Nationals still battling injuries as they face Braves

Sports

The Washington Nationals and host Atlanta Braves will return to a traditional nine-inning game Saturday after playing a pair of seven-inning doubleheader games Friday.

After missing a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox earlier in the week with a tight right hamstring, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. hit two homers in the first game Friday — a 7-1 Braves win — and then hit another during a 10-9 loss in Game 2.

“It feels good to feel like yourself,” Acuna, who went deep to lead off the twin bill, told reporters through an interpreter. “It’s nice to have things go your way when you’re feeling good and expecting them to. I’m just trying to do my best to contribute to the team winning. That’s always my primary focus.”

It was the third-year player’s 17th career leadoff home run, which has already tied Felipe Alou’s franchise record.

Acuna also had three home runs during an Aug. 9 doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies. Then there was his home run in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the New York Mets on Aug. 26. In nine-inning games, he has just one long ball, a skewed ratio he can start to fix Saturday.

While the loss in the second game ended the Braves’ five-game winning streak, the Nationals’ victory in Game 2 ended their seven-game slide.

Getting into the win column for the first time since Aug. 28 was nice for the Nationals (13-24), but the day was mostly filled with concern. Star outfielder Juan Soto did not play in the doubleheader because of a sore left elbow, with an MRI not showing a serious injury.

Also out was veteran outfielder Adam Eaton, who jammed his knee Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Injuries have the Nationals looking nothing like the team that stormed to a World Series title last season, but then again, they didn’t look much like a champion in the early going of 2019. The problem in 2020 is that a short schedule does not leave much time to round into form.

“It felt good to put up a bunch of runs and everyone contribute,” Nationals shortstop Trea Turner told reporters after hitting a home run in the second game. “It felt like that’s one of the first games that the lineup from top to bottom has been really solid and really good.”

Turner’s ninth homer of the season broke a 7-7 tie in the sixth inning of Game 2.

The Braves (23-15) are now set to send Cy Young Award candidate Max Fried (6-0, 1.60 ERA) to the mound Saturday. Fried has not given up more than two runs in a start this season and has six outings where he has given up one run or less.

Fried is 1-2 with a 5.00 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Nationals.

Washington will counter with right-hander Erick Fedde (1-3, 4.71 ERA), who is making his eighth appearance and fifth start of the season. Fedde has not faced the Braves this season and has never pitched at Atlanta. He is 0-1 with a 22.24 ERA against the Braves in two career appearances (one start).

–Field Level Media

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