Hudson gives Braves home-field advantage

Daniel Shirey/US Presswire

Tim Hudson looks to continue his recent success at Turner Field tonight against the Nationals.First place in the NL East is on the line this weekend as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals kick off a three game series tonight at Turner Field. The Nationals currently hold a one-game lead but need to win at least two games in Atlanta to remain atop the division on Memorial Day.

The Braves look to reverse their recent slump and avoid a season-high fifth straight loss. The league’s second-best offense averaged just two runs per game and was hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position as they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds earlier this week.

Atlanta sends veteran Tim Hudson to the mound in the opening game tonight. Hudson is 14-3 with a 2.05 ERA in his career versus the Nationals/Expos franchise, the second-most wins and best ERA among active pitchers against the team.

Most Consecutive Home Starts
Braves Since 1912, 3 ER or Fewer

Hudson has also not allowed more than three earned runs at home in his last 19 starts. That’s the longest current streak of consecutive home starts allowing three or fewer earned runs, and the longest by a Braves pitcher since Greg Maddux reeled off 23 such starts from 1993-95.

The Nationals enter the series having won three of their last four games, getting strong performances from their top three studs in the rotation – Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez – before losing to Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

Tonight Ross Detwiler takes the ball for the Nationals. Detwiler had the last non-quality start by a Washington pitcher when he allowed a season-high six runs in Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Detwiler allowed a total of eight earned runs in his first six starts combined (2.10 ERA), but has given up 10 earned runs in 10 innings (9.00 ERA) over his last two outings. Lefties are 3-for-7 with two extra-base hits against him during that span, after he held them to just two hits in 29 at-bats (.069 BA) in his first six starts this season.

Splitting Aces

Two aces who have had uncharacteristic struggles this season face off in south Florida tonight when Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants visit Josh Johnson and the Miami Marlins.

Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson
Last 3 Starts

A two-time Cy Young winner, Lincecum has a career-worst 6.04 ERA and just one quality start this season. He has allowed at least four earned runs in six of nine starts, after doing so just seven times in 33 starts last year.

One major issue appears to be a significant drop in fastball velocity, along with a shrinking difference between the speeds of his heater and changeup. His fastball is averaging just 89.9 mph this season, after averaging 92.2 mph last year, while his changeup velocity has barely moved (83.7 mph in 2011, 83.1 mph in 2012).

Johnson struggled early on, going winless with a 6.69 ERA in his first six starts, but is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA over his last three outings. His fastball has become much more effective, as opponents are hitting .125 against the pitch in his past three games, compared to .391 in his first six starts.