The Washington Nationals (85-63) take a commanding 10.5 game lead into Turner Field Monday evening as they start a three game series against the second place Atlanta Braves (75-74). Washington’s magic number is four, which means two victories in Atlanta will clinch the NL East.
Meanwhile, the Braves are gasping and heaving in the death throes of a Wild Card hunt. They are four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates (79-70) for the second Wild Card spot. If Atlanta can hold on and stay in the hunt, the Pirates will come to town later this week for a head to head showdown. Alas, it will likely be over by then.
The Braves are 3-12 in September, and just a single game over .500. They haven’t been at .500 since winning the second game of the season to go 1-1. However, they have threatened several times to fall even, and each time they have embarked on a small winning streak. In June, Atlanta fell to 36-35 before ripping off a 13-3 streak. In August, they were 601-60 when they went on a 10-4 run. If they need pride as a motivating factor, now would be a really good time to take advantage.
Game 1 – 7:10 PM ET TV: MLB Network, SportSouth, MASN
Santana has been everything the Braves expected when they signed him as an emergency measure after the spring training injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. He was touched up in his last start at Washington (5.0 IP, 5 ER, 4BB), but he will be going for his eighth straight home victory.
Strasburg leads the NL in strikeouts with 223, but has had little success against Atlanta, despite their free swinging approach at the plate. The Nationals young star is 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA against Atlanta this season, and 3-7 with a 4.16 ERA in 16 career starts against Atlanta.