The Nationals look to win consecutive series for the first time all season as they conclude their set against the Braves on Thursday at RFK Stadium.
After losing a season-high eight straight games, the Nationals (14-26) swept a three-game series from the Florida Marlins on May 11-13 for their first series victory of 2007, and have taken two of three games from the Braves thus far.
Washington had lost 12 straight series prior to sweeping Florida.
On Wednesday, Washington rallied from a three-run deficit to defeat Atlanta 6-4 to guarantee at least a split of this series.
Atlanta (25-15) has lost three of four games following a season-high five-game winning streak, falling behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East following Wednesday’s loss.
But Ryan Church, who had gone just 4-for-22 (.182) with two RBIs in his previous seven games, hit a go-ahead, three-run double to key a four-run, fifth-inning rally for the Nationals.
“I’ve struggled of late because I’m trying to get accustomed to that four hole,” Church told the Nationals’ official Web site. “I’m not accustomed to teams paying attention to me.”
After being pulled in a season-low 3 2-3 innings on 94 pitches in a loss to San Diego on May 7, James responded with his best start of the season. He had a no-hitter for 6 1-3 innings on Saturday, before finishing with just one hit allowed in seven shutout innings of a 9-2 win over Pittsburgh.
“Today was a good confidence booster,” James told the Braves’ official Web site. “I just tried to put everything behind me.”
The left-hander made a solid start against the Nationals on April 11, giving up five hits in six shutout innings of an 8-3 victory, but was a little shaky against them five days later. He gave up three runs and five hits in five innings of a 5-1 loss to Washington on April 16, and is 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals.
Washington counters with Matt Chico (2-4, 5.59).
The rookie left-hander pitched well in his last outing, but was forced to come out in the fifth inning after waiting through a rain delay of nearly three hours. He ended up allowing one run and five hits in 4 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 7-3 victory over Florida.
Chico split his two starts against the Braves earlier this season. In his second career start, he gave up four runs—one earned—and six hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-0 home loss on April 10, but limited the Braves to one run and four hits in five innings of a 5-1 win against James for his first major league victory.