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Braves-Nationals Preview

AP - Sports

The short-handed Atlanta Braves have a chance to regain sole possession of the NL East lead if they can add to their recent dominance over the Washington Nationals, but they'll likely need a better performance from Mike Minor.

Stephen Strasburg, meanwhile, will try to help the Nationals bolster their slim advantage in the division by bouncing back from the end to his longest win streak of the season Friday night.

A 3-0 victory in Thursday's series opener put Atlanta (37-35) within a half game of Washington (37-34) in the division. Chris Johnson drove in a season-high three runs, and the Braves limited the Nationals to three hits in their 14th win in 18 matchups and 11th in their last 14 in the nation's capital.

Evan Gattis extended his hit streak to 18 games but starting pitcher Gavin Floyd is heading to the disabled list after fracturing a bone in his right elbow in the seventh inning.

The Braves lost starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy and reliever Cory Gearrin to Tommy John surgery during spring training. Reliever Jonny Venters is still recovering from his second such procedure.

"It's been a tough one, ever since spring training," Johnson said. "But we've got to keep moving forward."

Minor (2-4, 4.42 ERA) will try to help Atlanta do just that while earning his first win since May 19. The left-hander has given up 11 runs and 22 hits over nine innings in his last two starts and was heading for a third consecutive loss Sunday before the Braves rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

He went five innings in that game after lasting just four in a 13-10 win in Colorado on June 10. Minor pitched into the seventh inning in five consecutive starts from May 13-June 4.

Minor, 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA in nine career starts against Washington, had no record and a 5.93 ERA in last season's three matchups. He gave up three runs or fewer over six innings in two of those games and allowed four runs in 1 2-3 innings - his shortest career start - in an 8-7 loss Aug. 17.

Strasburg (6-5, 3.06) was tossed in the second inning of that game after hitting Justin Upton with a pitch and throwing twice behind Andrelton Simmons' back.

He didn't make it out of the fifth inning in his lone matchup this season, a 6-2 home loss April 5. He was charged with six runs - three earned - and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings.

Strasburg has given up three runs or fewer and pitched at least six innings in 10 of his last 11 starts but didn't get enough support to extend a three-game win streak Saturday. He gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-1 loss in St. Louis after posting a 1.42 ERA in his prior three outings.

"I'm not going to dwell on it too much, just going to learn from it and move on," he said.

Upton's chances of returning to the starting lineup are unknown for this game because of an inner ear ailment that's causing dizziness. The outfielder sat out the Braves' third consecutive defeat Wednesday, 10-5 against Philadelphia, and was limited to one pinch-hit appearance Thursday.

Upton is 3 for 25 since Atlanta's visit to Colorado, where he said he might have developed the issue. He's hitting .459 (28 for 61) with six homers in his last 16 games against Washington and has five hits in his past 13 at-bats against Strasburg.

Gattis has one home run in four career at-bats versus the right-hander.

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