After breaking several individual and franchise records earlier this weekend, the Atlanta Braves have their sights on one more milestone when they finish the regular season against the visiting Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Atlanta (104-57) is three home runs shy of breaking the major league record of 307 set by the Minnesota Twins in 2019. Designated hitter Marcell Ozuna moved the team closer to the record with a go-ahead three-run homer in a 5-3 win over the Nationals on Saturday night.
Spencer Strider struck out seven in five innings in the victory to break the Braves' modern-era, single-season strikeout record of 276 set by John Smoltz in 1996.
Right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. also recorded his 73rd stolen base in the win, setting a Braves modern-era franchise record. The previous record was held by Otis Nixon, who had 72 steals in 1991.
Acuna has the ability to make everything look easy on the base paths, but his teammates understand the amount of work involved.
"If it was as easy as he's making it seem, then everyone would do it," outfielder Kevin Pillar said. "But to steal (73) bases just means that you gotta be on base a ton, and he's doing that in addition to all the extra-base hits and home runs. It's not an easy thing to do when you get to first base and guys know you're gonna steal."
Acuna became the first player to record 40 homers and 70 steals in a season earlier this week. He carries a 14-game hitting streak into Sunday's contest.
Though Atlanta has already clinched the National League East and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, Washington (70-91) is looking to close on a high note after recording its 70th win in Friday's series opener. The 70 wins is a 15-game improvement over last season.
"It means a lot," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "It means we're working hard to get these guys better. They're buying in, and they are getting better. Like I said, it's been some trying some days, but these guys have worked really hard, and I'm proud of them. I really am."
The Nationals will start right-hander Jackson Rutledge (1-1, 6.00 ERA) in the regular-season finale against left-hander Dylan Dodd (2-2, 7.62).
Dodd, 25, received the nod in place of Bryce Elder, who is being rested after posting a 3.81 ERA over a career-high 174 2/3 innings.
"It's just been a long year, so we just decided to give him a little (rest)," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Dodd, who has not faced the Nationals, has allowed a total of 24 runs, striking out 14 and walking 11, in six games in 28 1/3 innings this season.
Rutledge, 24, earned his first major league victory after allowing one run over five innings in a 3-2 win over Atlanta, the only time he's faced the Braves, last Sunday.
"It just tells me that I belong here, that I can do it against one of the best records in baseball, one of the best lineups in baseball," Rutledge said. "That I'm able to have success, it gives me confidence going forward."
Rutledge is set to make his fourth career start. He allowed a total of 10 runs in 15 innings in his first three outings.
--Field Level Media
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