There were no playoffs during the last season in which the Atlanta Braves won nine straight on the road. Their postseason chances are certainly much better now.
Trying to make a late run at the wild card, the Braves look to win 10 consecutive road games for the first time in over 15 years Sunday when they meet the lowly Washington Nationals.
Atlanta (84-70) extended its streak with an 11-5 win over Washington on Saturday, pulling within 2 1/2 games of wild-card leading Colorado with eight contests remaining.
This is the Braves’ longest winning streak away from home since a 10-game run in 1994, a season in which the postseason was canceled due to a players’ strike. It was the only time from 1991-05 that Atlanta wasn’t in the playoffs.
The Braves, winners of five straight overall, are trying to make the postseason for the first time since that stretch ended. They’ve won 13 of 15, moving a season-high 14 games over .500, and are 50-30 since June 27.
“It’s getting to be a lot more fun,” manager Bobby Cox said. “I think we’re pretty good right now.”
Strong pitching has sparked Atlanta’s road winning streak, posting a 2.78 ERA.
On Saturday, though, the Braves gave up more than three runs for the first time in their last six games away from Turner Field.
Atlanta will next send Derek Lowe(notes) (15-9, 4.55 ERA) to the mound. He earned a win in his last outing, giving up three runs and striking out five in five innings to beat the New York Mets 11-3 on Monday night.
Lowe developed a cut on his right thumb but said he should be fine for Sunday’s game. In his Sept. 16 start against the Mets, he left after two innings because of a blister on his right ring finger.
“It’s always something with me,” said Lowe, who has won three straight road starts despite posting a 4.96 ERA.
The veteran right-hander is 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 10 starts against the Nationals (52-102).
Washington will counter with Livan Hernandez(notes) (8-12, 5.53), who is 1-7 with a 7.33 ERA in his last nine starts. The right-hander gave up eight runs, eight hits and walked four in 3 2-3 innings of a 14-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
Hernandez is 4-15 with a 5.46 ERA in 25 starts versus the Braves but earned a win against them May 5. Hernandez, who was then pitching for the Mets, surrendered one run in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory.
Nationals pitchers have been hurt by shaky defense over the last two games, allowing five unearned runs on four errors. Washington still gave up nine earned runs Saturday and has surrendered at least six in four of its last six games.
“If it could go wrong, it went wrong,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “Freakish things are happening.”
The return of Ryan Zimmerman(notes) at third base should help. Zimmerman, hitting .289 with 31 homers and 100 RBIs, is expected to be back after being held out of Saturday’s game due to general soreness.
“He’s been playing through some nagging stuff,” Riggleman said. “He’s sore in a couple of different areas.”