Braves, Nats set for early NL East showdown

National League East leaders are set to square off on Friday, as the Washington Nationals host the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series at Nationals Park.

Washington is off to a 7-2 start and sits a game back of the first-place Braves. The Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the White Sox with Thursday's 7-4 triumph. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each drove in a pair of runs in support of starter Dan Haren, who earned the victory despite giving up 10 hits over five innings.

"I took a few steps forward," Haren said. "I think I threw the ball better than the line score would dictate. The conditions weren't great out there. The most important thing is we won the game.

At 8-1, Atlanta boasts the best record in the majors and is off to its best start since the 1994 club won 13 of its first 14 games. The Braves entered Friday winners of six straight. Earlier this week, they completed a three-game sweep over the Marlins in Miami before getting the day off on Thursday.

"Winning always is good, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's a good feeling. It will be an exciting series. (The Nationals) are throwing three pretty good pitchers against us. So it will be a nice test for us offensively."

On Friday, Atlanta will turn to Julio Teheran, who had a 1.04 ERA in six spring starts but was hit hard in his regular-season debut against the Cubs last weekend. This will be Teheran's first career start against Washington.

"We've got all this power and this balanced lineup, but it's going to be about the pitching at the end of the year," Gonzalez said.

While the Braves must face Washington starters Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez this weekend, they'll see lefty Ross Detwiler in Friday's series opener. In his season debut against the Reds, Detwiler allowed only one earned run in six innings but took a no-decision.

Nats outfielder Jayson Werth likes his team's chances in the early-season divisional showdown.

"We have some good pitching," Werth said. "That whole team strikes out a lot and we have strikeout pitchers. So we'll see how we match up."

Washington is unbeaten in six home games so far this year, while Atlanta has yet to lose on the road. The Braves won each of the last four head-to-head meetings in 2012.