The Atlanta Braves are looking more and more like a threat in the NL East, and their recent success at the plate has helped them make a move in the standings.
Atlanta’s rookie sensation hasn’t allowed a run in his past three starts, and he’ll look to remain unbeaten in the major leagues and lead the visiting Braves to a sixth consecutive victory Saturday afternoon against the Washington Nationals.
Atlanta (39-40) began the week 26th in the majors in runs per game (4.11), but 30 runs over its past four contests have paved the way for a five-game winning streak.
The Braves only scored twice in the first game of the streak, but that was all they needed. That’s because Hanson (4-0, 2.48 ERA) limited powerful Boston to two hits over six shutout innings, fighting off the flu on his way to a 2-1 victory.
The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in 20 innings dating to the third inning June 12 at Baltimore, in his first major league win. Hanson’s shutout streak is the longest by an Atlanta rookie starter since Pete Smith tossed 20 scoreless innings in 1988.
“He’s got great poise,” third baseman Chipper Jones(notes) told the Braves’ official Web site “You can have all the stuff in the world, but if you have a rock for a brain and not real good nerves, this game is going to get the best of you.”
Hanson is the first Braves rookie since 1900 to hold his opponents scoreless in three consecutive starts.
“He gets focused,” manager Bobby Cox said. “All of that plays into his game. His mound presence is really good.”
Hanson’s first matchup with Washington (22-55) wouldn’t seem to be a cause for concern, but the Nationals had some offensive success in Friday’s series opener against the Braves.
Still, three RBIs from Cristian Guzman(notes) and a homer from Adam Dunn(notes) didn’t make a difference as Washington lost its fourth straight. Jones, Yunel Escobar(notes) and Matt Diaz(notes) drove in two runs apiece and a pinch-hit three-run homer from Brooks Conrad(notes) in his Braves debut lifted Atlanta to a 9-8 win.
“Had we not come in on our longest winning streak of the season, we might have been primed for a letdown,” Jones said. “But I think everybody is starting to feel like we got a good streak going and we don’t want it to end - (we) certainly don’t want it to end here.”
Atlanta hasn’t won six in a row since May 2-8, 2008.
The Braves have gotten production from some unexpected sources during their current streak. Diaz is 9 for 14 (.643) with a homer and five RBIs over his last four games, while second baseman Martin Prado(notes) is 10 for 18 (.556) with a homer and six RBIs.
Atlanta’s offense could have its hands full, however, as it faces John Lannan(notes) (5-5, 3.45) for the third time this season. The Nationals’ left-hander has had five consecutive quality starts, and Sunday at Baltimore he gave up three runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 5-3 win.
“We expect that out of him - these type of outings every five days,” manager Manny Acta told the Nationals’ official Web site. “He gives us a chance to be in the ballgame.”
Lannan is 2-2 with a 3.30 ERA in five career starts against the Braves, including 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA this season.