The Washington Nationals will play host to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon as both teams look to further cement their position in the postseason hunt. For the Braves, only the Nationals stand in the way of clinching their second straight NL East title and while Washington doesn’t stand a chance of catching the Braves, every game is important to them from here on out as they try to stay atop the NL Wild Card standings.
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- Date and Time: Sunday, September 15, 2019, 1:38 p.m. ET
- Location: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
- 2019 MLB Betting Odds at Betcris: (Check Back Later)
- Braves vs. Nationals 2019 MLB TV Coverage: TBS
Anibal Sanchez is expected to get the ball for the Nationals in this one in a showdown against the team that helped resurrect his career last season.
In 2018, Sanchez appeared in 25 games for the Braves, pitching to a 2.83 ERA and 1.083 WHIP with a 3.62 FIP. That came after he signed a minor league pact with the team and following several years of struggles in Detroit.
The success in 2018 was enough for the Nationals to buy in and he’s been a serviceable arm for them this season. Overall, Sanchez has started 27 games, pitching to an 8-8 record with a 4.04 ERA and 1.320 WHIP. He’s got a 4.51 FIP and a 115 ERA+. He’s far from an ace, but those are solid numbers.
In his 27 games, Sanchez has thrown just 147 innings, so he doesn’t tend to get much past five innings a start. Even so, his innings pitched this season is a bit of a concern.
Sanchez is coming off a solid performance against a good hitting Twins’ team, holding them to two runs in seven innings, though he did take the loss in that game. It was his second straight loss after allowing seven runs in five innings to the Mets the game prior.
The veteran right-hander has faced the Braves four times this season, most recently on July 31 where he allowed four runs and 10 hits in five innings at home. Of his fours starts against Atlanta, he’s got just one quality start.
While Sanchez was a big surprise for the Braves last year, Atlanta’s starter in this one has been a nice surprise for the team here in 2019. Max Fried is slated to get the start.
The 25-year old southpaw had seen some time in the Majors in 2017 and 2018 but failed to fully establish himself and was split between the rotation and the bullpen. He made a couple relief appearances in 2019 before sticking in the rotation.
In 30 games—including 28 starts—Fried is 16-5 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.328 WHIP. He’s pitched to a 3.79 FIP and a 115 ERA+.
While Mike Soroka and Julio Teheran have been more effective pitchers this year, Fried has been very solid and an important piece stabilizing the middle of the rotation.
The southpaw has 164 strikeouts on the year in his 154.1 innings of work and has been rather stingy on the free passes as well though he does have a higher batting average against.
On the year, the Braves are 21-7 in his starts though the did loss his last start when he allowed five runs in five innings to the Phillies. We went seven shutout frames against the Nationals the game prior to that and will look to have another good outing against Washington on Sunday.
Unfortunately, that Nationals start was his only good one in the last five as he’s seen his ERA jump as he’s struggled a bit. The struggle could be partially due to his workload. He’s at a career high in innings pitched with 154.1 after throwing just 111.1 combined between the minors and majors last year.
For much of the season, the Nationals had one of the worst bullpens in baseball. The unit still is having a 5.77 ERA for the year, better only than the lowly Orioles.
The Braves, of course, have faired much better, but they’ve had some bullpen concerns of their own, largely in the closer’s role.
Both the Nationals and Braves tried to solve their bullpen issues at the trade deadline, adding three bullpen pieces each.
The Nationals added Roenis Elias, who has been injured until recently, along with Hunter Strickland and Daniel Hudson. Strickland has been okay, but Hudson has been a real stabilizer.
Fernando Rodney was a nice midseason pickup, too, and has pitched well. Outside of those, however, there’s not a lot to get excited about. Sean Doolittle is a good closer and carried the bullpen early, but his ERA is now up to 4.07 as he’s dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness in the second half of the season.
The Braves, at least, have a bit more depth in relief than Washington. After rough starts following their trades, Shane Greene, Chris Martin, and Mark Melancon have all been throwing well of late. Melancon is now in the closer’s role and is 10-for-10 since taking over. That slid Luke Jackson earlier in the games along with the likes of Sean Newcomb, Josh Tomlin, and Anthony Swarzak all of whom provide a bit of something different.
The Braves and Nationals are second and third, respectively, in the NL in runs score, both posting nearly identical team OPS numbers as well.
These are both strong offensive teams. The Braves have hit a few more balls out of the park, but the Nationals have delivered more doubles. The slash lines for both teams are eerily similar, one at .259/.337/.457, the other .263/.339/.454.
In the second half of the Baseball season, Washington has a slight edge across the board save for homers, but in September, the two are neck-and-neck, again.
These are balanced offenses. The Braves have Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuna Jr. leading the way. The Nationals have Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.
Both Baseball teams have MVP candidates and superstars surrounded by serviceable role players. For the Nationals, Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera are a pair of excellent veteran hitters making a quiet impact. Atlanta has Matt Joyce off the bench. It also has some nice role players on the expanded roster with Francisco Cervelli, Billy Hamilton, and Adeiny Hechavarria added to the mix for speed, defense, and depth.
The Braves have 11 more wins, but going back to May 24, these two teams have very similar records. After a loss on May 23, the Nationals dropped to 19-31, looking to already be falling out of contention, but then something clicked.
Since that loss, Washington has gone 61-33. Interestingly, since May 24, the Braves are 63-33, playing—and winning—two more games. That’s a large sample size pointing to these two teams being so evenly matched.
More recently, however, the Braves have been playing better baseball. They’re 8-2 since the start of September, while Washington is 4-6. Atlanta also has the better winning percentage in the second half and since the trade deadline.
Head-to-head, the Braves also boast the advantage going 9-7 against Washington this season. Atlanta won three of four when the two teams met last weekend at SunTrust Park.
The bullpen is the difference maker here. Look for both starters to go five or six innings giving up a few runs each. The offenses will make the opposing pitchers work.
Count on a big blast or two from the Atlanta offense while the Nationals grab some key doubles to drive in runs and keep this game within a run or two throughout. In the end, the Braves’ bullpen is more reliable than the Nationals’. Look for the back end of the Washington bullpen to give up a key late-game home run that will be the difference maker.
This should be a close game, but in the end, going with the visiting Braves to get that much closer to clinching this division.
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Pick: Look for Atlanta to get closer to the Magic Number on Sunday afternoon with the win on the road.
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Score Prediction: Braves 6, Nationals 5