Braves host Nationals with eye on NL East lead

MLB

The young will face the not-so-young when the visiting Washington Nationals take on the Atlanta Braves on Saturday in the middle game of their three-game series.

The Nationals will start 23-year-old Josiah Gray (0-0, 4.85 ERA) against Atlanta veteran Charlie Morton (10-4, 3.69). Gray will be making his third career start and first-ever road start. On the other side, Morton, 37, will be making the 281st start of his career.

Gray was acquired as part of the trade with the Dodgers that sent pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner to Los Angeles. Gray pitched five innings of one-run ball in his debut with the Nationals on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. He threw 71 pitches and allowed one run on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts in the 7-5 loss.

“I felt pretty comfortable throughout the whole outing,” Gray said afterward. “I felt like my stuff was pretty good. I felt like it could be better, which it will be better as I continue to get better. But overall, I’m happy with the outing and I think there’s a lot of room to grow.”

Morton had his five-game winning streak broken in his last start on Aug. 1, when the Braves dropped a 2-1 decision to Milwaukee. Morton pitched six innings in his first loss since June 11.

Morton has struggled against the Nationals throughout his career. In 11 career starts against Washington, Morton is 3-6 with a 6.08 ERA. He beat the Nationals on May 31, giving up three runs in five innings of a 5-3 Atlanta victory.

The Braves have won four straight games after Friday’s 8-4 win over the Nationals. The streak pulled them within one game of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East. The Nationals have lost five in a row and sit eight games back in the division entering play Saturday.

The Atlanta offense has found its footing since a slew of acquisitions at the trade deadline. On Friday, it was Adam Duvall, picked up from the Miami Marlins, who paced the attack with two hits, including a double, and three RBIs. Since rejoining the Braves, Duvall is 5-for-24 (.208) with six RBIs in seven games, giving him 74 for the season.

Freddie Freeman was 3-for-4, upping his average to .296, with two RBIs. Austin Riley was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

“I’ve been watching (Riley) all year and he’s hung in there and weathered some storms,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s how you get on a winning streak with two out RBIs. Look at him, look at Dansby (Swanson) … the whole bunch of them. They’re maturing as hitters.”

Washington’s offense has been led by left fielder Yadiel Hernandez, a 33-year-old in his first full season in the major leagues after making a brief debut in 2020. He was 2-for-4 on Friday and has hit safely in nine straight games. He has three doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, three walks and seven runs scored over the past nine games.

–Field Level Media

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