Washington Nationals (86-63) at Atlanta Braves (75-75)
Tuesday, September 16 - 7:10 PM EST
Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia
There are plenty of big names in the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation, but Tanner Roark has been the surprising force that has propelled them to the verge of a National League East title. The 27-year-old goes for his 14th victory of the season – which would tie Doug Fister for the team lead – Tuesday when Washington visits the Atlanta Braves. A Washington victory would clinch the Nationals’ second NL East crown in the past three years, and would allow them to celebrate on the field of their biggest division rival.
Atlanta’s postseason hopes are fading away as its offensive ineptitude continues. Monday’s 4-2 defeat marked the ninth time in the past 15 games since Aug. 30 that the Braves have scored two runs or less, and Atlanta is 4-11 during that stretch to fall 4 ½ games behind Pittsburgh for the final NL wild-card position. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 11 games Monday, but was ejected in the sixth inning for shattering his bat after being called out on strikes.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, MASN (Washington), SportSouth (Atlanta)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals RH Tanner Roark (13-10, 2.96 ERA) vs. Braves RH Aaron Harang (11-10, 3.72)
Roark is sixth in the NL in WHIP (1.12), among the top 15 in innings pitched (185 1/3) and has surrendered two runs or less eight times in his past 12 starts. He beat the New York Mets on Thursday, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings to snap a three-start losing streak. Roark makes his fourth start of the season against Atlanta after going 1-0 with a 3.71 ERA in the first three against the Braves.
There was cause to wonder if the 36-year-old Harang had run out of gas, but the veteran rebounded to hold the Nationals to one unearned run on six hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings Wednesday. He had posted a 6.91 ERA while losing four of his previous five starts. Harang, signed in the final week of spring training, is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts against Washington in 2014.
1. Washington 3B Ryan Zimmerman (torn right hamstring) is scheduled to begin playing in instructional league games Tuesday, and barring setbacks could rejoin the major-league roster as soon as this weekend.
2. Atlanta C Evan Gattis missed his seventh consecutive game with strep throat and the team sent him for additional tests Monday.
3. A Washington home run Tuesday would extend the Nationals’ streak of consecutive road games with a homer to 21, tying the 2013 Oakland Athletics for second-longest in big-league history (Baltimore homered in 24 straight road games in 1996).
PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Braves 2