Braves draw NL East rival Nationals next

The defending World Series champions continue their season-opening seven-game homestand with their first series against a division rival.

The Atlanta Braves host the Washington Nationals in the first of three games after splitting four games with the Cincinnati Reds.

In his first four games with the Braves, Matt Olson has paid immediate dividends with eight hits, including a pair of three-hit performances. He also belted his first home run on Sunday.

The Braves will send right-hander Huascar Ynoa (4-6, 4.05 ERA in 2021) to the mound in his first start of 2022.

Ynoa dominated the Nationals in three starts in 2021, going 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA, holding Washington to three runs — two earned — on nine hits over 17 innings. Before last season, Ynoa made three other career appearances against the Nationals — one start — receiving a no-decision in all three appearances.

The Braves are in the midst of 14 straight games without a day off to begin the season. As a result, they are going with an unusual six-man rotation. Sunday, Ian Anderson, the fourth pitcher in the rotation, could not find his command and was pulled after only 2 2/3 innings, allowing five runs and walking five.

“That’s where I feel like I am at, trying to get back to feeling comfortable in a big league game again,” said Anderson, who was dealing with a blister on his toe at the end of spring training and right shoulder inflammation last season.

“As the season goes on, I’ll be fine and settle in, but for now I’m trying to get my feet back under me.”

The Nationals will not be heading to Atlanta winless. Nelson Cruz slugged his 450th career home run — his first with his new team — and drove in three to lead the host Nationals to a 4-2 win over the New York Mets after losing their first three games of the season.

“I’m proud of the way those guys went out today,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They didn’t quit, they kept playing hard. I think they had this thing where they really felt like they were going to win the game, and they were pushing.”

Sunday’s home run marked Cruz’s 385th since turning 30 years old, tying Jim Thome for fifth-most after his 30th birthday, trailing only Barry Bonds (509), Babe Ruth (430), Rafael Palmeiro (414) and Henry Aaron (413).

“You want to come through in front of your fans, especially in that situation,” Cruz said of his go-ahead two-run single in the eighth. “It was nice to see that ball go through the middle and get the runs that we need.”

For the Nationals, Anibal Sanchez is still dealing with a stiff neck and may not be able to make his scheduled season debut Monday in Atlanta.

Sanchez first reported his neck issue to the team the morning after flying home with the team from spring training. Washington’s projected No. 3 starter, the veteran had his outing pushed back to the final slot in the rotation to give him more time to get healthy and ready.

The 38-year-old was still reporting discomfort after a mound session on Friday.

If Sanchez is unable to go, Martinez indicated Sunday that lefty Josh Rogers could be called up from Triple-A Rochester. Other possibilities include top prospect Cade Cavalli and veteran Aaron Sanchez after throwing Wednesday in Washington’s spring training finale.

–Field Level Media