The Washington Nationals are National League East champions for the fourth time in six years after clinching the division title Sunday, and now begin a three-game home series Tuesday with the Atlanta Braves aiming for home-field advantage in the postseason. The Nationals, who despite their regular-season success have yet to advance out of the NL Division Series, started Monday four games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for best record in the NL.
“We’re a lot closer than we were before,” Washington manager Dusty Baker told reporters after Sunday, a game where the Nationals rested many of their starters to provide a two-day breather (including Monday’s off day). The Braves have dropped 33 of their past 52 games entering the series, but took three of four from Miami over the weekend - and each victory came in walk-off fashion. Atlanta has won four of its past seven games against the Nationals in Washington and trail the season series 7-6, after going 4-15 against Washington a season ago. Second baseman Ozzie Albies is hitting .337 in his past 24 games after providing two hits and two walks in Sunday’s 10-8, 11-inning victory.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Atlanta), MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves RH Julio Teheran (10-11, 4.77 ERA) vs. Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (14-6, 2.50)
Teheran has reached double-figures in wins for the fourth time in five seasons, but his ERA is more than a run and a half higher than last season while allowing a career-high 30 homers. He has pitched better of late, going 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA in his past five starts with only two homers surrendered in 32 innings. The 26-year-old is 7-2 with a 3.09 ERA on the road, and in three starts against Washington this season is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
Gonzalez has re-established himself as one of the top left-handers in the NL, posting a career-best ERA entering his 29th start of the season. The 31-year-old is 6-1 in his past seven starts with a 1.59 ERA in 45 1/3 innings pitched, allowing only two homers and holding opponents to a .200 batting average. Gonzalez has struggled in two starts against the Braves this season, going 0-1 while allowing seven runs on 16 hits and five walks in 11 2/3 innings.
1. Nationals CF Michael Taylor is 9-for-15 with three homers, five runs scored and nine RBIs in his past four games, after batting .263 in his first 27 games since returning from the disabled list.
2. Atlanta hitters have been hit by pitches 61 times in 2017, tying the Atlanta franchise record set in 1998.
3. Washington OF Victor Robles, the No. 3 prospect in the majors according to MLBPipeline.com, collected his first major-league hit on an RBI double Sunday.
PREDICTION: Nationals 5, Braves 2