Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer will finally face the visiting Atlanta Braves when the teams meet in the finale of a four-game series on Sunday.
The Braves (27-19) have won two of the first three games and five of nine meetings against the Nationals (17-27). Atlanta leads Philadelphia by 2 1/2 games in the National League East.
Scherzer has somehow missed the Braves this season, but on Sunday he will be opposed by young right-hander Kyle Wright (0-4, 8.05).
Scherzer is coming off one of his best performances of the season. He threw seven shutout innings in Washington’s 6-1 win over Tampa Bay on Monday.
“That’s the Max that we know right there,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He really pitched well. Needed those seven innings from him, and he did it pretty easy.”
In 24 career appearances, including 22 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 10-8 with a 3.72 ERA. He has struck out 157 Braves in 140 1/3 innings.
Wright, a No. 1 draft pick in 2017, is still looking for his first career win. He’s 0-7 with a 7.86 ERA in 16 games, nine starts over three seasons. This year, he has bounced back and forth from the alternate training site and has made five starts for the Braves.
His most recent outing was Tuesday, and Wright surrendered three home runs in an 8-0 loss to Miami. He pitched four innings and gave up five runs on seven hits, but declared he was getting closer.
Wright was pleased with his fastball and saw improvement with his changeup, but said he was disappointed with his slider.
“I thought he made strides,” manager Brian Snitker said. “His fastball was really, really good. His sinker was really good. He didn’t get any of the mistake breaking balls back. I saw some signs of improvement.”
Wright has made three career appearances, including one start, against Washington. He is 0-1 with an 11.12 ERA
“It’s really frustrating because I know it’s there. I know I have the stuff. I know I’m good enough,” Wright said. “I just have to piece it all together. It’s there. It’s really close. I know I’m close. I just have to get over than little hump, and then I can take off.”
The Braves hope their season-long struggles with the starting rotation are nearing an end. With rookie Ian Anderson established as a solid No. 2 starter, the team will get ace Max Fried (back spasms) back from the injured list this week.
Atlanta is also expected to give high-priced free agent Cole Hamels his first start on Wednesday at Baltimore.
The Braves could also use lefty Sean Newcomb as a starter or reliever. Newcomb was recalled from the alternate training site, and lefty Robbie Erlin was designated for assignment.
The Nationals have issues with their bullpen. Fireballer Tanner Rainey has been set aside with forearm tightness and veteran lefthander Sean Doolittle was placed on the injured list with a right oblique strain.
“I think (Rainey’s) just tired,” Martinez said. “He’s our eighth-inning guy. I could see him moving into that closer spot in the future here, for sure.”
–Field Level Media