Nationals-Braves Preview

The Washington Nationals are trying to create more breathing room atop the NL East, but Mother Nature may ultimately decide if they get that chance.

With rain forecast again, the Nationals may find themselves waiting for a chance to conclude this three-game set with a second straight win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night.

Washington (63-52) leads the East by 4 1/2 games over second-place Atlanta (59-57), but the series finale could be washed out since thunderstorms are expected all day.

That was the case Saturday, when the start of the game was delayed 3 hours, 41 minutes due to rain before Wilson Ramos’ single in the 11th cleared the bases in Washington’s 4-1 win. The final out was recorded at 2:29 a.m. local time Sunday, giving the Nationals a third win in four meetings with Atlanta.

"Considering all that happened and the way we had to fight through the last couple of days, it was pretty good for us," manager Matt Williams said. "We fought all the way."

Inclement weather could also dampen Denard Span’s chances at extending his hitting streak to 14 games, which would match Ramos’ team high for the season.

Span has a .426 average during his run after going 2 for 6 with a triple Saturday. The center fielder has five hits in this series, improving to 12 for 29 (.414) over his last five games at Turner Field. However, he’s 0 for 6 with three strikeouts against scheduled starter Alex Wood (7-9, 3.20 ERA).

The Braves are turning to Wood in the hopes he can help them win for just the second time in 11 tries.

He’s going to need some help since Wood is 2-3 with a 2.92 ERA in eight starts since returning to the rotation, and he’s been given two total runs in the past three.

The left-hander has allowed one earned run in each of his last two starts, spanning 13 innings with Atlanta losing both contests.

Wood battled flulike symptoms ahead of his most recent outing Tuesday, and allowed four runs with four walks and a hit batter in six innings of a 4-2 loss at Seattle.

"I think I gave five free passes, if you include the hit-by-pitch," Wood told MLB’s official website. "That’s stuff that can’t happen – not at this level. Not against anybody."

Wood is 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in four career starts against Washington, and he earned a 6-3 victory in the most recent one at Turner Field on April 12. He fanned eight Nationals while yielding one run in five innings.

Washington counters with Gio Gonzalez (6-8, 4.01), who is trying to beat the Braves for the first time since July 1, 2012. The left-hander is 0-6 with a 5.49 ERA in seven starts since, and he was hammered for six runs and nine hits – two homers – with four walks in six innings of a 10-2 road loss April 13.

Gonzalez hasn’t been much better of late, going 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA over his last five games, losing the last two while surrendering nine runs in 9 2-3 innings.

He allowed four runs in six-plus innings of a 6-1 defeat to the New York Mets on Tuesday.

He’ll have to contend with Freddie Freeman, who has seven hits in three games after going 3 for 4 on Saturday. The first baseman is a career .339 hitter at home against the Nationals, and he’s batting .500 (24 for 48) with six doubles, four homers, eight RBIs and 15 runs in 12 meetings this year.