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Nats try to further distance themselves from Braves | News

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Nats try to further distance themselves from Braves

(Sports Network) - Three games separate last place from bragging rights in the National League East and the division-leading Washington Nationals are hoping a weekend showdown with the Atlanta Braves will help their advantage.

The Nationals will welcome the Braves to the nation's capital tonight for the first of three straight games and swept Atlanta in three games last week at Turner Field. The Nationals have won five in a row against the Braves and will kick off a six-game homestand this evening.

Washington went 5-4 on a recent road trip and lost all three games in Miami, including Wednesday's 5-3 setback at Marlins Park. Chien-Ming Wang's first start of the season didn't go as planned and he was reached for four runs and seven hits in four innings to suffer the loss.

"I'm kind of disappointed in myself today for my performance," Wang said through his translator on the team's website. "I'm going to try to make adjustments in the coming days."

Roger Bernadina went 1-for-2 with a pair of RBI and Danny Espinosa added an RBI base hit for the Nats, who are just one-half game ahead of Miami in the NL East standings, while the Mets are 1 1/2 games off the pace, the Braves sit two games back and Philadelphia is three games behind.

Nationals young pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg has won three of his last four starts and will toe the rubber again Friday. He is coming off Saturday's 8-4 win at Atlanta in which he held on for a win despite yielding four runs in five innings of work. Strasburg has lasted just five innings or less in each of his past three outings and owns a 5-1 mark and a 2.64 ERA in 10 starts.

Strasburg is 2-1 in five trips to the Nationals Park mound this season and hopes to even his 1-2 career mark in three starts against the Braves.

The right-handed Strasburg could get some offensive support with the possible return of outfielder Michael Morse, who has been sidelined with a strained left lat muscle suffered during Spring Training. Morse led the Nationals with 31 homers and 95 RBI in 2011

"If he's able to go, I'll throw him right out there," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "He might connect and hit one hard. He would be a welcome addition."

Meanwhile, the Braves will hit the road for six games against Washington and Miami and have dropped four in a row away from Turner Field.

The Braves have posted back-to-back wins since losing a season-high eight in a row and won their recent series in St. Louis. After squeezing out a 5-4 win on Tuesday, Atlanta recorded a 10-7 triumph in the series finale behind home runs from Brain McCann and Freddie Freeman. McCann ended with four RBI and Freeman, who returned from a four-game absence because of an eye issue, collected three hits, three RBI and two runs scored.

"Everyone is going to go through a stretch like that during the season. ... But we bounced back like a winning team does," said Freeman, who needed a special pair of sports goggles to help with his peripheral vision.

Tim Hudson got the start for the Braves and was banged around for five runs in 5 2/3 innings for the no-decision. Jonny Venters picked up the win by getting the final out of the sixth inning and closer Craig Kimbrel tallied his NL- leading 15th save of the season.

Taking the mound for the Braves tonight will be Mike Minor. Minor is 0-3 in his previous seven starts and did not figure into the decision of an 8-4 loss to Washington on Saturday. He allowed four runs in five innings and remained 2-4 on the season in 10 starts to go along with a 6.98 earned run average.

Minor, a right-hander, is 1-2 in four career starts against the Nationals and 1-2 with a 7.27 ERA in six starts on the road.



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