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Nationals aim to rain on Braves' hopes

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Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals face the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

By Harvey Valentine, The Sports Xchange
WASHINGTON

Rain washed out the middle game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals on Saturday and threatens to claim Sunday's affair as well.

No makeup date was announced. Given that rain is forecast, the teams won't try to play a doubleheader Sunday, hoping to at best to play the scheduled game at 1:35 p.m. ET.

Both teams opted to skip Saturday's starters -- Atlanta's Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) and Washington's Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72) -- and stick with Sunday's scheduled pitchers. That means All-Stars Mike Foltynewicz (7-5, 2.66 ERA) of the Braves and Max Scherzer (12-5, 2.41) of the Nationals.

[post_ads]Scherzer made news Friday night when he had words with Stephen Strasburg in the dugout after the latter was pulled in the fifth inning of Atlanta's 8-5 win. Manager Dave Martinez met with the duo afterward and told reporters all is well.

The Braves (53-42) trail the Phillies by one-half game in the National League East and lead the third-place Nationals (48-49) by six games.

Coming off his second straight All-Star start, Scherzer continues his campaign for a third straight NL Cy Young Award. Washington's only reliable starter of late, Scherzer has actually underperformed by his own high standards in his last three outings, allowing three, four and three runs and watching his ERA rise from 2.04, though he won twice.

Last time out, he allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings in a win over the Mets. Scherzer completed at least seven innings for the 11th time this season.

"I've been pretty consistent giving the team a chance to win, pitching deep into ballgames," Scherzer told MLB.com. "When you do that, it allows the rest of the team to get in place. That's what I pride myself on. Regardless of my record, it's the team wins I'm focused on."

Scherzer is 1-1 against the Braves this season and has allowed two earned runs in 14 innings. For his career, Scherzer has an 8-6 record in 19 games (17 starts) to go along with a 3.61 ERA against Atlanta.

Foltynewicz has given up five runs in each of his past two starts, though he defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 9-5 in his last outing before the All-Star break.

"This is just a team game," Foltynewicz told MLB.com. "If someone doesn't have it, someone is going to pick you up. If the pitching isn't there, the offense is going to pick you up and vice versa. Knowing that, you can give up more runs than usual and these guys are going to pick you up keeps the confidence."

He's 1-1 against the Nationals this season, allowing three earned runs in 10 1/3 innings. The win came against Scherzer on April 4. For his career, Foltynewicz is 4-3 with a 4.03 ERA in nine starts against Washington.
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Daniel Murphy is hitting .438 against him, Ryan Zimmerman .364, Trea Turner .316 and Bryce Harper .278.

Kurt Suzuki has a .389 career mark against Scherzer, and Nick Markakis is batting .273 and Freddie Freeman .259 with two home runs.

Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies left Friday's game in the third inning with a tight right hamstring and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

"He felt it enough that I didn't want to take any chances, so we'll just go day to day with him and see if we can stay in front of it," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

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