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.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.