First - since I haven't mentioned it for a year - if you are so inclined I am on twitter - mostly baseball stuff, more than I originally thought it would be, but not all. https://twitter.com/harpergordek
The Nats are killing relievers. They are hitting them at a .315 / .397 / .519 clip by far the best in the National League. (Nats OPS is .915, next best is .835, then .774 - the AL has a couple teams a little closer but the Nats are still easily #1). Is it that the Nats have just faced lousy bullpens? It didn't seem that way going into the Marlins series, but that is certainly a possibility. But so what? You want to kill lousy bullpens and the Nats have at the very least done that, if not beat up on ok ones.
I do believe though that the starter/reliever splits (Nats are about mid-MLB vs starters) gel with my idea of the Nats offense. It is not a murderer's row. It is good, and with Rendon and LaRoche, arguably the two biggest question marks coming into the year, both hot, there are no easy outs. (well maybe Lobaton right now but back-up catcher isn't a field flooded with talent. Honestly this guy was the best the Nats could do.) It doesn't have a guy yet who you feel you just have to pitch around. Yet.
Atlanta's relief staff has not been great. Kimbrel is Kimbrel, but getting to him has not been easy. Can the Nats take advantage of that? Speaking of Atlanta - there's a series this weekend!
The Braves come in on a bit of a slide, losing 3 of their last 4. They haven't played poorly over that time but it did highlight some flaws. The biggest overall issue is the fact their offense can go ice-cold seemingly at the drop of a hat. Nine games into the season and they already have 4 games where they've scored 1 or 0 runs. Freeman is still killing it (.419 / .514 / .677) but no one else is. Justin Upton is doing ok and Simmons, who may be limited in the series, can get singles but nothing else. So forget Blevins pitching to Freeman. Pitch around Freeman would be the better plan versus this bunch.
The starting pitching is the biggest strength. I'm not sure any starter has had a bad game, the worst one likely being David Hale's outing in the last game where he gave up 3 ER but in only 4 1/3 innings thanks to 5 walks. That's not good, but when it qualifies as your worst that gives you a sense of how good their starters have been. The Nats could likely be caught in a series of games that remain tense and low-scoring until the later innings. If the Nats could knock a pitcher out early their is a soft underbelly here. Of course the Nats scored all of 1 run off that underbelly last series so take that for what it's worth.
The Nats, as you know, are red hot. They did throw out their 3 best pitchers versus the Marlins though. Got two great starts from Gio and Stras, and one terrible one from ZNN. The pen has looked good, though with a shaky moment or two. Of course what does that all matter when you score 22 runs in 3 games? Desmond, Werth. LaRoche and Rendon have all hit exceptionally well the past week. Bryce looks to be heating up. Zimm has been a little off, and Span, you know the guy who leads off all the time and is probably the one hitter in the lineup you can't even say "well he used to be good" isn't hitting well. Surprise. Lobaton is also struggling in his role, but you have an endpoint with him. This doesn't matter when 4 guys are killing it but something to keep an eye on.
Roark v Teheran
Teheran is a good pitcher. The Nats just faced him, presumably not at his best (4 walks and 111 pitches), and managed 3 hits and 2 runs over 7. Like I said - he's good. When he's on he's among the best in baseball with great control and strikeout stuff. A bit susceptible to the long ball perhaps. In theory Roark "owns" the Braves but I think that's a little bit good timing for him and wishful thinking. Still this offense looks like it could be owned by anyone right now.
Jordan v Wood
This was the match-up last week too. In that one both guys pitched well. You could argue Wood actually pitched a bit better than Jordan but Taylor gave up 1 run to Alex's 2 and that was all either team would score. Alex could be wild, but doesn't give up the long ball. Jordan also "owns" the Braves. Like I said - I don't know if that can be disproved this time with the Braves collectively hitting so poorly.
Gio v Harang
Harang has done very well in his first two starts, almost no-hitting the Brewers and handling the Mets. But it's smoke and mirrors. His BABIP is .133 (which means he's getting lucky with GBs NOT finding holes) His LOB% 88.9% (which means he's getting lucky with said GBs NOT finding holes at the right time). and his GB% is 27.6% which means those aren't acutally GBs he's getting lucky with - more like FBs not going out of the park. 0 HRs so far this year. He's pretty good at keeping guys in the park, but not that good.
The first two games should be toss-ups. The Nats could be held down just enough for the Braves to squeak across a couple runs, get to Kimbrel and get the win. OR the Braves could continue to be punchless, the Nats could scratch a run or two off the starter, a run or two more off relievers, and win 4-1, 5-0. Either way I think through 7 these games are going to be close. Given that I don't feel good either way, I'll go with the split. As for the third game - Harang is a time bomb. I think the Nats win in a blow out.
I'll say the Nats take 2 of 3 and extend their lead in the NL East to 3 games. If that happens... well I'm not going to say wire to wire just yet. The Nats do have to finish an away set vs the Marlins then play STL for 4 games, but you start to think that maybe the Braves don't have what it takes to hang.
I think either way both teams have the same goal. Don't get swept. For the Braves that would really put them in a hole. With no common games until June 19th, they wouldn't have a good opportunity to close what would then be a 5 game gap until then. It could be setting them up for trailing all the way until that 4 game set which would be the only time the play before the break. That would make that series huge... if the Nats hadn't already gotten too far ahead. If the Nats get swept "the Braves own the Nats / The Nats can't beat good teams" idea starts to get play. It could get wiped out as soon as they play the Cardinals, but then again - they Cardinals are really good.