The Atlanta Braves will get a brief chance to look back fondly on their 2021 season Monday. Then they will return to the task at hand.
After visiting the White House on Monday morning to celebrate their 2021 World Series title, the Braves begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
The Braves (95-58) trail the first-place Mets by 1 1/2 games in the National League East, and those two teams will meet for three games this weekend in Atlanta.
After dropping the first two games at Philadelphia, Atlanta rallied for a series split capped by a wild, rain-delayed, 8-7 win in 11 innings on Sunday in which the Braves squandered two leads, rallied for the tie and then won it.
"These guys put a lot into these things and they expend a lot of energy to win games on a nightly basis," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a big win. You want to keep pace in this whole thing. It's unbelievable with the big hits and everything."
Ronald Acuna Jr., who missed the first three games of the series due to back tightness, singled in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning.
"(Acuna) is the top player in the league for a reason," teammate Michael Harris II said. "We're all just trying to do the same thing he did -- come up clutch in those situations."
If they don't pass the Mets, the win assured the Braves the top NL wild-card spot, meaning they would host all three wild-card games.
Right-hander Bryce Elder (1-3, 3.38 ERA) is expected to start Monday for Atlanta. He has allowed one or zero earned runs in each of his past three starts. Elder allowed one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings on Sept. 21 in a no-decision against Washington.
Meanwhile, rookies young and old are providing reasons to watch the Nationals (53-99) over the final weeks of a long season.
On Sunday, 30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses homered in his second straight game in a 6-1 win over the Marlins. He has 12 home runs in 46 games since being called up from Triple-A Rochester and is hitting .326.
"When he gets ready and he's on time, he's ready to hit any pitch," manager Dave Martinez said. "And for us the last couple days, we've preached a lot with these guys pitching, we've got to be ready early, try to get a ball in the strike zone early. The last two days, he's done that."
Meanwhile, 21-year-old rookie shortstop CJ Abrams had three hits Sunday to complete a 6-for-10 weekend that raised his average from .225 to .240.
The Nationals will send out 27-year-old right-hander Cory Abbott (0-3, 4.85 ERA) in Monday's opener. Abbott, who will be making his eighth start of the year as he auditions for a role next season, was roughed up at Atlanta on Sept. 19, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks over four innings of a loss.
"Started with the walk and then we throw a ball away," Martinez said of a three-run fourth that day. "It just added up to three runs, but other than that, I thought (Abbott) threw the ball well."
--Field Level Media