(Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
With home-field advantage through the World Series safely in their possession, the Atlanta Braves still have an attainable goal of setting a major league home run record when they begin their season-ending, three-game series against the visiting Washington Nationals on Friday.
Atlanta hit one home run on Thursday and now has 304, leaving the Braves three away from matching the record set by the 2019 Minnesota Twins.
The Braves (103-56) are coming off a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs, extending their winning streak to four. If Atlanta can sweep Washington, the Braves would match the franchise's single-season record of 106 wins set in 1998.
The Nationals (69-90) have lost three in a row. The Braves took three of four in Washington a week ago and lead the season series 7-3.
The Braves will start rookie Allan Winans (1-2, 4.33 ERA) in the series opener against the Nationals' Trevor Williams (6-10, 5.55).
Winans has been a pleasant surprise for the Braves. The 28-year-old right-hander has been a reliable spot starter for a team that has had issues with the health of its starting pitchers. Winans has made five starts and allowed more than two runs only once. His biggest moment came on Aug. 12 when he pitched seven scoreless innings to beat the New York Mets.
Winans took a loss in his latest start on Sunday in the first game of a doubleheader at Washington, his only career appearance against the Nationals. He pitched five innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
"He does what he does," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "He just kept pitching. He got in trouble a couple of times with the top of their lineup up, got out of it, kept us in the ballgame. I thought he did a really, really solid job for us."
Williams has been hit hard in his past three starts, allowing 18 runs (17 earned) over 10 1/3 innings as his ERA rose from 4.82 to 5.55. In his most recent outing, on Sept. 16 at Milwaukee, he pitched two innings and gave up three runs on five hits and two walks with one strikeout. The Nationals then skipped Williams' turn in the rotation, giving him a 12-day break.
"I spoke to him and he wants to finish the year off," Washington manager Dave Martinez said. "I thought the best thing was to skip one and let him have one more."
Williams is completing his first season as a full-time starter since 2020. He has made 29 starts and pitched 141 innings. As a result of a heavier workload, his velocity has been down.
"I talked to him and he said it's been a long year," Martinez said. "But he's trying to push himself because he understands the importance of eating innings this year for next year. The more he can push his body through this year, he knows what he has to do over the winter to get through it next year."
Williams has made nine career appearances, five starts, against Atlanta, going 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA. He beat the Braves on June 11 with a five-inning outing that saw him allow two runs on seven hits.
--Field Level Media