Juan Soto will be back in the lineup when the Washington Nationals host the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday.
The Nationals were without the slugger when the teams met in Atlanta last weekend. Soto sat out all four games with a sore left elbow. He returned on Tuesday against Tampa Bay, went 1-for-2 and was intentionally walked in his next two plate appearances.
“Juan’s hitting the ball well. We knew (the intentional walks were) eventually going to happen,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “Those other guys have got to pick him up. That’s all they’ve got to do. We’re trying to find someone to hit behind him.”
Injuries have limited Soto to 101 at-bats, but he’s hitting .356 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs.
“Soto, he’s different,” said veteran Washington pitcher Anibal Sanchez. “He’s shown the last three years that he is an unbelievable hitter, so he deserves that respect. He’s won that respect from the other team. If I’m the manager right now for any team, I’m not going to let that guy win.”
In 34 games against the Braves over his career, Soto is batting .308 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs.
The Nationals are expected to start right-hander Austin Voth (0-5, 8.26 ERA) in the opener against Atlanta lefty Robbie Erlin (0-0, 6.84 ERA).
Voth started the first game of the doubleheader with the Braves on Sept. 4 and allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings. He has allowed 10 runs in 8 2/3 innings in two starts against Atlanta this season.
In his career against the Braves, Voth is 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA in six career appearances, five starts.
The Braves continue to have trouble with their starting pitchers.
After Tommy Milone was able to throw only 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday, the Braves have had 24 games in which their starter has completed four or fewer innings. That’s the most in the National League and second to Boston (28) in the majors.
Erlin has made four starts for the Braves since being picked up from Pittsburgh. Most recently, he pitched three innings of relief on Sept. 7 against the Marlins, allowing two runs on five hits. His last start came Sept. 2 at Boston, when he gave up five runs in four innings.
The Braves are coming off an unprecedented 29-9 win against the Miami Marlins.
Adam Duvall was 3-for-4 with nine RBIs — tying a franchise record — and five runs scored. The grand slam, the fourth of his career, carried 450 feet and gives him 13 homers. He hit three homers at Boston on Sept. 2.
Atlanta’s outburst shattered the record of 23 runs scored by the Milwaukee Braves on Sept. 2, 1957 and broke the N.L. record of 28 set by the 1929 St. Louis Cardinals. The modern major league record of 30 was set by the Texas Rangers in 2007.
“The offense was great, and Duvall has been something else lately,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It was one of those weird nights where you just get rolling.”
The Braves (25-18) start the series in first place in the NL East, leading the Philadelphia Phillies by two games.Washington (16-25) is in last place, eight games out.
–Field Level Media