The visiting Washington Nationals will turn to left-hander Patrick Corbin in hopes of slowing down the slugging Atlanta Braves bats when the two clubs complete their four-game series on Sunday.
The Nationals (14-24) have won the last two games, but the Braves (23-16) have hit at least three home runs for five straight games, one shy of the record set by the 1987 Baltimore Orioles. Over the last seven games, the Braves have hit 20 home runs, which includes three-homer games from both Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall.
It also includes a red-hot Ronald Acuna Jr., who has four home runs in the three games since his return from a sore hamstring. Acuna opened Saturday’s game with a home run to set a franchise record for the most leadoff homers (18), breaking the mark held by Felipe Alou in one-third the time. Alou needed 633 games as the leadoff hitter, Acuna did it in 210.
“It feels good to feel like yourself,” said Acuna, who has hit eight of his nine homers over his last 11 games. “I’m just trying to do my best to contribute to the team winning. That’s always my primary focus.”
Corbin (2-3, 3.79 ERA) will be opposed by veteran Atlanta right-hander Josh Tomlin (1-2, 4.37).
Corbin went 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA against the Braves in 2019. He has not faced Atlanta this season. In 12 career appearances against Atlanta, 10 starts, he is 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA, with 67 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings.
In his most recent start on Sept. 1 against Philadelphia, Corbin allowed two runs in five innings, but suffered the loss. Corbin has allowed more than three runs in only one of his seven starts.
Tomlin’s last start, his fifth, came Aug. 29 against Philadelphia. He gave up four runs, three earned, in 4 1/3 innings of a 4-1 loss.
He had been expected to start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader against Washington, but the Braves opted instead to use Huascar Ynoa, who has since been returned to the team’s alternate training site.
Tomlin has started once against the Nationals this season and allowed two runs in four innings. He is 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA in nine career appearances, two starts, against Washington.
Washington outfielder Juan Soto is not likely to play again on Sunday. The slugger has missed the first three games with a sore left elbow. An MRI came back clean, but the team gave no indication when Soto may return.
“We’re going to give him a couple of days,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s pretty tender. It’s his throwing elbow, so we’re going to see how it feels (Sunday) and go from there. I’m assuming he’s going to need a couple days off.”
Martinez has also committed to playing Carter Kieboom at third base for the remainder of the season. Kieboom, the organization’s No. 1 prospect, was recalled from the alternate training site and Wilmer Difo was designated for assignment.
“We’re going to see what we’ve got and want him to play,” Martinez said. “We’ve got to see what he can do. This is a perfect opportunity for him to go out there and play every day and see what he’s got.”
Kieboom was 1-for-4 and scored twice on Saturday in his new starting role.
–Field Level Media