-logo.jpgManager: Brian Snitker (3rd season)

Record: 32-23

Last 10 games: 5-5

Players to watch: 2B Ozzie Albies (14 HR, 34 RBIs), 1B Freddie Freeman (.335 with 9 HR, 40 RBIs), RF Nick Markakis (.332, 38 RBIs), LHP Sean Newcomb (5-1, 2.75 ERA), RHP Mike Foltynewicz (4-3, 2.55 ERA), RHP Arodys Vizcaino (9 saves, 2.38 ERA)

Series vs. Nationals: 3-2

Pitching probables:

May 31: RHP Tanner Roark (2-4) vs. LHP Sean Newcomb (5-1), 7:35 p.m., MASN2
June 1: RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-4) vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (4-3), 7:35 p.m., MASN2
June 2: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-2) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-2), 4:10 p.m., MASN2
June 3: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (2-0) vs. RHP Anibal Sánchez (0-0), 1:35 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Braves:

On Wednesday afternoon, before the Braves' series finale versus the Mets in New York, a fire broke out at Citi Field. The way the matchup ended, manager Brian Snitker's club could have used a little flame to light the spark against a struggling Mets squad whose depth has been ravaged recently by the injury bug. By losing the rubber game of the series against the Mets, Atlanta dropped into second place in the National League East, a half-half game behind the Nationals right before returning home to host the red-hot Nats, who have won a team-record 10 straight games on the road.

First baseman Freddie Freeman has been the most consistent contributor for the Braves this year, slashing .355/.434/.536 with nine homers and a team-leading 40 RBIs. The Braves' home run leader is second baseman Ozzie Albies, who has gone deep 14 times. Third baseman Johan Camargo went 2-for-5 with a walk-off solo home run in Tuesday's win over the Mets. Utilityman Charlie Culberson embodies the word "clutch." He has just seven career home runs in the regular season and three of them have been walk-offs. Right fielder Nick Markakis is on pace to become the first player since World War II to have 2,000 career hits, 400 doubles and 1000 runs, yet never make an All-Star team. The Braves recently placed rookie outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. on the disabled list with a knee injury. He'd homered five times in 29 games.

Sean Newcomb, who starts tonight's series opener, gave up three runs on six hits and four walks with four strikeouts in three innings Saturday at Fenway Park in a no-decision. It was the lefty's shortest outing of 2018. The Braves have been attempting to give him as much rest as possible in between outings. In early May, Newcomb became the first Brave pitcher since Greg Maddux to allow two hits or fewer in consecutive scoreless starts of at least six innings since Maddux did it in June 1999. Friday starter Mike Foltynewicz got the win Sunday as he tossed seven innings, allowing one run on three hits and three walks while he fanned seven against the Boston. The righty carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and ended up allowing just one in a little over seven innings. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who starts Saturday, allowed five runs on nine hits with two strikeouts through five innings in a no-decision during the second game of Monday's double-header against the Mets. On Sunday, the Braves will pitch veteran righty Anibal Sánchez, whose season was interrupted by a right hamstring injury that sent him to the disabled list in mid-April. He came off the DL to work four innings of four-run ball on Tuesday against the Mets. He's got sparkling career numbers against the Nationals, going 9-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 23 games (22 starts).

Right-hander Arodys Vizcaino continues to function as the Braves closer, with nine saves in 11 opportunities, a 2.38 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.

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