Braves-Nationals Preview

In a rotation featuring some of the game’s best young pitchers,

Gio Gonzalez is perhaps shining brightest for the Washington


After mowing down the Braves last weekend, Gonzalez tries to

defeat the Braves again and become the first Nationals pitcher in

seven years to win six consecutive starts as these NL East rivals

conclude a rain-shortened two-game set in the nation’s capital


Acquired from Oakland in the offseason, Gonzalez – along with

Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann – is a big reason why

division-leading Washington (30-21) also leads the majors with a

2.95 staff ERA.

The Braves (28-25) know all too well just how dominant these

Nationals can be on the hill. Washington has outscored Atlanta

31-11 during a six-game winning streak in the series – four of

those games coming this season – extending that run Saturday with a

2-0 victory.

Strasburg, pushed back a day after Friday’s series opener got

rained out, struck out nine over seven innings to outduel Brandon

Beachy and help the Nationals snap a three-game overall skid.

Catcher Jesus Flores homered and Xavier Nady had a pinch-hit RBI

double for Washington’s offense.

It was the ninth loss in 11 games for the Braves, who could be

in for another long day at the plate versus Gonzalez (7-1, 2.04

ERA). The crafty left-hander tied a season high with 10 strikeouts

over seven innings of last Sunday’s 7-2 win at Turner Field,

surrendering two runs, one hit and three walks.

Gonzalez, 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA over his last 14 starts dating to

September with the Athletics, has a chance to become the first

Nationals pitcher to win six straight starts since current Atlanta

reliever Livan Hernandez accomplished the feat April 24-May 19,


“He’s better than I expected,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson

said of Gonzalez. “I knew he was a good pitcher. I knew he made the

(2011) All-Star team with Oakland. But I thought he was a little


Atlanta tries to get back on track behind Tommy Hanson (5-4,

3.84). The right-hander is coming off his shortest outing of the

year, yielding a season-high six runs and eight hits in 3 1-3

innings of Monday’s 8-2 loss to St. Louis.

“A lot of our loss (Monday) was my inability to go out, compete

and give us a chance to win,” Hanson said. “Giving up six runs in

three innings … isn’t going to get the job done. I take a lot of

the blame.”

Hanson could be looking forward to getting back on the road,

where he’s 4-2 with a 2.41 ERA in seven starts. However, he’s 0-3

with a 4.73 ERA in his last five outings versus the Nationals.

Despite his struggles against Washington, Hanson has had his way

with Nationals corner infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.

Zimmerman is 3 for 18 with seven strikeouts in their matchups,

while LaRoche is 1 for 10.

Washington outfielder Michael Morse went 0 for 4 on Saturday in

his season debut after missing the first two months due to a

strained right lat suffered during spring training.

Atlanta could be without catcher Brian McCann after he was hit

in the knee by a wild pitch and forced to leave Saturday’s loss