Paul Maholm hasn't given up a run yet this season, but also hasn't fared well against Washington in his career. The right-hander aims to turn around that misfortune Sunday when the Braves go for their ninth straight victory in the conclusion of a three-game series at Nationals Park.
The Braves, 3-1 winners on Saturday, are off to their best start since opening the 1994 season 13-1. This is also their longest winning streak since capturing nine in a row from May 26 - June 3, 2010.
Maholm has been spectacular in his first two starts of 2013. The lefty blanked the Philadelphia Phillies over 5 2/3 innings on April 3 and then gave up just one hit over seven scoreless frames at Miami on Monday.
The trouble for Maholm has been against the Nationals. During his career, Maholm is 1-6 with a 5.52 ERA in 10 starts versus Washington. That includes an 0-3 ledger in four starts at Nationals Park.
Gio Gonzalez, who has been nearly as good as Maholm this year, counters for the Nationals. The lefty has given up a total of six hits and a run over his first two outings, covering 11 innings. He's 2-2 with a 4.57 ERA in four starts against the Braves.
Evan Gattis slugged a two-run homer and Tim Hudson pitched seven strong innings in Atlanta's win on Saturday.
Hudson (2-0) limited the Nationals to a run on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks to win his second straight start. He also had two of Atlanta's eight hits and improved to 15-5 lifetime against the Nationals.
"We're just fortunate to get off to a good start and not get behind an 8-ball too much," Hudson said. "Hopefully we just keep it up."
Ramiro Pena, who belted a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning of Friday's win, also stroked a pair of hits in the victory.
Danny Espinosa homered for Washington's lone run and Stephen Strasburg (1-2) took a hard-luck loss. The ace right-hander was charged with two unearned runs on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings.
The Braves had a runner cut down in the second inning when Bryce Harper threw out Dan Uggla trying to score from second on a single by Hudson, but picked up a pair of unearned runs in the third. Justin Upton reached on a two-out error by Ryan Zimmerman and Gattis followed with a drive over the left-center field wall for his fourth home run.
"The previous at-bat I was up there missing a little bit," Strasburg said. "I decided to try and go fastball away. I did it again and ran in one."
The Braves won each of the last four head-to-head meetings in 2012, but the Nationals won the season series, 10-8.