The long-awaited Opening Day has arrived, as the Braves open their series with the Washington Nationals, who are projected to win the least amount of games this season at 59.5. The Braves, on the other hand, come in projected to win 95.5, but baseball is random. Anything can happen on any given day, especially at the beginning of the season. The Braves haven’t been a team that’s burst out of the gate in recent years, but they aim to change that starting today, and they’ll need to with the Mets and Phillies poised to be two of the better teams in baseball.
Probable Pitching Matchups
Spencer Strider vs. Josiah Gray
Jared Shuster vs. Mackenzie Gore
For a team that doesn’t have much going for it, the Nationals at least present some intriguing pitching matchups to start the season. On Opening Day, Max Fried will once again get the ball as he aims to improve off a career year in 2022, which resulted in a second place finish in the NL Cy Young race. However, the Nationals have actually posed quite a bit of trouble for Fried over his career. He owns a 4.52 ERA and 1.435 WHIP against them, but this isn’t the same caliber of team that he faced years ago.
Patrick Corbin will toe the rubber against Fried. At one point, these were two of the more highly regarded southpaws in the league, but their careers have gone in opposite directions, with Corbin posting ERAs of 6.31 and 5.82 over the last two seasons.
The second game of the series pins Spencer Strider against Josiah Gray, another matchup where the Braves seemingly hold a clear advantage. Strider is one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young award in 2023 and recorded a 2.57 ERA against the Nationals last year. I expect him to dominate on Saturday, but his opponent has given the Braves fits since coming into the league. Despite owning a 5.17 career ERA, 25-year-old Josiah Gray boasts a minuscule 2.05 ERA and 0.864 WHIP in four starts against Atlanta. It’s one of those odd conundrums that make baseball so special, and Saturday could end up being a pitching duel at Nationals Park.
The final matchup of the series might be the most intriguing, as two former first-round picks face each other. Jared Shuster will be making his MLB debut after an outstanding Spring where he beat out the likes of Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder. Mackenzie Gore, once a top prospect in baseball, made his debut last season and handled himself decently, posting a 4.50 ERA over 70 innings. The Nationals have high hopes for him after acquiring him in the deal that netted San Diego Juan Soto.
Nationals Player To Watch — Joey Meneses
There’s not a lot to like about the Nationals lineup, but Joey Meneses is a stud. As a rookie last year, he hit .324 and 13 homers in just 56 games. If he was on a team that was actually decent, he might even have some MVP hype around him coming into the season. Meneses was also a nightmare for the Braves last year, hitting a ridiculous .409 with a 1.091 OPS over six games.
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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