Hurricane Irene could prove to be a big benefit for the Atlanta Braves.
Having taken advantage of three days off to rest their bullpen and realign their rotation, the Braves host the sliding Washington Nationals in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night.
Atlanta (79-54) had Saturday’s and Sunday’s games at New York postponed due to the hurricane, with those rainouts leading into a scheduled day off. The Braves fell 2-0 on Friday and have lost two of three, but they’re 7-2 in the last nine and firmly in control of the wild-card race.
The hiatus could help them further solidify their hold on a playoff spot, as the club has been very busy in the second half.
“I think it’s going to be well needed because we’ve had one day off since the break,” second baseman Dan Uggla(notes) told the team’s official website. “I’m sure everybody is going to enjoy these next couple days.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez also likely enjoyed the break, knowing top relievers Jonny Venters(notes), Craig Kimbrel(notes) and Eric O’Flaherty(notes) got some needed time off. Venters, who had worked 22 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings before allowing two eighth-inning runs Friday, has made a major league-high 71 appearances. Kimbrel and O’Flaherty have appeared in 65 and 63 games, respectively.
The right-hander looks to build on a bounce-back start in his last outing last Monday, when he avoided a third straight loss by scattering eight hits and five walks in 6 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory over Chicago. He’ll be trying to avoid a fourth straight subpar start against the Nationals (62-70), losers of a season high-tying six in a row.
Jurrjens has posted a 9.00 ERA in his last three outings versus Washington - two of which have come this year. He gave up five runs in five innings of a 5-3 defeat at Nationals Park on Aug. 1.
“The last two times we faced him, his velocity wasn’t where it was at earlier in the season,” Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth(notes) said after that game. “I remember him throwing a little bit harder in past years.”
Ryan Zimmerman(notes) is 10 for 30 against Jurrjens in his career. Zimmerman, though, had gone 3 for 25 (.120) over his last six games before not starting Sunday against Cincinnati. He pinch hit in the eighth inning and delivered a tying single.
The Nationals have won three of the last five meetings with the Braves, but they haven’t played nearly that well lately. Washington has scored 13 runs during its six-game skid.
While Atlanta should be well rested, the Nationals stagger into Turner Field after a 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Reds on Sunday. Joey Votto’s(notes) second home run of the game ended the 5-hour, 15-minute marathon.
He hasn’t been very successful in those outings overall, going 8-18 with a 4.78 ERA, but is 2-2 with a 2.41 ERA in the last six matchups. Hernandez beat Jurrjens on Aug. 1 when he allowed one run in six innings.
Chipper Jones(notes) has gone 26 for 73 (.356) with 12 doubles and 12 walks against Hernandez, while Martin Prado(notes) is 12 for 32 (.375). Brian McCann(notes) is hitting .385 (10 for 26) off of him, but Uggla is 7 for 35.