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Nats carry perfect record into home opener with Braves

It's been more than 30 years since the Nationals franchise won their first four games of a season. That happened to be in 1983 when the Montreal Expos captured their opening four contests before suffering a loss to the Dodgers.

Washington opens its home season Friday against NL East rival Atlanta. These teams finished 1-2 in the division last season, but the Braves were the ones who claimed the crown at 30 games over .500, while the Nats missed out on the playoffs with an 86-76 mark.

The Nationals won their opening three games this week at Citi Field against the New York Mets. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, a 19-game winner last year, was supposed to start the finale Thursday against the Mets, but he was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. Zimmermann could pitch Friday, but if not the Nats may use a series of relievers.

Zimmermann was the ace of the Nationals' staff in 2013, going 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA and two shutouts in 32 starts. The 27-year-old right-hander showed no signs of slowing down this spring, as he was 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in five Grapefruit League starts spanning 18 innings. He is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in seven lifetime starts against Atlanta.

On Thursday, Ryan Zimmerman went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBI as the Nationals completed the sweep of the Mets with an 8-2 win. Adam LaRoche drove in three runs for the Nationals, who kept new manager Matt Williams' record perfect. Denard Span added two hits, drove in a run and scored once for Washington, which opened the season with three straight wins for a second straight year.

"I'm not concerned about myself," said Williams of his start as a manager. "I'm concerned about them (the players).

"I'm proud of the way we went about it," he added. "Fighting back is key for us."

Tanner Roark (1-0) started on the hill in place of the sick Zimmermann and picked up the win. The right-hander allowed just two runs on six hits in six innings. Roark struck out five and walked three, helping the Nationals defeat the Mets for an eighth straight time.

The Braves won two of three at Milwaukee this week. Chris Johnson's home run was the deciding factor in Atlanta's 1-0 win Wednesday.

Aaron Harang (1-0) surrendered only two hits with one walk and three strikeouts across 6 2/3 innings in his Braves debut. He had a no-hitter going into the seventh.

"It was fun, but intense. After the first hit that Schafer got, the emotions kind of just run out of you for a minute," Harang said. "Knowing that you have a 1-0 lead, you have to stay in there and regain your focus to keep executing pitches."

Rookie righty David Hale makes his third career start for Atlanta. The 27- year-old Princeton product, a 2009 third-round draft pick, went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his two starts last season. He had 14 strikeouts against just one walk in appearances versus San Diego and Philadelphia.

Atlanta won 13 out of 19 games against Washington last year