Braves try to move closer to playoff spot against Nationals

The Braves are hoping Brandon Beachy can extend his incredible unbeaten string this afternoon and move Atlanta closer to clinching the wild card berth.

Atlanta used a big offensive showing last night in the opener of a three-game series with Washington and got help elsewhere to expand the lead in the chase for the National League's final playoff position.

Dan Uggla accounted for four runs and the Braves scored three times against Stephen Strasburg in the first inning, holding on for a 7-4 victory.

The Braves won for just the fifth time in 13 games, pushing their NL wild Card lead over St. Louis to three games with just five to play. The Cardinals lost to the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

"We don't have many games left and we have to take care of our business over here and then worry about whatever happens with them," said Uggla.

Strasburg (0-1) got his first decision in four major league starts since coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it was a losing one.

He settled down after a shaky first inning but came out of the game after four innings -- the fourth straight time since his return that he pitched six innings or fewer.

"That was not typical him," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "He was throwing more than he was pitching and his location isn't as good when that happens."

Tim Hudson (16-10) improved to 14-3 lifetime against the Nationals franchise despite lasting just 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on nine hits.

Jayson Werth hit a solo home run for the Nationals, who were coming off a four-game sweep of the NL East-champion Phillies.

Atlanta has won each of the last four times Beachy has taken the mound, but the rookie right-hander hasn't received a decision in that span. During that time, Beachy has recorded 32 strikeouts. In fact, he's fanned at least seven in each of his last eight outings and is 4-0 over his last 11 appearances and hasn't lost since July 19 at Colorado.

Beachy fanned eight Mets batters Sunday and established the Braves' modern-day franchise record for strikeouts by a rookie pitcher. He now has 160 in 135 2/3 innings and broke the mark of 156 set by Irv Young in 1905.

This will be Beachy's third career start vs. Washington. He gave up seven hits and four runs over five frames in a 6-4 victory at Nationals Park on Aug. 3.

Chien-Ming Wang enters Saturday winless in his four career starts (0-3) vs. Atlanta and has a 4.18 ERA lifetime against the Braves. Wang has just one loss (3-1) over his last eight outings, and that came in Atlanta on Sept. 1 when he yielded seven hits and four runs over 5 2/3 frames.

Atlanta owns a slim 9-7 lead over Washington in the season series.