Nationals visit Braves, look to halt four-game skid

MLB

The Washington Nationals will try to stop their four-game losing streak when they begin a nine-game road trip in Atlanta on Monday.

The Nationals suffered a three-game sweep against Milwaukee, losing the finale 3-0 on Sunday at Nationals Park. They will try to reverse the trend against an Atlanta team that has won five of six meetings against Washington this season.

Atlanta saw two of its three games rained out in New York over the weekend, including Sunday when they were scheduled to face Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom. The Braves completed a six-day road trip playing only three games.

“Every ballpark has a velocity machine that is good and you trust,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “They rev that thing up and stay as sharp as they can, but there’s nothing like the real game. It’s just something we’ve got to deal with.”

Despite Sunday’s rainout, the Braves will keep right-hander Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.98 ERA) in his scheduled start on Monday. He will be opposed by Washington right-hander Joe Ross (2-4, 5.19).

Morton has put together back-to-back strong starts. His most recent outing against Boston last Tuesday might have been his best of the year, when he allowed one run (unearned) in seven innings with nine strikeouts after struggling in the first inning.

“I allowed myself to get in a groove. … I finished the outing strong,” Morton said. “They hit a couple balls right at people but I was able to work through those first two innings.”

Morton is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA against the Nationals this season, giving up three runs in five innings in his only appearance. In 10 career starts against the Nationals, he is 2-6 with a 6.14 ERA.

Ross is coming off his best start since early this season. He pitched four shutout innings against Cincinnati on Wednesday. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in five of his six road starts.

Ross has faced the Braves just once this year, a loss on May 4 that saw him allow two runs over 5 1/3 innings. In eight career appearances (seven starts), he is 1-4 with a 6.43 ERA.

Washington’s issue has been on offense. The Nationals have been shut out seven times and swept three times. They totaled nine runs over the past six games.

An exception has been Washington left fielder Kyle Schwarber. He has hit safely in eight of his past 10 games, going 10-for-36 (.278) with two doubles, three homers, six RBIs, three walks and five runs scored. Schwarber was 1-for-4 on Sunday.

“It’s a trickle effect for everybody,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “When you’re not scoring runs consistently, all of a sudden, the pitchers are trying to make that perfect pitch and they’re trying to throw up zeros. You see guys just press a little bit and that’s something I don’t want them to do.”

The Braves were dealt another blow when left fielder Marcell Ozuna, already on the injured list with two broken fingers, was arrested and charged with felony assault. Ozuna signed a four-year, $65 million deal with Atlanta in the offseason.

The Nationals could be without reliever Will Harris for the rest of the season. He will have surgery on Friday for thoracic outlet syndrome.

–Field Level Media

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