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Braves vs. Nationals Preview: Andrelton Simmons Debuts Against Stephen Strasburg

The Braves look for revenge after suffering a sweep last weekend.

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (67) throws to first in the first inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (67) throws to first in the first inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals will meet yet again this weekend after playing a three-game series in Atlanta just a few days ago. Not a whole lot has changed from either club, although the Braves will debut top-prospect Andrelton Simmons on Friday night.

The Nationals hold a two-game lead over the Braves in the National League East. They were swept by the red-hot Florida Marlins during the week, dropping their lead in the division to just one-half game. Just as they did last weekend in Atlanta, the Nats rely heavily on pitching to win their games and have gotten a huge spark from Bryce Harper.

The 19-year-old rookie is hitting .274/.357/.504 with a wOBA of .365, which is pretty remarkable for a kid his age. He pounded the Braves' pitching staff last weekend and it will be interesting to see how they adjust.

Adam LaRoche continues to hit well for the Nats with an OPS of .908. Despite pounding the Braves just a few days ago, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continues to struggle at the plate hitting just .246 and OPS of .681.

Contrary to what you may have seen at Turner Field, Washington really isn't that great of a hitting team. It's just a matter of the Braves' pitchers executing when the Nationals do get runners on base.

Pitching Probables & Start Times:

Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET - Mike Minor (2-4, 6.98 ERA, 4.34 xFIP) vs. Stephen Strasburg (5-1, 2.64 ERA, 2.70 xFIP)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. - Brandon Beachy (5-3, 1.77 ERA, 3.98 xFIP) vs. Gio Gonzalez (7-1, 2.04 ERA, 2.71 xFIP)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. - Tommy Hanson (5-4, 3.84 ERA, 4.21 xFIP) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.80 ERA, 3.58 xFIP)

For more on the Braves be sure to check out Talking Chop.

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