Braves-Nationals Preview


The Atlanta Braves have dominated the Washington Nationals recently, but they're now chasing them in the NL East race.

They can change that this weekend.

After being swept in their most recent series, the Braves look to take out some of their frustrations on the Nationals in the opener of this four-game series in the nation's capital Thursday night.

Atlanta (36-35) has won 22 of 29 meetings with Washington (37-33), including 10 of 13 at Nationals Park. The Braves took two of three games there April 4-6 before sweeping a three-game set against Washington the following week at Turner Field.

"I don't know (the reason for the success)," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I'm worried about 2014. We'll see what happens this year. I can't say that we do anything differently.

"It's a good rivalry. It really is."

While the Braves and Nationals have traded NL East titles over the past two years, Washington holds the current edge with a 1 1/2-game lead on Atlanta and Miami.

The Braves held the lead for much of the season and going into this week, but they lost three straight home games to Philadelphia while the Nationals swept a two-game set against Houston.

"We're going to go into D.C. with a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," said Ryan Doumit, who was 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs in Wednesday's 10-5 loss to the Phillies. "This wasn't a good series. It left a bad taste in our mouths, but we're going to go take it out on the Nationals."

That may be tough to do against Jordan Zimmermann (5-3, 2.98 ERA), who has allowed one run in his last 25 innings and has pitched back-to-back complete games.

The right-hander tossed a three-hitter Friday, but the offense mustered two hits in a 1-0 defeat at St. Louis. His shutout streak ended at 19 innings on a homer in the second.

"He was on and we were off," cleanup man Adam LaRoche said. "The majority of the time when I've seen Jordan, he's really had it."

Zimmermann is 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in eight career starts against the Braves. His only matchup with them in 2014 came in a 2-1 loss April 4, not getting a decision as the only run he allowed came on a homer by Evan Gattis in Zimmermann's fifth and final inning.

Gattis is riding a 17-game hitting streak - best ever by a Braves catcher - and hit his eighth home run of that stretch Wednesday.

Anthony Rendon has been hot for Washington this week, going 4 for 9 with two doubles, one homer and four RBIs in the two wins over Houston. He's keyed the Nationals winning seven of eight at home, batting .429 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

Gavin Floyd (1-2, 2.98) will get his first taste of this rivalry. He missed the teams' first two series this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"(It's) very important," Floyd said of this series. "Those are the teams that you need to beat. Those are the teams you hopefully have a good record against."

The right-hander has a poor record in four starts against Washington, going 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA.

Floyd, though, has pitched well on the road this year with a 2.31 ERA in four starts but has gone 1-2, backed by seven total runs. He didn't get any support at home in his last outing, allowing four runs and two homers in 6 1-3 innings while not getting a decision in Saturday's 11-6 defeat to the Angels.

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