Washington Nationals Kurt Suzuki waits on the ball as Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward slides in safe in the third inning at their MLB game in Atlanta

It’s early, but the Braves-Nationals series is gonna be a good one

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We’re only nine games into the season, but this weekend we have what you might consider to be the first big series of the season: Braves vs. Nationals at Nats Park.

Atlanta is 8-1, their best start since winning 13 of 14 to begin the 1994 season. It’s hard to get a true gauge on them seeing as their last six games came against the lowly Marlins and Cubs, but they’re certainly hot.  The Nationals, most experts’ pick to win the NL East, are fresh off a sweep of the White Sox and stand at 7-2. They’ve won all six of their home games so far this year.

The matchups shape up like this:

  • Friday: Julio Teheran vs. Ross Detwiler;
  • Saturday: Tim Hudson vs. Stephen Strasburg; and
  • Sunday: Paul Maholm vs. Gio Gonzalez

Of note: Rafael Soriano is likely unavailable to close tonight since he’s pitched in the last three games. In his place will be Drew Storen. So I guess you can say advantage Atlanta, at least for this evening.

It’s too early to worry about the standings and stuff. But it’ll be great fun to see the first round of what should be a season-long dogfight for the NL East.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

DENVER, CO - JULY 20:  Starting pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers to home plate during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Chris Archer will take the mound for the Rays on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, opposing Dodgers right-hander Bud Norris in a 10:10 PM EDT start. It’s convenient that what could be Archer’s final start could be right in front of the team with which he eventually lands.

A rival executive told ESPN’s Jayson Stark last week that he believes there’s a “70 percent” chance Archer winds up with the Dodgers. It makes sense, as Archer is arguably the best pitcher — current won-lost record and ERA aside — available heading into the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Dodgers need an impact pitcher if the club is to keep pace in the NL West and the NL Wild Card races. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Dodgers are 56-44, 2.5 games behind the first-place Giants and holding the first of two Wild Card slots.

The Dodgers, notably, are without Clayton Kershaw, who is dealing with mild disk herniation in his lower back and may require surgery. Hyun-Jin Ryu landed on the disabled list earlier this month after making his only start of the season. Alex Wood underwent an elbow procedure recently and may rejoin the team in mid- to late-September.

Archer is 5-13, with the 13 losses leading all major league starters. He also has an uninspiring 4.60 ERA, but his total of 147 strikeouts is best in the American League. ERA retrodictors like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA believe Archer is anywhere from much better to significantly better than his ERA indicates.

Not that the Dodgers are pinching pennies, but Archer is also relatively affordable through as late as 2021. He’s earning $2.75 million this season, $4.75 in 2017, 6.25 million in ’18, and $7.5 million in ’19. He also has a $9 million club option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout and an $11 million club option for ’21 with a $250,000 buyout.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez) @ New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard), 4:05 PM EDT [Game One]

St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) @ New York Mets (Bartolo Colon), TBD [Game Two]

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Mike Pelfrey) @ Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Texas Rangers (Nick Martinez), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Lucas Harrell) @ Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Cody Reed) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have placed reliever Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. The club recalled Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis.

Thus continues a terrible 2016 for Rosenthal, who lost his grip on the closer’s role last month. The right-hander has recorded the save in 14 of 18 chances with a 5.13 ERA and a 48/27 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. Seung-hwan Oh has handled save situations  for the Cardinals in July.

As the Cardinals are playing a doubleheader against the Mets on Tuesday, the club also recalled Sam Tuivailala to serve as the 26th man on the roster.