Slugging Braves take aim at 4-game sweep in Arizona

National Sports

The Atlanta Braves are acting like unruly houseguests while roughing up the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Braves have outscored the Diamondbacks 26-7 over the first three games of the series and look to finish off a four-game sweep in Thursday’s finale at Phoenix.

Atlanta has smacked eight homers and 11 doubles in the series with three of the longballs coming in Wednesday’s 9-2 victory.

The Braves (80-70) have won four straight games and hold a three-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.

Arizona (48-104) has dropped four consecutive games and eight of its last nine. The Diamondbacks need to go 4-6 down the stretch to avoid matching the franchise record for losses (111 in 2004).

Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley each have two homers and six RBIs in the series.

Albies reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs with a two-run homer in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s victory.

“It means a lot,” Albies said of reaching the two milestones for the first time. “All the work I do in the offseason and during the season is paying off.”

Freddie Freeman is 8-for-14 with a homer and four RBIs in the series and is batting .423 (22-for-52) during a 12-game hitting streak.

The Braves could have had four homers Wednesday as Adam Duvall’s shot with two on in the first inning bounced off the glove of Arizona center fielder Jake McCarthy and landed in the seats. But during the confusion over whether or not the ball was caught, Riley retreated toward first and went past Duvall, leading the umpires to rule Duvall out.

Duvall was credited with a two-run single. He leads the NL with 109 RBIs.

“I wasn’t sure he didn’t catch it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said afterward. “You may be making the right play, but if the guy in front of you doesn’t, you’ve got to be aware of it.”

Diamondbacks right-hander Merrill Kelly threw the pitch and welcomed the mixup.

“Obviously, I’m happy that there was confusion on their side and I got an out out of it, rather than a three-run homer,” Kelly said. “But obviously, not happy with that pitch. Yeah, at first I thought he made a ridiculous catch.”

Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton (13-6, 3.49 ERA) takes the mound Thursday and looks to bounce back from a loss to the San Francisco Giants in his last turn. He gave up two runs, four hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings.

The 37-year-old Morton is five strikeouts away from reaching 200 for the third time in his career.

Morton is 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 10 career starts against the Diamondbacks. He has struggled with David Peralta (6-for-9, one homer) while shutting down Kole Calhoun (1-for-16, one homer, seven strikeouts).

The Diamondbacks will counter with left-hander Madison Bumgarner (7-10, 4.56), who pitched an unofficial seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta on April 25 in the second game of a doubleheader. Bumgarner struck out seven and only a throwing error by shortstop Nick Ahmed prevented him from retiring every batter he faced.

The 32-year-old Bumgarner is 8-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 14 career starts against the Braves. Freeman is batting just .206 (7-for-34) against Bumgarner but has two homers.

Bumgarner is 0-3 over his last five starts. He has served up eight homers during the span.

After allowing 19 runs in 23 innings in a four-start span, Bumgarner was stellar against the Houston Astros last Friday. He allowed just one hit — a two-run homer to Jose Altuve — in seven innings while receiving a no-decision.

Ahmed has missed five straight games due to soreness in his right (throwing) shoulder. An MRI exam revealed inflammation in the shoulder.

–Field Level Media

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