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Help could be on the way for Braves against Nationals
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Latest Line: Washington -170 O/U: 8
 
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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have lost 31 of 40 games against the Washington Nationals dating to the start of the 2015 season, but at least they should have Matt Kemp back in the lineup as they try to avoid a series sweep.

Kemp, on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained right hamstring, was 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly in a rehab game for Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday and is scheduled to be activated for Thursday night's game.

The Braves (6-8) need all the help they can get after losing to the Nationals 14-4 on Wednesday night as Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each a hit grand slam.

Harper also had a bases-empty homer for the Nationals (9-5), who had 20 hits.

Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 3.00 ERA) starts the series finale for the Nationals, with veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (1-1, 3.86) pitching for the Braves.

SunTrust Park has proved favorable for hitters, with 15 homers hit in the first six games.

Freddie Freeman, who set an Atlanta record by reaching base safely in 12 consecutive plate appearances, hit another home run Wednesday after two Monday against San Diego.

With Kemp, who was 8-for-16 with four doubles and two homers in the first four games of the season, again batting behind Freeman, the Braves should be better able to match teams like the Nationals offensively.

"I can't wait to get back in there," Kemp said before his rehab game. "I feel ready."

"That's the plan," Braves manager Brian Snitker said when asked if Kemp would be in the lineup on Thursday.

The back end of the Nationals' bullpen could take a break during Wednesday's victory, but manager Dusty Baker reset roles before the game after recent meltdowns.

Blake Treinen, who won the closer job at the end of spring training, will return to his setup duties of the past, with Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover sharing the ninth inning.

Treinen had been charged with only one blown save in four opportunities but had a 7.11 ERA and 16 of 34 batters reached base against him in eight games. Last season, the right-hander had a 2.28 ERA in 73 appearances setting up.

"We're going to put him back more in a role he had success in," Baker said. "We thought he was ready. He thought he was ready. But we're just going to have to mix and match somewhere between Koda and Kelley as our closer."

In contrast, Strasburg has started the season well, just as he usually does. He has allowed three runs or fewer in all of his three starts and is 12-8 with a 3.04 ERA during the first month in his career.

Although he struggled at times in Turner Field, Strasburg won in Atlanta last year and is 8-8 with a 3.85 ERA for his career against the Braves as he goes into his first start at SunTrust Park.

Dickey will try to go 2-0 at the new ballpark after defeating San Diego on Saturday. He allowed two runs, both on homers, while working six innings against the Padres.

Dickey is 4-7 during his career against the Nationals with a 3.68 ERA in 16 games. He lost his both recent start against Washington in 2015 but gave up just two runs in six innings.

Dickey won't have to face Trae Turner, who was a hit machine against the Braves late last season as a rookie. Out with a hamstring strain, Turner is expected to join the Nationals in New York and be activated for the weekend series against the Mets.

 


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