Atlanta (86-67) at Washington (65-88)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Fri Sep 24, 2010
  • TV: SPSO, MASN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

An untimely three-game slide may have ended the Atlanta Braves’ hopes of a division title.

They can still halt their playoff drought via the wild card, and sending ace Tim Hudson(notes) to the mound against the lowly Washington Nationals may improve those chances.

Hudson will try to help the Braves get untracked by continuing his dominance of the Nationals in the opener of a three-game set Friday night.

With nine games left in the regular season, the Braves (86-67) have seemingly tumbled out of the NL East race after getting swept in three games by first-place Philadelphia, losing 1-0 in the finale Wednesday.

Atlanta is six games behind the Phillies, who visit Turner Field for the final three games of the season next weekend.

The division race may be officially out of reach by then, forcing the Braves’ focus to shift to the wild card in order to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2005. Atlanta leads the wild card by one-half game over San Diego with Colorado also in contention.

“This is our season,” catcher Brian McCann(notes) told the Braves’ official website. “We’ve got nine games left. We have to be able to get up for these last nine games, and we will. We’ll definitely be ready.”

Hudson (16-8, 2.61 ERA) will try to get this stretch off to a strong start, and another meeting with the Nationals (65-88) should be just what he needs.

The right-hander is 10-1 with a 1.55 ERA in 17 starts against Washington, and 2-0 in four matchups this year with three resulting in Atlanta victories.

Hudson enters this start with some momentum, yielding two runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-2 win at New York on Saturday. He had lost his three previous games with a 6.38 ERA.

Despite Hudson’s success against Washington, the Braves are 7-8 against the East’s last-place club, including 2-4 in the nation’s capital. Atlanta also dropped two of three in the most recent series with the Nationals from Sept. 13-15.

Washington will try to hamper the Braves’ postseason aspirations while going for its first four-game winning streak since concluding last year with seven straight victories.

The Nationals last won four straight at home during an eight-game run from July 25-Aug. 9, 2009. They got closer to those marks by winning three in a row over Houston capped by a 7-2 victory Thursday.

Jordan Zimmermann(notes) (0-2, 6.75) looks to show some improvement for Washington in his sixth start since returning from Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander has been battered while losing his last two starts, posting a 13.50 ERA and serving up five homers while getting pulled after three innings both times.

“I think command is probably the last thing that comes back, because he’s feeling good,” pitching coach Steve McCatty told the team’s official website.

Zimmermann won his only start against the Braves on April 20, 2009, allowing two runs in six innings of a 3-2 victory at Nationals Park.

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Starting Pitchers

T. Hudson SF vs. J. Zimmermann Was
17-9 Record 1-2
2.83 ERA 4.94
139 K 27
74 BB 10
1.15 WHIP 1.32

Scoreboard

Friday, Sep 24