ATLANTA -- The Nationals are facing a seven-day road trip against National League East rivals -- a week of matchups that could make a significant impact on a division in which teams Nos. 2-5 were separated by only 2 1/2 games.
“We’ve got to win,” Trea Turner said. “You could make up some ground in these games.”
Washington dropped the series opener against Atlanta, 5-3, at Truist Park on Monday. After defeating the Braves on Opening Day, the Nats are 0-6 against them since then. Their overall losing streak hit a season-high-tying five games, as the club has gone winless since completing a sweep of the Orioles on May 23.
“Obviously, we wanted to get off to a good start and win the first game on the road here in Atlanta,” manager Dave Martinez said. “But we’ve got three more games here, so we’ve got to come out ready to play tomorrow and go 1-0 tomorrow.”
Starter Joe Ross allowed four runs in the first two frames before settling down to toss three 1-2-3 innings in a row. He gave up three hits, including a home run to Ronald Acuña Jr., and three walks while recording a season-high-tying seven strikeouts. Ross, who noted the aggressiveness of the Braves’ lineup, is 1-5 with a 6.53 ERA in his career against them.
“You want to start off hot and have a good start to a series,” Ross said. “Obviously, the first inning was tough, but from there I tried to clean it up and kind of give us a chance and kept us in the game.”
The Nats’ offensive damage was isolated to the fourth inning, in which Josh Bell belted his seventh homer of the season. A glaring line in the box score was Turner’s: 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. He went hitless in at least five at-bats with at least four strikeouts for only the third time in his seven-year career, as Martinez noticed him chasing outside of the strike zone. The Nationals dropped to 6-23 when scoring three runs or fewer, compared to 15-6 when plating at least four runs.
“It’s the same story every day. I know I sound like a broken record, but we’ve just got to keep playing hard,” Martinez said. “I told them, the tides will turn. We’ll bloop something in there one of these days with guys on base, but we’ve got to just keep going. That’s just the name of the game. We’ve just got to keep playing hard.”
A roaring opposing crowd of 37,668 enhanced the tone of the matchup between the NL East rivals, as the Nationals dropped to 8-14 on the road. They will play at Truist Park through Thursday and travel to Philadelphia to open a three-game series on Friday. The Phillies held a two-game lead over the Nats in the division standings following Monday’s results.
“These are people you’re going to see a lot,” Turner said. “Being able to face them, see their pitchers as a hitter and their hitters as a pitcher and kind of game plan for the rest of the season I think is important. We’ve just got to win tomorrow and get on a good streak and get hot. I think we can be dangerous, and no better time to do it than against your division.”