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Slipping Nationals aim for recovery against Braves

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Washington NationalsJune 6, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Atlanta Braves design hitter Marcell Ozuna (20) hits a two-run home run against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals will look to end a four-game losing streak when they host the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Atlanta rallied to win the series opener 5-2 on Thursday, winning three of four.

The Nationals have scored just six runs in the past three games. On Thursday, CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas hit back-to-back solo home runs in the sixth inning. The next two batters singled, but Washington couldn’t add a score against Atlanta starter Reynaldo Lopez.

“I think we just have to build on those at-bats and get guys going in those situations,” Thomas said. “Two solo shots? You have to score more than two runs against a team like that.”

Abrams struck out in his first two at-bats before the home run and went just 2-for-25 over his past six games, dropping his average from .266 to .246. Manager Dave Martinez hopes the home run is a sign of things to come.

“Before his third at-bat, he walked by and said, ‘I got it this time.’ And he did. He got it,” Martinez said. “Hopefully that will help him along a little bit.”

Someone who is already doing well for Washington is Jesse Winker, who had his third multi-hit game in his past four games. He topped out safely in 18 of his past 21 games, posting a .313 batting average (20-for-64) with 10 RBIs and 10 runs in that span.

Atlanta’s offense is starting to get going. Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer to tie Thursday’s game in the seventh inning, and Marcell Ozuna’s two-run homer capped a three-run eighth inning.

“A walk and then a blast, or a single and a blast,” said Duvall, who has 19 career home runs against the Nationals. “Up and down the lineup we have guys who can drive the baseball, so we always feel like we can strike at any time.”

Ozuna delivered his 18th home run of the season. Since May 5, he is batting .327 (34-for-104) with six doubles, nine homeruns, 23 RBIs and 17 runs.

Atlanta outfielder Jarred Kelenic was out of the lineup. He left in the eighth inning Wednesday in Boston, two innings after spraining his right wrist while making a diving catch.

Left-hander Chris Sale (8-1, 3.06 ERA) will start for Atlanta on Friday.

Sale was selected NL Pitcher of the Month for May after going 5-0 with an ERA of 0.56. He allowed 23 hits in 32 innings, struckout 45 batters and walked only two.

On Saturday, Sale gave up eight runs on nine hits in four innings without a decision against the Oakland A’s. He struck out four, walked one and allowed two home runs after yielding none in May.

“It just kept unraveling,” he said. “With such a bad start there should be a pretty noticeable solution. I clearly have some work to do.”

Sales is 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in four games (two starts) against the Nationals.

Right-hander Jake Irvin (3-5, 3.39 ERA) is going for Washington. Irvin is 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 18 1/3 innings over his past three starts. On Sunday, he gave up two runs on five hits in six innings en route to a victory in Cleveland.

Irvin is 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA in two career starts against Atlanta.

–Field-level media

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