The Atlanta Braves take on the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night in game two of their three-game midweek series from Nationals Park in Washington D.C. The Braves dominated in game one on Tuesday after a five-run six inning to break the game open behind a Huascar Ynoa historic night. Not only did he pitch a masterful game on the mound, but he hit a grand slam to go along with it in the sixth to break things open. The defending NL East champs have been off to a slow start in 2021, sitting well under .500, but are only a game behind the first-place Nationals as they try to make a move on them during this series. The Nationals are 7-3 in their last ten games, while the Braves are 4-6, and the division will definitely be anyone’s up for grabs when it’s all said and done. The Braves will be looking to prove themselves as the division’s team to beat this week and Tuesday was a good start. Which team will take control of the series on Wednesday afternoon?
Braves Searching For Offensive AnswersThe Braves return nearly all of their offensive production from last year’s division-winning team, but so far it has seemed to be a slow start for quite a few of the Atlanta hitters. Ronald Acuna Jr. still looks every part of the MVP candidate that fans have come to expect, as he leads the team across all three major offensive categories. He’s hitting .333 on the season with nine home runs and 20 RBI. Just behind him is Austin Riley who is the only other Atlanta player hitting over .300 on the season, at .329. What the Braves lack in average they make up for in power, with nine other players hitting double-digit home runs so far on the season. Freddie Freeman has seven homers but is only hitting .216. Some of the other role players that made all the difference last year are struggling to meet expectations as well, with Marcell Ozuna hitting .204 and Dansby Swanson hitting .202. If Atlanta is able to get those two to become more consistent and match their production from last year, this team can easily become the postseason danger that they were last year.
.@theynoaa is the first pitcher in Atlanta franchise history to homer in back-to-back games, and the first to do so at all for the franchise since Lew Burdette and Warren Spahn each did so within a nine-day span in June, 1961.#ForTheA pic.twitter.com/PirWuWKLAp— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) May 5, 2021
According to MLB.com, Max Fried will get the ball in game two of the series on Wednesday as he looks to find his first win of the season. It’s been a few weeks since his last start which saw him come out with a hamstring strain after three starts to open the season. The 2012 first-rounder looked exceptional in spring training, pitching a 1.38 ERA in three starts and 13 innings of work after going a combined 24-6 in the last two full seasons. 2021 has been rough for Fried though, going 0-1 so far with an 11.45 ERA, allowing 23 hits and 14 earned runs in only 11 innings of work as he looks to right the ship against the Nationals.
Fried has already faced the Nationals once this season, taking a no-decision back on April 7th in the Braves 7-6 win. Fried really deserved the loss in that one, only getting through two innings, allowing eight hits and five runs. Last year he had another tough start against the Nationals, allowing five hits and three runs in only five innings of work. According to Baseball Savant, Washington hitters have 50 at-bats and 58 plate appearances against Fried all-time, with Starlin Castro and Trea Turner each hitting home runs and the team combining to hit .380 against Fried all-time.
Nationals Leaning On Experienced OffenseOnly a few years removed from a World Series appearance, the Nationals are relying on that young core’s experience to propel them and keep them atop the division as we enter the second month of the season. Turner has come on strong of late, leading the team in home runs with nine and batting average at .309, but only has 10 RBI. Starlin Castro has been his presence well known in the nation’s capital, leading the team with 13 RBI and is hitting .253 thus far. Injuries have plagued the offense so far as only three batters even have enough at-bats to qualify for the lead in statistics, but as Kyle Schwarber, Juan Soto, and Ryan Zimmerman, return to the lineup, the offense should find some more power and pop to help keep them in games. A player to keep an eye on is Victor Robles, hitting only .229, but gets on base nearly 40 percent of the time and is a constant threat on the base paths. One player to keep an eye on is Josh Bell, the power-hitting first baseman who spent quite a few years with the Pirates and can add another power threat to the lineup as the season progresses.
According to MLB.com, Erick Fedde will get the start on Wednesday for Washington, which will be his 6th start of the year. In his last four starts though, Fedde has a 2.61 ERA with 24 strikeouts and a .167 batting average yielded. The 2014 first-rounder out of UNLV didn’t get a ton of work in spring training, which showed in his first start, but he has since rebounded well. Fedde is 2-2 on the year overall, with a 4.43 ERA, allowing 18 hits and 11 runs in 22.1 innings of work and striking out 25. Fedde will look to build on his most impressive start last time out, getting the win and only allowing one run and two hits in six innings of work, while also striking out seven.
Fedde already has one start against the Braves this year, back on April 7th, when he took the loss in less than two innings of work. In that start, he only made it through 1.2 innings, allowing five earned runs and six hits, striking out only one. Last year wasn’t much better for him, getting two no-decisions in his two starts against Atlanta. He pitched a combined 8.2 innings against the Braves last year, allowing six runs and 12 hits total. Overall, according to ESPN, the Braves have 45 at-bats against Fedde all-time, with two home runs and a .384 batting average. The more concerning stat for Fedde is that in those 42 at-bats, he only has seven strikeouts compared to 14 walks. He’ll need to take much better care of his command.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Braves’ Max Fried has had a rough go of things so far this year but should like his chances taking on a team in the Nationals that is still working quite a few guys into the normal rotation. In addition, The Braves have the best player in this game in Acuna Jr. and are carrying Tuesday’s offensive momentum into Wednesday’s game. Acuna Jr. should have a big game and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him tee off on a couple of balls, while the rest of the offense continues to find itself. Fedde looked rough in his other start against Atlanta earlier this year and will come in a little disheveled because of that, while the Braves will be leaning on that experience from last month to find a way to dominate again. Fried wasn’t great the last time out against the Nationals but still performed much better than his counterpart and is out on a mission to prove that he’s one of the elites not only in the division but in baseball.
Full-Game Total Pick
Both these pitchers got roughed up when they met earlier in the season and neither has really shown much to make fans think that runs won't be coming off the board in this one. Both teams also have big fly potential between Soto, Turner, Acuna Jr., and then the Braves supporting cast who while struggling can put up runs in a hurry if the Nationals aren’t careful. Additionally, according to covers.com, for Atlanta, the over is 6-0-1 in their last seven games against NL East opponents. For Washington, the over is 8-0-1 in Fedde’s last nine starts as a home underdog and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts during game two of a series. In games between the two teams, the over is 10-2-1 in the last 13 meetings overall and is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in Washington.