Nationals hope to gain even more ground on NL East-leading Braves

The Washington Nationals seemed to dodge a bullet in Friday's opener with the Atlanta Braves. Now, they'll try to take the series against the National League East leaders when they play the middle contest of the three-game set at Turner Field on Saturday.

Already without superstar Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg left the Nationals' 3-2 win on Friday with an apparent oblique strain. The hard-throwing righty appeared to wince after throwing a pitch at one point during the second frame.

He tossed 23 of his 37 pitches for strikes.

"I definitely could've pitched through it," Strasburg said. "Davey didn't want to take the chance. We just have to be proactive about it, get the treatment so hopefully I'll be able to make the next start."

The combination of Craig Stammen (3-1), Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano surrendered just a run on two hits and a walk over the final seven innings.

Julio Teheran (3-2) struck out nine, but allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk over 6 2/3 innings for Atlanta, which has dropped four of its last six tilts.

Freeman smacked a solo homer and added an RBI single in defeat for the Braves, who still hold a 4 1/2-game edge on the Nats in the division.

Harper, meanwhile, missed his fifth straight game with bursitis in his left knee on Friday and manager Davey Johnson indicated that he would likely sit the entire series.

"We've got to try to figure out whether he needs more rest or what we have to do to get him by that," said Johnson.

That's good news for Atlanta starter Tim Hudson, who has lost his last three decisions after winning four of his first five to start the season. Hudson was hit hard in a loss to Toronto on Monday, as he allowed six runs and eight hits in six innings to fall to 4-4 on the year to go along with a 5.37 ERA.

Hudson beat the Nats earlier in the year and is an impressive 16-5 lifetime against them with a 2.55 ERA in 28 starts.

Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez hasn't been as fortunate against the Braves, as he is a mere 2-4 in six starts against them with a 6.75 ERA.

But like Hudson, the 21-game winner from a year ago is also in a bit of a funk entering Saturday's start. He's winless in four starts and gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to Baltimore on Monday. Gonzalez also walked four batters in that one and is 3-3 on the year with a 3.90 ERA.

The Braves will also host Pittsburgh on their homestand and have taken five of seven meetings with Washington this season. Atlanta is 9-2 in the last 11 matchups with the Nationals.