The Atlanta Braves appear to be back on track thanks to their resurgent offense and a trip home.
After enduring a 3-9 skid, the Braves (16-19) try for their fifth win in six games when they host the Washington Nationals (12-24) in the middle game of a three-game set between divisional foes.
The Braves on Friday opened a seven-game homestand with a 6-2 win over the Nationals to move within six games of the division-leading New York Mets. Atlanta never trailed, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning before sealing the win with a three-run seventh.
Two Braves are on double-digit hitting streaks. Jeff Francoeur went 1-for-4 and is hitting .326 (15-for-46) during a 10-game hitting streak, while Chipper Jones went 1-for-3 and is batting .381 (16-for-42) in an 11-game run.
John Smoltz pitched a four-hitter with seven strikeouts for his second complete game of the season.
The Braves will try to win five in a row at home for the first time since a six-game streak from July 26-31, but Smoltz said they can’t get complacent.
“One thing you can’t do is get hung up on winning five in a row,” Smoltz said. “Any team in this league can bite you if you try to think too far ahead. But hopefully this homestand will renew some confidence.”
Jorge Sosa (0-5, 6.17), a 13-game winner for the Braves in 2005, needs some of that confidence as he tries again for his first win of 2006. The right-hander has not pitched since May 5 when he allowed one run and one hit over 1 2-3 innings in an 8-7 loss to the New York Mets.
He is 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA in four career appearances against the Nationals.
Michael O’Connor (2-1, 2.12) will try to win his third consecutive start when he takes the ball for Washington. The rookie left-hander gave up three runs and five hits over five innings in a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“It was definitely a little shaky early, but I was able to get through some innings without giving up too much,” O’Connor said.
Ramon Ortiz was shaky for Washington on Friday, allowing six runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings to take the loss. He got little run support as Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run homer was the only offense the Nationals could muster.
Washington’s four hits were its fewest in the last 15 games and broke a streak of three straight games with 12 hits or more.
“Our offense wasn’t good,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “It hasn’t been good all year. It wasn’t good (Friday).”
Washington has lost three straight overall and six of its last eight away from home. The Nationals are 1-3 on their current nine-game road trip.