July 20 MLB Preview — Washington Nationals (51-45) at Atlanta Braves (59-40)

(Mike Soroka photo courtesy Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Saturday, July 20, SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Ga., 7:20 p.m. EDT.

While Mike Soroka did not get a full break around All-Star festivities because he pitched in the actual game, it was evident the lighter workload contributed to a crisp victory last time out.

The NL Rookie of the Year frontrunner looks to run his personal winning streak to 11 games Saturday night when the showdown between the top teams in the East — the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals — continues.

Nats’ Sanchez looks for second win versus former team

Anibal Sanchez (5-6, 3.71 ERA) went from Atlanta to Washington in the offseason via free agency and has almost come all the way back from an 0-6 start that covered his first nine outings of 2019.

His turnaround began against the Braves on May 29 when he scattered one hit and one walk in six shutout innings of a 14-4 romp at SunTrust. That triggered his current run of success in which he has gone 5-4 with a 2.40 ERA in his last nine starts ahead of this contest.

The right-hander did not pitch poorly Sunday at Philadelphia, but the Nats had to rally to get Sanchez off the hook for a loss after he yielded three runs in six innings of Washington’s 4-3 walkoff loss.

“Today, my command early in the first three innings, was really good,” Sanchez told the team’s official website. “Later on, I was fighting with my command, but in the end, it’s just about making the right pitch to get out of the jams.”

Sanchez did not fare as well in a second start against the Braves during his winning streak, getting reached for four runs and six hits in six innings, but Washington’s bullpen squandered a four-run lead in a 13-9 defeat June 22.

He is 2-0 in his last three starts against the Braves but 6-11 with a 4.79 ERA in 20 lifetime matchups. Veteran catcher Brian McCann is 11 for 39 with two homers and two doubles in his matchups with Sanchez.

Soroka inching closer to Smoltz’s record 14-game win streak from ’96

Soroka’s workload could become a concern considering he was shut down in June last year due to shoulder injuries after throwing a combined 56 1-3 innings with the Braves and in the minor leagues.

If the right-hander is effective, Soroka (10-1, 2.24) will cross the 100-inning threshold with the Braves on the season and enters this contest with 105 2-3 innings logged overall after two starts at Triple-A Gwinnett before being called up. He maxed out at 153 2-3 innings with Double-A Mississippi in 2017.

The 21-year-old is coming off one of his sharpest outings of the year, an 83-pitch effort in which he scattered six hits and a walk while striking out a career-high nine over seven shutout innings of a 4-1 win at San Diego on Sunday. It was the sixth time Soroka tossed at least six innings while conceding one or no runs.

“Who cares about the rookie of the year,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman gushed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think he’s right in it for the Cy Young. Ten and one (record) with a 2.00 (ERA). What else do you have to do? For him to be 21 and doing that, it makes it even more special to me.”

Soroka had his June 23 start against the Nationals cut short after two scoreless innings after getting hit by a pitch in the right forearm from Austin Voth in the third inning. He was taken out for precautionary reasons but able to make his next scheduled start.

The righty has fared well against division opponents this year, going 4-0 with a 2.65 ERA in six starts. Soroka has also been strong on five days of rest, going 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in five outings.

Notable Trends:

The Braves are:

  • 9-0 in Soroka’s last nine starts vs. NL East teams.
  • 6-0 in Soroka’s last six home starts.
  • 7-0 in Soroka’s last seven starts on five days of rest.

The Nationals are:

  • 1-4 in Sanchez’s last five road starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 2-5 in Sanchez’s last seven starts vs. above-.500 teams.

5-Star Pick!!!!!

Braves 3-way money line first 5 innings (+125)

The 3-way money line is offering a far better return than laying the half-run with the Braves at -140, and there is confidence in Soroka to deliver another strong start here.

While the Nationals have led at the midway point in four of the seven meetings, they have done so by scoring runs in bunches — they plated eight or more runs on three occasions. Having confidence in Soroka means there will be a tight game, and the Braves have gone 3-1 in the other games while holding Washington to one or no runs.

4-Star Pick!!!!

UNDER 10 runs (-105)

An instance where the feel is the number is too high given Soroka’s stellar season and Sanchez at worst given Washington a chance to win while also giving himself chances to win games.

The under has been trending hard for the Nationals during their rise to second in the NL East, going 7-1 in their last eight road games and against division rivals heading into Friday night as well as 8-1 in their previous nine overall. The under is also 7-1-1 in Washington’s last nine against pitchers with a sub-1.15 WHIP.

The under is 5-1 in Soroka’s last six starts versus teams with a winning record, which will hopefully offset the over hitting in his last four starts at SunTrust.

3-Star Picks!!!

Braves -1.5 runs (+105)

A more aggressive play than the -171 for the straight money line, the hedge is Soroka will continue rolling right along and outpitch his former teammate in this game. Something else in the 21-year-old’s favor is the Nationals are essentially seeing him for the first time since he was forced to leave their previous matchup after two innings.

Braves UNDER 5.5 runs (-115)

Despite picking the Braves to win this game, the expectation is this contest will be low-scoring. Atlanta has scored more than five runs just once since the All-Star break and that result required extra innings.

Additionally, opponents have scored more than five runs against Washington only once in Sanchez’s last eight starts and once in the last nine overall.

UNDER 5.5 runs first 5 innings (-105)

This pick is more about Sanchez continuing to be tough early — the under has delivered in his last three starts after the previous matchup with the Braves in which the over hit comfortably.

There is some concern since the over has hit in Soroka’s last four home starts, but the under has gone 4-1-1 in his other six starts in that stretch. Additionally, Soroka’s season-long quality plus his limited exposure to Nationals hitters makes the under the play.

UNDER 0.5 runs/NO 1st-inning run (+115)

The “no” pick to a first-inning run, Soroka’s 4.50 ERA in the opening frame is somewhat inflated after giving up a four-spot to Philadelphia in his last home start, and Sanchez sports a quality 2.65 ERA in the first while opposing hitters are batting just .185.

The Nationals, though, drive this pick to a large degree as the only team yet to score a first-inning run since the All-Star break. Atlanta helps by failing to push a first-inning run across in five of its last six games.

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