The Atlanta Braves are getting ready to face the team that took away their spot atop the NL East. They’d prefer to go into that series having already taken first place back.
Winding down a 10-game road trip, Atlanta hopes to build momentum for a key showdown next week as it visits the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Starting Tuesday, the Braves will begin a three-game series with the Washington Nationals, the team they relinquished the division lead to on June 5. Atlanta, which has won 13 consecutive division titles, enters this three-game set against Arizona tied with the Nationals for first place.
Washington began a four-game series against Houston with 3-2 loss Thursday.
The Braves are 11-6 in July, including 4-3 since the All-Star break, and are coming off a series win over San Francisco.
Francoeur homered in the win, and is batting .409 with three home runs and seven RBIs since being called up from Double-A Mississippi.
“The young guys have to be good for us to keep going on a trip like this,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox. “We’ve been on the road for a while, and we’ve got three games left in Arizona. It’s good to have those fresh legs to rely on.”
The youngsters hope to provide some support for veteran right-hander Tim Hudson, making his second start since spending more than a month on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his left side.
Hudson was outstanding in his return, needing just 62 pitches to get through six innings in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over the New York Mets.
“I wasn’t quite as sharp as I would like to be,” Hudson said after allowing five hits and no walks. “But I couldn’t ask for anything more coming off a four-week little vacation here.”
It was his first appearance since June 13 and first victory since May 29.
Hudson faces an Arizona team that has not won any of its last four series, going 4-10 in that span.
The Diamondbacks lost two of three against Florida this week, leaving 26 runners on base.
Despite being five games below .500, Arizona is in second place in the NL West and just 4 1/2 games behind San Diego.