The Washington Nationals are having pronounced troubles with losses in five of their six road contests, but a trip to the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark could be just what they need to turn around their fortunes. Washington would welcome a repeat of last month’s three-game sweep at SunTrust Park when it takes the field this weekend, beginning with the opener of the three-game set on Friday.
Ryan Zimmerman belted a two-run homer off Friday starter R.A. Dickey in Washington’s 3-2 win over Atlanta on April 20 but is mired in a 6-for-33 slump over his last nine games to see his batting average dip from .435 to .376. The current average puts him ahead of Bryce Harper (.365), who went 0-for-8 with three strikeouts as the Nationals dropped back-to-back contests in Pittsburgh. While first-place Washington has lost six of its last 10 overall, Atlanta had won three in a row and five of six before getting shellacked 9-0 in the finale of a heated interleague series with Toronto. The Braves struggled to get their offense going in their first game since learning that Freddie Freeman would be sidelined 10 weeks with a non-displaced left wrist fracture.
TV: 7:35 p.m. ET, MASN2 (Washington), FSN South (Atlanta)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.47 ERA) vs. Braves RH R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.22)
Gonzalez answered his worst start of the season with a solid one on Sunday but saw his winless streak extend to three outings despite allowing one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings of a no-decision versus Philadelphia. The 31-year-old surrendered a homer in that contest and has been taken deep six times in his last four outings while issuing 23 walks in his last six trips to the mound. Gonzalez has struggled mightily against Atlanta, going 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA in four starts last season to drop his career mark to 4-9 with a 5.06 ERA.
Dickey’s mark against the Nationals isn’t much better, as he permitted three runs in seven innings to take the loss on April 20 and fall to 4-8 with a 3.69 ERA in his career versus Washington. The 42-year-old knuckleballer answered that performance with back-to-back wins but sustained the loss in his last outing on Sunday despite yielding just three runs and five hits in seven frames at Miami. Dickey has struggled to keep the ball in the park, however, as he was taken deep once versus the Marlins and nine times in his last six outings.
1. Washington 2B Daniel Murphy is 24-for-75 with four homers and 17 RBIs in his last 20 contests.
2. Atlanta RF Nick Markakis is 13-for-28 with eight RBIs and four runs scored during his seven-game hitting streak.
3. Nationals SS Trea Turner is hitless in his last nine at-bats and 2-for-17 in his last four contests.
PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Braves 3