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Braves Vs. Nationals, Game Two: Braves Look To Continue Success Against John Lannan

The Atlanta Braves return to action in game No. 2 of the season, facing the Washington Nationals at 1:05. The game is broadcasted on SportSouth.

The Braves opened the season in exciting fashion Thursday, beating the Nationals 2-0. Jason Heyward went deep for his second straight Opening Day to back 5.2 shutout innings by Derek Lowe. The bullpen held the shutout for the remainder of the game.

Braves Lineup:
1. Martin Prado, LF
2. Nate McLouth, CF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Freddie Freeman, 1B
9. Tommy Hanson, SP

Nationals Lineup:
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Wilson Ramos, C
9. John Lannan, SP

Tommy Hanson (202.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 2.49 BB/9, 7.68 K/9, 41.8 GB%, 8.4 SwStr%)
(57 FB%, 28 SL%, 12.3 CB%, 2.7 CH%; 45.4 Swing%, 80.9 Contact%)
John Lannan (143.1 IP, 4.65 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, 3.08 BB/9, 4.46 K/9, 51.5 GB%, 5.5 SwStr%)
(65.1 FB%, 17.1 CH%, 9.3 SL%, 8.5 CB%; 44.4 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Hanson is the proverbial ace-in-waiting, but he still has to clear a hurdle in 2011: durability. His velocity and sharpness declined as the season progressed last year, and as he reaches his peak stage, it's about time to start seeing him blow through 200 innings with a little more ease. Hanson's breaking stuff was very sharp in spring camp and look for it to continue as the season begins.

Lannan was knocked around a good bit last season, seeing an increase in line drives to 21%. His rates remained pretty similar, but he just threw more hittable pitches. While his contact percentage actually went down, his outside contact increased, due in large part to his slider getting crushed. If he just continues on the path he set last year, throwing fewer breaking pitches and more fastball/changeup combinations, he should fare better this season. Look for the Braves to try to jump on the breaking stuff.

Opposing Numbers:
Several Braves have had success against Lannan. Uggla is 5-13 with a homer, two RBI and two walks. Chipper Jones is 7-23 with a double and three RBI. Martin Prado is 7-21 with four doubles and two RBI. Alex Gonzalez is 4-8 with a double and RBI. Perhaps the most surprising is Nate McLouth at 4-13 with two doubles and one RBI.

Hanson has fared well against Nationals hitters, shutting down Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche in the past. The one with success is Desmond at 4-11 with one home run and three RBI.

What to Look For:
The Braves have hit Lannan well in the past, especially the top five in the order. Attacking his breaking stuff while watching for the changeup should be the gameplan.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Nationals fans check out Federal Baseball.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.