Braves don’t go deep in loss to Nats, who hit season-high five homers

AP photo by Mike Stewart / The Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. steals second base during the second inning of Friday night's home game against the Washington Nationals.

ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals did their best impression of the top team in Major League Baseball.

And at least for one night, they were good enough to outplay the Atlanta Braves in the power game.

Jake Alu, Carter Kieboom, Kibert Ruiz, Dominic Smith and Lane Thomas all went deep to help the Nationals beat the Braves 10-6 on Friday night.

Washington, last in the National League East as the regular season nears its conclusion, tied its season high for home runs on a night the six-time reigning division champions with MLB's best record this season started resting regulars to prepare for the playoffs.

Atlanta, which fell to 103-57 with the loss, clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason the night before when it competed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs. The Braves needed a sweep of this three-game series with the Nationals (70-90) to match the franchise's single-season record for victories, but that is now out of reach.

"Every day, they give me everything they've got," Washington manager Dave Martinez said of the rebuilding Nationals. "The energy is there. Coming here, the guys love it. They really do. The fans are great, and to beat a team like that — I know they took a few of their guys out, but they keep playing and they want to win the game."

Washington's Jordan Weems (5-0) picked up the win on the mound with one inning of relief, and Kyle Finnegan closed out the game. The Nationals used six relievers after starter Trevor Williams gave up two runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.

"I felt good today, bullpen did a tremendous job, and the offense came to play today," Williams said. "We're making steps forward going into this last series against a really good ballclub."

Atlanta right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. went 1-for-2 with a run and two steals before being pulled after two innings. He tied the Braves' single-season stolen base record of 72, set by Otis Nixon in 1991. On Wednesday, Acuña became the first player in MLB history with at least 40 homers — he has 41 — and 70 steals.

Matt Olson was lifted for a pinch runner in the third inning Friday after getting an RBI single in the first and walking in the third. Olson leads the majors this year with 54 home runs — it's also the franchise's single-season record — but he was kept in the yard on this night, and so were the rest of the Braves, whose team total of 304 home runs also leads the majors in 2023.

Brad Hand (5-3) took the loss in relief of rookie Allan Winans, who gave up six runs in 5 1/3 innings and surrendered three home runs. The Braves had won four straight games.

Ruiz was 2-for-5 with three runs for the Nationals, while Luis Garcia was 2-for-5.

Braves rookie Forrest Wall, starting in place of Michael Harris II in center field, was 3-for-5 with a run and a steal.

Kieboom's home run was a three-run shot in the fourth inning that opened the scoring for the Nationals and gave them a 3-2 lead.

The Nationals scored three runs in the sixth inning to retake the lead. A solo homer by Ruiz and a two-run shot by Smith gave the Nationals a 7-6 lead, and they tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning off right-hander Jesse Chavez. Thomas led off with a homer, and the Nats added two unearned runs after errors by Chavez and Nickey Lopez.

The scheduled starting pitchers for Saturday's game are both right-handers: Atlanta's Spencer Strider (19-5, 3.81 ERA) and Washington's Joan Adon (2-4, 6.42). The teams meet again Sunday, the final day of the regular season.

With a five-day layoff scheduled from the end of the regular season to the opener of their NL Division Series, the Braves have decided to take a more intense approach to the one they took last year during the same break before starting the postseason.

"We talked with the players and the staff and figured we would try to do something different, something more engaging," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.

The Braves will play intrasquad games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with members of the Gwinnett Stripers, their Class AAA affiliate. The games will be at 5 p.m. at Truist Park and are free to attend; 15,000 tickets were claimed on the Braves' website over the first 24 hours.

"Last year, they hit, but I think playing the games and keeping their bodies ready will be a bigger thing this year and playing games and having people in the stands," Snitker said. "I think we will be surprised at how many people will show up for this thing."