The Atlanta Braves have a tremendous opportunity in front of them the next few weeks. We’re almost at the halfway mark with the All-Star Game approaching. And with that, the Braves have a chance to put a considerable gap between them and the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. Any extra wins at the moment will likely loom large later in the season.
Remember what happened last season with Bryce Harper. He was dormant for much of the first-half and then woke up shortly after the All-Star Game. Harper suddenly looked like a guy worthy of the contract he received this past offseason. In other words, if that comes to fruition again, the Braves best pack away as much wins as they can get while he’s still cool.
As of Friday night, the Braves hold a 4.5-game lead over the Phillies in the division. They played tight for much of the season, before the Braves went on a nice run starting on June 7th. Atlanta won eight straight games until losing against the Phillies on the 15th. While the Phillies won that game, the Braves responded in the following game to win three out of four games. Bryce was still left wondering how to notch a clutch hit while the Braves were pulling away in the division.
There is faint hope that the Washington Nationals can dig deep and win the division. They’re 6.5 games back, which is manageable, but lack the talent to erase a deficit like that. The wildcard is within reach at 2.5 games in the National League. We’re talking about an incredibly competitive race, though.
It won’t be easy, despite being in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Anibal Sanchez will look to make it easy for the Nationals on Saturday and get their streak to six games. The Braves will counter with Mike Foltynewicz, who is coming off his best start of the year. Head below for our free Braves vs. Nationals pick.
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Pick:
Betting odds provided by bovada.lv
Somehow, someway Anibal Sanchez found a way to reinvent his career after leaving the Tigers in 2017. The Tigers spent a lot of money reupping his contract, but he was a total bust and did nothing late in his career in Detroit. Valuable early and helped get them to the postseason. However, it appeared like his arm was completely shot, making it all the more surprising of his return to form. The Tigers were left watching him last season in Atlanta thinking, wait, where was that for us?
His final season was marred with injuries and control issues. He was sent to the bullpen to try and fix it, though it didn’t help much. Sanchez ultimately finished with an ERA of 6.75 that season. This was after posting ERA’s of 4.99 and 5.78 the seasons prior to that. Then he went to the Braves last season and everything changed, posting an ERA of 2.83 in 25 appearances. They clearly didn’t have much faith in him continuing the hot touch, though, because the Braves allowed him to walk to Washington and sign with a divisional rival.
Sanchez’s numbers have dipped, but he has been fire of late. In his previous four full starts, he hasn’t allowed more than 2 runs. He only pitched 1.1 innings five games ago, having to leave with an injury, so we’ll leave that one out. The Braves are hitting .242 with 5 home runs against Sanchez in 128 at-bats. Mike Foltynewicz hasn’t had a repeat of last season, at least not yet. He finished with an ERA of 2.85 for a career-high in 2018, but obviously by looking at the 2019 numbers, it hasn’t translated into anything this year. Having said that, Foltynewicz was feeling it against the Phillies in his most recent outing.
He looked like the guy we watched in 2018, holding the Phillies to only 4 hits and 1-run in 6 innings. Also, in his last 12 innings on the road, Folty has allowed just 3 runs, so there have been signs of him getting better. He has been better on the road this season, with an ERA of 4.00 and 1.17 WHIP. Note that he allowed 8 runs at Dodger Stadium, so that skews it up considerably. Take that game out and the 4.00 ERA decreases nicely for him. It should be another competitive game between the Braves and Nats on Saturday. In the end, expect the Braves to respond, setting up a tiebreaker on Sunday in Washington.