The Atlanta Braves need to put together a winning streak in order to make a serious run at a playoff berth. Facing the last-place club in their division could be a good place to start.
The Braves seek to win consecutive games for the first time since the first two days of this month when they open a four-game series with the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium on Monday.
Atlanta (54-62) is currently six games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the lead in the NL wild-card race. The Braves have not won two games in a row since recording victories over the Pittsburgh Pirates—the worst team in the NL— Aug. 1-2.
Atlanta has alternated wins and losses in its last eight games, including a 7-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday to complete a 3-3 homestand.
“Maybe we can get on that streak we keep talking about,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We want to get back in this thing. That’s what we’re here for. We’re going to battle down to the end.”
The Braves activated third baseman Chipper Jones from the 15-day disabled list Sunday and were rewarded when he hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in a three-run seventh inning. Catcher Brian McCann also homered in the rally.
“We know that playing .500 baseball from here on out is not gonna cut it,” said McCann, who has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games and is batting .350 on the season.
Left-hander Chuck James (4-3, 4.69 ERA) takes the mound for Atlanta in the series opener looking to end his three-decision losing streak after recording wins in his first four starts.
The 24-year-old rookie pitched effectively against Philadelphia on Wednesday, limiting the Phillies to one run in six innings, but did not record a decision in Atlanta’s 9-3 defeat. James had posted an 8.77 ERA in losing his prior three starts.
He has never faced the Nationals.
After facing last-place Washington, the Braves will conclude their seven-game road trip with three games at Florida.
It was the second consecutive loss for the Nationals, who look to avoid a three-game skid when they send Ramon Ortiz (9-9, 4.60) to the mound.
With the Aug. 7 trade of Livan Hernandez to Arizona, Ortiz has the most wins this season of any pitcher remaining on the Nationals’ staff. He has also won his last three decisions over four starts.
“I don’t think like that,” Ortiz said. “When (Nationals manager) Frank (Robinson) gives me the ball the day I pitch, it’s my day. It doesn’t matter what position I have right now. I think every time he gives me the ball, I’m doing my job. I’m doing the best I can.”
Ortiz is just 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta, but defeated the Braves at Turner Field on June 7, when he allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-2 Washington victory.
The Braves have split eight games with the Nationals this season, with Washington taking three of the last four.