Three-game winning streaks used to be commonplace for the Atlanta Braves, but they’ve only managed to record two of them in just over three months.
The Braves look to win three in a row for the first time in nearly a month Saturday night when they continue their series against the last-place Washington Nationals.
The Braves (62-80), who will miss the playoffs for a third straight season after winning 11 consecutive division titles, have posted back-to-back victories for the first time since a three-game winning streak from Aug. 7-9. That run stands as one of two times they’ve managed to win three in a row since capping off a five-game surge on May 22.
Atlanta got closer to another three-game run Friday by beating Washington 10-5, a night after posting a 2-0 victory in the opener of this four-game set.
“Really?” Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson said when he was told about the last time the team won consecutive games. “Yeah, it feels about that.”
Johnson, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs on Friday, has played a key role in helping the Braves win three of the last four. The second baseman is 11-for-17 (.647) with five doubles, two triples and eight RBIs in that span.
Johnson has excelled in five home games against the Nationals, going 7-for-21 (.333) with three doubles and three RBIs. However, he’s 0-for-9 in his three-year career against Tim Redding, Washington’s scheduled starter Saturday.
The Braves will give the ball to Mike Hampton (2-2, 5.67) hoping he can continue to show some durability as he seeks his first win in four starts.
The left-hander, who had been hampered by arm, back and chest injuries for over three years, threw a season-high 106 pitches Monday, allowing three runs and six hits with three walks in six innings in his team’s 4-3 loss at Florida.
Hampton, who reached 100 pitches for the second time in three starts, feels he is making progress.
“To be able to throw that many pitches and still keep my team in the game, I was pretty proud of that,” Hampton told the team’s official Web site. “I feel like my arm strength is as strong as it needs to be. I just need to keep my mistakes down.”
Hampton, though, is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in his last three games, all losses for Atlanta.
He’ll now face Washington (54-88) for the first time since May 31, 2005.
The Nationals hope Redding (10-8, 4.55) can help them avoid a third consecutive defeat following an 8-1 stretch, during which they hit .313 with eight homers and 58 runs.
Redding looks to set a career high in wins after going 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his last three starts. The right-hander won 10 games with Houston in 2003, but totaled just eight in 52 games - 39 starts - with four teams over his next three major-league seasons.
He’s 1-1 with a 6.60 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this year.