Four times the Braves have launched four or more homers in a game this season. Fifteen times they’ve homered back-to-back. But none of the previous occurrences mattered as much as Saturday’s events, when the Braves blasted their way to a 5-4 win over the Nationals.
The Braves have won the first three of a four-game series against their arch rivals at SunTrust Park. It’s crippled any remaining Washington hopes, pushing them back 10 games in the National League East. The Braves have won 13 consecutive games at home, setting a modern franchise record.
“This series shows we’re a complete team,” catcher Brian McCann said. “We can beat you in any phase of the game. We can beat you with speed. We can beat you with pitching. We can beat you with the long ball late in games. Guys hit No. 1 (starters).”
Saturday marked the team’s ninth consecutive win, a season-best streak. The Braves have won 20 of 24 since Aug. 11, including 17 of their last 19. It’s moved them to 35 games over .500, their best mark since finishing 40 over in 2003.
Like the past two nights, the Braves received solid starting pitching. Julio Teheran was effective, holding the Nationals to a run - Asdrubal Cabrera’s solo shot - across six innings. Of Teheran’s 30 starts, he’s held the opposition to one or no runs 17 times.
Cabrera’s homer was the only run Braves starters have allowed against the Nationals this series across 19 innings. It’s been a pitching clinic in which Max Fried provided seven scoreless frames Thursday and Dallas Keuchel added six unscathed innings Friday.
“They’ve been dealing,” McCann said. “It’s been impressive. Guys are feeding off each other start to start. I can’t say enough about getting a guy (Teheran) who’s made 30 starts for eight, seven straight years, the durability is incredible. It’s something that can’t get overlooked in the game today.”
But the story, as it’s been much of the year, is the Braves’ slugging bats. Ozzie Albies homered for the second consecutive night, as did Josh Donaldson. Protecting a 2-1 lead in the sixth, McCann slapped a two-run shot. Matt Joyce followed with a towering homer to right for back-to-back jacks.
The Braves have hit 225 homers, passing the 2006 team (222) for second most in team history. These Braves are on a 255-homer pace, which would shatter the 2003 team’s record of 235. Their latest long-ball barrage ensured them another series win over Washington and extended their commanding division lead with 19 games remaining.
“It’s huge, man,” Joyce said. “That’s a great team over there. To win the series and take the first three, it’s huge on both sides. It’s tough on them and for us, we’ve played really well. We’re excited to keep rolling. It’s coming down to the wire, things get tight and the games get more meaningful. We’re getting a little taste of what’s to come.”
Sunday will feature dueling aces with Mike Soroka opposing Max Scherzer. The Braves’ magic number to clinch the East is 11, and every win and/or Nationals loss further dwindles it.
“We have a chance to get another big win tomorrow,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s like they all are against these guys. I don’t know how many now we’ve played them, but every one of them you’re just exhausted when they’re over. They never quit fighting. They’re tough on you. You have to be doing something good to do that against them these three days.”
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