Braves go for 4-game sweep of free-falling Nationals

The best of times might be getting better for the Atlanta Braves.

There’s one more chance to add to the good times before the All-Star break.

The Braves carry a three-game winning streak into Sunday afternoon’s game against the host Washington Nationals.

Already this weekend, third baseman Austin Riley was added to the National League All-Star team.

“It’s something that you look forward to and try to accomplish,” Riley said. “I’m super thankful.”

Riley then smashed a home run in Saturday’s 6-3 victory, which gave the Nationals their ninth consecutive loss.

Washington has its longest skid within one season since dropping 12 in a row in 2008. They’ve won just once in their last 16 games, marking the worst stretch in team history.

“It has been tough,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We have to get some of these guys going. They’ve got to contribute offensively. It has been a tough go. … We’ve got to relax with guys on base.”

During the slump, the nine-game skid, the Nationals have lost six times to the Braves, who have won nine straight overall in matchups with Washington.

The Braves are riding a 33-10 record since the beginning of June. With the All-Star Game a potential distraction and a break for other members of the team, there’s one more day to concentrate on immediate matters.

“We’re still winning; that’s my main focus,” Braves outfielder Michael Harris II said.

Josh Bell and Juan Soto combined for five of Washington’s seven hits in Saturday’s game.

“We’ve got to start putting at-bats together,” Martinez said. “Team at-bats and get some length in our innings and see if we can drive two and three runs in in an inning.”

The Nationals are dealing with an off-field topic this weekend regarding Soto’s contract status.

Soto, an outfielder, said he’s disappointed that some potential contract figures became public, though he can’t become a free agent for another 2 1/2 seasons.

The Nationals’ recent losing trend has been difficult enough to deal with.

“We just have to go through it, because as they told me, we all have to go through those moments to win a championship,” Soto said. “For me, I think I’m going through mine. I’m just going to keep positive and keep seeing things forward.”

Soto goes to the All-Star Game following Sunday’s game and will compete in Monday night’s Home Run Derby in Los Angeles.

Right-hander Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.56 ERA) will try to add to his splendid stretch as Atlanta’s starter on Sunday. He has allowed two earned runs across his last four starts covering 22 2/3 innings, though he has just one victory to show for it.

Strider has faced the Nationals twice this season, once as a starter when he picked up a win, and has given up three runs combined in the two appearances.

Washington’s pitching situation for Sunday has been in flux since a postponed game Tuesday created a doubleheader Wednesday and messed up the weekend plans.

“We’ve got to work through some things,” Martinez said.

One of those things is the status of reliever Tyler Clippard, who was set to enter Saturday’s game before a leg cramp nixed the appearance.

–Field Level Media