The Atlanta Braves begin a nine-game road trip against a trio of struggling clubs on Friday when they open a three-game set at the Washington Nationals.
The Braves had won seven of eight games to pull into a share of first place in the National League East before dropping a 12-3 decision to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. That loss, coupled with a win by the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets’ doubleheader sweep of the Nationals, dropped Atlanta into third place in the division.
“We’re getting to that time of year where I do catch myself looking at the out-of-town scoreboard, checking things,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This time of year and going into September, you want to be relevant, you want the games to mean something, and you’re getting after it. So that’s the fun part of doing all this.”
Atlanta aims to put Thursday’s lopsided loss in its rearview mirror when it faces Washington, which has lost four in a row and nine of its last 10 games.
The Braves, who have won nine of 13 encounters with the Nationals this season, follow up this weekend’s series with three-game sets against the cellar-dwelling Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles. The three struggling clubs are a combined 71 games under .500.
Ozzie Albies homered for the second straight game on Thursday to boost his season total to 20 and career mark to 80, which is a Braves record for second basemen. He also went deep for a two-run shot to help the Braves win the rubber match of the three-game series versus Washington on Sunday.
Dansby Swanson hit safely for the 15th time in his last 17 games with a run-scoring bloop single in the first inning on Thursday.
Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton (10-4, 3.52 ERA) will receive his second straight start against the Nationals on Friday.
Morton, 37, was saddled with a no-decision against Washington on Saturday despite scattering three hits over six scoreless innings. He sports a 3-6 record with a 5.46 ERA in 12 career starts versus the Nationals.
While Atlanta is contending atop the NL East, Washington now finds itself attempting to fend off Miami for a spot in the cellar. The Nationals were unceremoniously swept by the Mets after falling 4-1 and 5-4 in a doubleheader on Thursday.
“It’s gonna be a learning process for a lot of these guys and that’s what you’re seeing,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “The one good thing I can say about them is they’re playing hard. They feel like they’re in every game, which we are, and it’s just gonna be a learning process for them.”
Washington has yet to announce its starter for Friday’s game, although rookie right-hander Josiah Gray (0-0, 4.00) is expected to get the nod.
Gray, 23, struck out a career-best 10 batters against Atlanta on Saturday. He allowed one earned run on four hits in five innings for the second straight outing.
“I really liked that arm, man,” Snitker said of Gray. “He’s a good-looking pitcher. His ability to spin the ball, and with that live arm, he’s gonna be a good one.”
Juan Soto is batting .304 (7-for-23) with two homers, seven RBIs and nine runs scored in the season series against Atlanta.
–Field Level Media