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June 3rd, 2021

Atlanta’s and Washington’s are often associated with one another and for good reason.

They’re about the same age (Soto is a year younger). They debuted less than a month apart, early in the 2018 season. They finished 1-2 in that season’s NL Rookie of the Year Award race. They’re both outfielders with extraordinary talent and engaging personalities. They’re friends and division rivals and they inspire no shortage of debate about who is better.

It’s always fun watching the two young stars compete, and their latest clash will come Thursday at 12:20 p.m. ET, in MLB.TV’s Free Game of the Day, a series finale between the Braves and Nationals at Atlanta’s Truist Park. (Blackout restrictions apply, although live audio still will be available through MLB.TV in local markets.)

Here is a quick breakdown of the matchup:

How they’re doing
Nationals (23-29, 5th in NL East)
Braves (25-28, T-2nd in NL East)

These teams have combined to win the past five division titles (Washington from 2016-17, Atlanta from 2018-20) but both have struggled to get things going in 2021. The Braves have not made it over the .500 mark all season and trail the banged-up, first-place Mets by 4 1/2 games. Atlanta took five of its first six games from Washington this year, but the Nats have now won two straight and can claim a series win Thursday.

The matchup on the mound
Nationals -- (3-4, 6.23 ERA in 10 starts)
Braves -- (0-0, 4.50 ERA in one start)

This is only the third MLB game for Davidson, the Braves' 19th-round pick in the 2016 Draft and Atlanta's No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He twirled a quality start in his previous MLB appearance, on May 18 against the Mets, going six innings and allowing three runs. Davidson also has started three games this season at Triple-A Gwinnett and allowed just two runs over 20 innings.

The players to watch

It’s Acuña and Soto. Or is it Soto and Acuña? Either way, you can’t go wrong. From the start of 2018 through Tuesday, Acuña was tied for fourth in the Majors in home runs, second in runs scored and eighth in stolen bases. Soto ranked second in OBP and fourth in OPS.

Acuña is two homers away from becoming only the 26th player to hit 100 by the end of his age-23 season. Soto’s park-adjusted career OPS+ of 151 (51% better than league average) currently ranks sixth all-time for players with 1,500 plate appearances through their age-22 season -- behind only four Hall-of-Famers and Mike Trout. Or to put it more simply: These guys are really good.

Don’t forget him

The Braves’ made an immediate impression upon arriving in the Majors in May 2019, hitting nine home runs in his first 18 games and 16 in his first 48 (tied for seventh all-time). Big league pitchers adjusted, however, and Riley entered 2021 with only a .736 OPS in 131 games. But after a slow start to this season, Riley got it going with the bat, and the 24-year-old third baseman slashed .311/.394/.611 with seven home runs in May.

Picture this

made his Braves debut on Sept. 1, 2010, and has been a regular in the Atlanta lineup since 2011. Over those past 11 seasons, Freeman’s 1,564 hits rank second in the Majors, trailing only Houston’s Jose Altuve (1,665). What do all those knocks look like? See below.

Number of note

was one of the Nationals’ big offseason additions, and he already has authored some big moments in a Washington uniform. Both of his first two homers with the club were walk-offs (April 16 vs. Arizona, April 30 vs. Miami) and both were bombs (463 feet and 454 feet, respectively). That gives Schwarber two of the five longest walk-off homers tracked by Statcast since the system debuted in 2015.