While the baseball world might be excited to watch Julio Teheran oppose Stephen Strasburg on Saturday night at Nationals Park, Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is among the position players who are not necessarily looking forward to the challenge that awaits them.
"There is nothing good about having to face Strasburg, especially for me," Johnson said. "I'd rather it be Teheran against somebody else. It's nice to know we have Teheran going when we are facing Strasburg, because we know if we manage to get a couple runs against him it will probably be good enough, because Julio is so good."
Courtesy of their 2-1 win in Friday's series opener, the Braves will have a chance to move ahead of their rivals in the National League East standings with a win on Saturday. Both teams enter the contest with a 3-1 record.
When the Braves lost two starting pitchers -- Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy -- to season-ending elbow injuries during Spring Training, the Nationals gained more reason to believe they might dethrone the defending NL East champions. But they now find themselves without starting pitcher Doug Fister (lat strain) and starting catcher Wilson Ramos (hamate bone surgery).
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for you," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Nobody is looking at the [disabled list] and saying, 'Ah, Ramos is not catching today, poor guy.'"
Teheran surrendered four earned runs during the first two innings of his first career start against the Nationals last year and then held them scoreless during the remainder of that six-inning stint. The 23-year-old right-hander then proceeded to compile a 2.90 ERA in the four other starts he made against Washington last year.
Strasburg saw injuries limit him to two innings or fewer in two of his final three starts against the Braves last year. He also exited a June 30, 2012 start at Turner Field because of heat exhaustion. Minus these three shortened outings, he has compiled a 3.08 ERA in nine career starts against Atlanta.
During Monday's season debut against the Mets, Strasburg allowed a three-run home run in the first inning and then surrendered one more run during his six-inning effort.
"Early on, Strasburg was up in the zone, and then he found his stride in the third and shut them down the rest of the way," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "His pitch count got up there, and we couldn't run him out there for another inning. He gave us a chance to get back in it."
Teheran's first career Opening Day start was marred by the lack of offensive support he received during Monday's 2-0 loss to the Brewers. The two runs he surrendered in six innings were tallied before he recorded his first out in the fourth inning.
"I felt good, and I did my best," Teheran said. "Hopefully with this start, I will get better."
Braves: Lineup construction
Gonzalez has to feel fortunate that his club has won three of its first four games despite totaling just eight runs. The Braves might soon have to evaluate their decision to place B.J. Upton in the second spot of the lineup. Upton has recorded one hit and struck out nine times in his first 16 at-bats.
But Gonzalez seems to be benefiting from his decision to put Chris Johnson in the cleanup spot. Johnson homered in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Brewers and delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly in Friday's win over the Nationals.
"He's done a terrific job," Gonzalez said. "That is exactly what we want him to do. He's going to hit behind [Freddie] Freeman, and there are going to be times where they will have to pick their poison with Freeman or Johnson. You feel good the way we are set up offensively with our lineup, that he is a guy who can do that job. He doesn't have to change his approach. We don't want him to change his approach."
Nationals: Pitchers racking up impressive K totals
Washington's pitching staff has registered a Major League-leading 53 strikeouts through this season's first four games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 39 strikeouts registered by Washington entering Friday stood as the third-highest total recorded by a pitching staff through the regular season's first three games.
The Nationals will likely extend this impressive early trend throughout the remainder of this weekend's series. The Braves have struck out at least eight times in 16 of the 20 games played between these two division rivals over the past two years.
• Ten of the past 17 games played between the Braves and Nationals have been decided by one run. The Braves have won seven of those 10 games.
• Ryan Zimmerman is five home runs shy of passing Roy Sievers and becoming the second-most prolific home run hitter in Washington history. Sievers hit 184 home runs while playing for the Washington Nationals and Senators from 1954-59 and 1964-65. Frank Howard holds the Washington record with 237 home runs.
• The Braves' starting rotation has not allowed a run in the past 17 2/3 innings.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.