If the calendar reads June, then the Washington Nationals are heating up.
The Nationals look to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games and continue their June dominance when their series against the Atlanta Braves resumes on Tuesday.
Washington (26-32) defeated the Braves 5-4 in the series opener Monday for their fourth win this month. The Nationals are 24-6 in June since moving to the nation’s capital from Montreal last season.
The win also evened the season series between the NL East rivals at three games apiece.
“It’s a good sign the tide is turning a little bit,” Washington manager Frank Robinson said.
All five of the Nationals’ victories during their current winning streak have come on the road. The franchise has not won six straight road games since the Expos put together a nine-game streak from July 29-Aug. 10, 1994.
Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano is batting .476 (10-for-21) with three home runs and eight RBIs during the winning streak. He also is hitting .444 (12-for-27) with five homers and 10 RBIs in six games against Atlanta this season.
Washington’s Shawn Hill (0-0, 1.29 ERA) will make his second start of the season when he takes the mound. Hill allowed just one run and five hits in seven innings in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 27, but did not factor in the decision.
“It was an outstanding performance by the kid,” Robinson said. “You couldn’t ask for any more than that.”
Hill went 1-2 with a 16.00 ERA in three starts in his rookie season in 2004 and did not pitch in the majors last season. The right-hander is making his first appearance against the Braves (28-30).
Atlanta, meanwhile, is looking to avoid losing six in a row at home for the first time since Aug. 8-21, 2001 when they played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Overall, the Braves have lost seven of eight to fall two games below .500 for the first time since May 15.
Right fielder Jeff Francoeur went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer—his first since May 18—on Monday, and nine of his 11 home runs this season have come at Turner Field.
Francoeur is batting .324 (35-for-108) at home this season, compared to a .195 (26-for-134) road batting average.
Horacio Ramirez (1-1, 3.18), the starter for Atlanta in this contest, is also considerably better at home than on the road despite his last outing there. Ramirez’s throwing error led to two unearned runs in a 2-1 loss to Arizona on Thursday.
“He pitched outstanding,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He made just one boo-boo throwing the ball away.”
Ramirez is 13-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 career games at Turner Field, compared to 13-14 with a 4.59 ERA in 42 road starts.
The 26-year-old is 3-3 with a 3.28 ERA in nine career starts against the Nationals. In two career home starts against them, he is 1-1 having allowed five runs in 14 innings.
The three-game series will conclude Thursday night.