It appears the Atlanta Braves' offense will get a lift, just in the nick of time.
The Braves are expected to get second baseball Ozzie Albies back in the lineup when the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town to begin a four-game series at SunTrust Park.
The Dodgers will start veteran left-hander Rich Hill (3-4, 4.26 ERA) against veteran Atlanta right-hander Anibal Sanchez (5-2, 2.76) in the opener on Thursday.
Los Angeles (56-46) lost the last two games of a three-game set to Philadelphia. The Braves (54-44) return after going 2-2 on a two-city road trip.
Albies, who made the National League All-Star team, left Friday's game against Washington with right hamstring tightness. He did not play the final game of the series against the Nationals and was held out of both games in Miami. The Braves were idle on Wednesday.
Albies had been on fire. He was hitting .385 since June 17, during which time he raised his average from .248 to .283. He ranks among the league leaders in doubles (30), extra-base hits (53), runs (75), total bases (211) and hits (115). He has 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases, joining only Colorado's Trevor Story with double figures in both categories.
Sanchez was masterful in his last start against Washington. After throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings, he hung around for six innings and limited the Nationals to three runs on Friday.
"He never stops pitching," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "Every pitch is a big deal for him. He has a purpose for every one and he doesn't give in. He trusts his stuff. In the beginning, I was thinking maybe we can get him through four (innings)."
Atlanta picked up Sanchez late in spring training as a fifth starter, and he has responded better than anticipated. He has registered seven quality starts in 12 outings and the Braves are 8-4 when he takes the mound to begin the game.
Sanchez is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers. In his only previous start against Los Angeles this season, Sanchez allowed three hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings and picked up the win in Atlanta's 5-2 victory on June 9.
The Dodgers will start Hill, who was waiting in the bullpen in the 16th inning of Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. Instead, manager Dave Roberts set aside Hill to start Thursday, used an infielder in relief and lost the game.
Hill made his last start on Friday and worked six innings against Milwaukee. He allowed on run on five hits and struck out nine.
"(Catcher) Austin Barnes did a great job behind the dish, just with his game-calling and calling for the curveball at any time today was working really well," Hill said.
Hill is 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA in eight career appearances, including six starts, against Atlanta. Thursday will be his first start against the Braves this year.
Thursday also will be the first time Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp will play in Atlanta since he was traded by the Braves in the offseason. Atlanta sent Kemp to Los Angeles for utility man Charlie Culberson, pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
The trade was thought to be conducted for financial reasons, but has been helpful to both clubs. Atlanta immediately released Gonzalez and released Kazmir late in spring training.
McCarthy (6-3, 4.92) was in the starting rotation until going on the disabled list on June 28 with right knee tendinitis. Culberson has been a valuable acquisition and is batting .288 with five homers and 27 RBIs.
The trade seemed to revitalize Kemp, who battled a hamstring issue for much of last season and spent two stints on the disabled list. He hit .276 with 19 homers in 115 games in 2017. Since his return to Los Angeles, where he played from 2006-2014, he has become an MVP candidate by hitting .316 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs in 98 games.