Minus Freeman, Braves to face nemesis Nationals
ATLANTA -- The Washington Nationals hope to continue their domination of the Atlanta Braves as the National League East teams open a three-game series on Friday night.
The Nationals, who swept a three-game series at SunTrust Park in April, have won 18 of the last 22 meetings and are 39-13 against the Braves since the middle of the 2014 season.
Facing the Nationals now is even more of a challenge for Atlanta with first baseman Freddie Freeman on the disabled list.
Freeman, batting .341 and leading the National League with 14 homers, will be sidelined for approximately 10 weeks after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist when hit by a pitch from Toronto reliever Aaron Loup in the fifth inning Wednesday.
"It's devastating news for the ball club," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said Thursday after an MRI exam confirmed the break.
Freeman said he knows Loup had "no intent" to hit him with the pitch.
"He was just trying to get me out," the slugger said. "He just threw one that got away."
Freeman's hand will be in a cast for four weeks. No surgery will be required.
"Obviously, it's a tough blow," Freeman said. "I'm going to do everything I can to get back as soon as I can."
To take Freeman's roster spot, the Braves promoted third baseman Rio Ruiz from Triple-A Gwinnett. He was in the lineup Thursday against the Blue Jays, with utilityman Jace Peterson moving over to first.
The Braves (16-22) acted quickly to bring in potential help by signing veteran first baseman James Loney to a minor league contract. He was a free agent after playing with the New York Mets last season and hitting nine homers.
The Braves were left without a true backup for Freeman when Sean Rodriguez was lost for the season because of a serious shoulder injury suffered in an auto crash over the winter.
The Braves signed former Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard to a minor league contract in April, but he was released after struggling at Gwinnett.
The Nationals (25-15) lost the final two games of a three-game series in Pittsburgh, but still lead second-place Atlanta by eight games in the NL East.
Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.47 ERA) will face Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.22 ERA) on Friday.
Dickey lost 3-2 to the Nationals in Atlanta during April despite giving up just three hits over seven innings. One, though, was a two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman, who joined Bryce Harper in having a monster series against the Braves.
Zimmerman and Harper each had seven hits and two homers in the three games.
Dickey is 4-8 with a 3.69 ERA in 17 career outings (15 starts) against the Nationals, which is actually better than Gonzalez has fared against the Braves in his career.
Gonzalez is 4-9 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 starts and lost to the Braves last season while posting a 7.11 ERA.
The Nationals have dropped five of their past six games on the road.
"It was a bad couple of days," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said in Pittsburgh. "We didn't play very well. We made a lot of mistakes. Seems like we weren't there sometimes. We just have to up the intensity and up our concentration."
Updated May 19, 2017