Nationals-Braves Preview

The Washington Nationals have run into a familiar roadblock while dropping the first two games of their series in Atlanta.

With Jayson Werth already limited, things aren’t going to get easier after losing Ryan Zimmerman.

After learning its slugging third baseman would be out for an extended period, banged-up Washington will try to avoid getting swept by the Braves on Sunday.

While they’ve gone 6-0 against other opponents, the Nationals (7-4) dropped the first two of this three-game set and fell to 1-4 against the Braves (7-4) following a 6-3 loss Saturday. They posted a double-digit hit total for the fourth straight game, but went 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.

Werth, who singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, is day-to-day after leaving Friday’s opener with cramping in his groin. Before Saturday’s game, the Nationals placed center fielder Denard Span on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion.

Now they’ll be without Zimmerman for at least four weeks after he broke his right thumb diving into second base when he was picked off in the fifth inning. He’s hitting .364 with two homers and six RBIs on the season.

”It is what it is. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” manager Matt Williams said. ”You’ve got to play.”

With the lineup likely to be makeshift once again, Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 0.75 ERA) may have to be as good as he was in his first two starts for the Nationals. He gave up three singles over six innings Tuesday in a 5-0 home victory over Miami.

Gonzalez hasn’t had that kind of success when he’s faced the Braves, going 0-5 with a 4.89 ERA while receiving just five total runs of support over his last six starts.

Chris Johnson (6 for 15), Andrelton Simmons (4 for 10, two homers) and B.J. Upton (4 for 10) fared well against the left-hander last season, while Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward were a combined 0 for 17 with seven strikeouts. Hayward, off to a 6 for 43 start this season, is hitless in 19 at-bats against the Nationals.

Freddie Freeman had three hits and his third home run Saturday, while Justin Upton and Evan Gattis added three hits apiece. Freeman is batting 14 for 31 (.452) during an eight-game hitting streak and Upton has gone 9 for 11 with three homers and six RBIs in his last three.

”It was good to see some of the guys start putting good at-bats together,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose club has won 17 of 24 versus Washington since the start of 2013.

Aaron Harang (1-1, 0.71) has given Atlanta’s banged-up rotation a lift, though he’s received one run from the offense in his two starts. He struck out nine while allowing one run and two hits Tuesday, but walked four in a 4-0 loss to the New York Mets.

Although he has a 2.83 ERA in his last six starts against the Nationals, the right-hander is 1-3 in those outings while receiving a total of 13 runs of support. Former Atlanta outfielder Nate McLouth (1 for 9), Ian Desmond (1 for 8) and Werth (1 for 8) have struggled when facing Harang.

Washington’s Anthony Rendon bounced back from a hitless opener by going 2 for 4 with a leadoff home run. He’s batting 16 for 43 (.372) with two homers and nine RBIs on the season.