The Atlanta Braves finished their recent road trip with one of their best wins of the season. Now, they’ll try to maintain that strong play at home when they open a three-game series with the Washington Nationals on Friday.
After losing four straight contests to begin their eight-game trip, the Braves (15-19) managed wins in three of their final four games, including a 9-1 victory over Florida on Thursday.
Atlanta had a season-high 18 hits in the win and improved to 10-2 when recording 10 or more hits.
“We needed a breakout game like this,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose team is starting a seven-game homestand. “It’s been a tough trip and we wanted to head home on a good note.”
The Braves will try for their fourth win in a row at home when John Smoltz (2-2, 3.72 ERA) takes the mound on Friday. The veteran right-hander gave up three hits and one run while striking out eight in six innings Sunday to help the Braves beat the New York Mets 13-3.
Smoltz is 15-7 with 17 saves and a 2.56 ERA in 57 appearances against Washington (12-23). He allowed three runs and seven hits over five innings in Atlanta’s 7-3 loss to the Nationals on April 21, but didn’t receive a decision.
“You just want to make the best of your opportunities in the big leagues and I did,” said Diaz, who has played in just 73 games in parts of four seasons.
Chipper Jones had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and Jeff Francoeur stretched his to nine contests. Edgar Renteria had his 24-game hitting streak end Wednesday, but rebounded with two hits on Thursday.
The Nationals let another win slip away Thursday when Joey Eischen gave up a three-run walk-off homer to Ken Griffey Jr. in the bottom of the 11th inning for a 5-4 loss to Cincinnati. Nick Johnson’s home run sparked a three-run inning for Washington in the top of the 11th, but the team couldn’t hold on.
“It’s absolutely a waste for that game to get away from us,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “It kicks you right in the gut. It’s one you don’t forget about easily.”
Ramon Ortiz (0-3, 5.88) will make his seventh start of the season when he takes the ball for Washington Friday. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts against Atlanta.
Washington, playing the second series in a nine-game road trip, has recorded nine of its 12 wins away from home.