Braves look to complete road sweep of Nationals

MLB

The Atlanta Braves will try for a sweep of their three-game series against the host Washington Nationals when they meet in the finale Thursday afternoon.

The Braves arrived in Washington losers of four straight, while Washington came in on a four-game winning streak.

Atlanta got solid pitching and grand slams in each of the first two games. They also got run-producing hits each night from 23-year-old catcher William Contreras, who had an RBI single on Tuesday night and then his first career home run in Wednesday’s 5-3 win.

“He’s just a very confident kid,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I watch him and … he thinks he’s where he belongs. And there’s something to that. He’s done a great job.”

Contreras, the brother of Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and the Braves’ sixth-ranked prospect per MLB.com, appeared in just four games last season but will be Atlanta’s primary catcher in the absence of Travis d’Arnaud (thumb injury).

He is 4-for-10 in three games since being called up and received praise from Wednesday’s starter and winner, Max Fried, for his work behind the plate.

“He’s really good at making in-game adjustments and being able to see the game — whether it’s going against the game plan or noticing something that’s working and kind of riding with it. He’s really good at just being aware of that and also communicating with me,” Fried said.

The Braves will send left-hander Drew Smyly (0-2, 8.05 ERA) in search of the sweep. Smyly has given up five earned runs in each of his past three starts. He gave up four runs, two earned, in his first start of the season on April 6 at Washington. Smyly is 0-0 with a 2.57 ERA against the Nationals in three games (two starts).

Washington left-hander Jon Lester (0-0, 0.00) will make his second start. Lester, whose season was delayed as part of the Nationals’ COVID-19 outbreak, tossed five scoreless innings on five hits in a no-decision against the Marlins this past Friday.

Lester is 7-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 career starts against the Braves.

The Braves led 5-0 Wednesday night before the Nationals cut the deficit to 5-3 on a solo homer by Yan Gomes in the fourth and a two-run shot in the eighth by Trea Turner, his seventh homer of the season and third against the Braves. Washington then got the tying run on base, but the rally fell short.

Turner is hitting .325 with 16 homers, 45 RBIs and 29 stolen bases in 84 games vs. Atlanta over his career.

“He is some kind of good player,” Snitker said. “And steady and consistent and always in the middle of something. It seems like, too, every time you turn around, he’s coming up. I have so much respect for that kid and how he plays the game.”

Turner is on pace for a potential 40-homer, 40-steal season.

“I like that we battled. We don’t give up. We made it a game, and at least we got their good bullpen arms in there,” Turner said. “I think we did good towards the end, but hopefully we can put up a few more runs tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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