- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

Max Scherzer is ready for the parties.

The Nationals have just one four-game series left before the All-Star break, which begins Thursday against the Atlanta Braves. Scherzer and four other Nationals will then head to Miami for July 11’s All-Star Game. 

Scherzer was honest on what he enjoyed most about All-Star weekend.

“The parties, the home-run derby, the game, the red carpet, more parties,” Scherzer said Monday. “It’s a party for like 72 hours.”

If Scherzer wants to party in Miami, let him do it. He has been dominant on the mound this year with a league-leading 1.94 ERA. He’s also a candidate to start Sunday’s All-Star game, but most project the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to get the nod.

But first the Nationals have to deal with the Braves, who are in second place in the National League East despite a 40-43 record.

If you’re wondering how this season is going for the Braves, Freddie Freeman leads Atlanta with 14 home runs — and he missed seven weeks with a wrist injury. Freeman returned to the Braves‘ lineup Tuesday. 

The Braves are hitting the ball relatively well, batting .268, but they haven’t been able to produce runs. They’ve scored the fifth-least amount of runs in the NL with 378 runs. They have a run differential of -54.

Atlanta, though, finished June with their first winning record of the season at 16-12.

Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez gets the start Thursday against the Braves‘ Mike Foltynewicz at 7:05 p.m. The Nationals were rained out Wednesday, skipping pitcher Tanner Roark’s start.

Gonzalez (7-3, 2.77 ERA) is having one of the best seasons of his career and is a candidate to be a replacement on the All-Star team if any pitchers were to drop out.

Scherzer is scheduled to pitch Friday and Stephen Strasburg will pitch Saturday. Sunday’s starter has yet to be announced.

The Nationals are 4-4 against the Braves this season, last having played June 14.

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