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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, May 25th (All times Eastern)

Washington Nationals (26-18) at Atlanta Braves (26-20), 7:35 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Ross Detwiler (3-3, 3.65) Atlanta - Tim Hudson (3-1, 3.03)

(Sports Network) - First place in the tight National League East will be on the line tonight, as the Atlanta Braves return home to open a three-game series versus the Washington Nationals at Turner Field.

The Braves are one game behind the division-leading Nationals and were just swept in four games at Cincinnati, losing 6-3 in Thursday's series finale. Michael Bourn and Juan Francisco both homered and Martin Prado ended with a pair of hits, but it wasn't enough to get the Braves over the hump.

Randall Delgado started for Atlanta and was saddled with the loss for allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"The inning unraveled a little bit on [Delgado]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the four-run sixth inning by the Reds.

Braves catcher Brian McCann missed his third straight game because of the flu and is day-to-day. Backup catcher Matt Diaz is also feeling a bit sluggish because of the bug that's going around, but David Ross is expected to be behind the plate tonight. Ross and Diaz combined to go 0-for-5 on Thursday.

Atlanta veteran Chipper Jones, who is retiring at season's end, said he is still bothered by a left calf and ankle injury and may not be in the starting lineup again. Jones suffered the injury last Friday at Tampa Bay for a Braves club that is 19-5 when he's in the starting lineup and 7-14 when he is not.

"I'm probably worse off today than yesterday," Jones said Thursday. "It's bad timing, too, [with] the first matchup with the Nationals coming up. This is a first for me."

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is having trouble with contact lenses and could be back in the lineup tonight. Freeman hasn't played since Wednesday and a special set of goggles have been ordered for the young star. Eric Hinske started at first base Thursday and finished 1-for-4 for Atlanta, which will open a six-game homestand tonight versus Washington and St. Louis.

Tim Hudson will handle pitching duties for the Braves on Friday and he is targeting his third straight win. Hudson is 3-1 with a 3.03 earned run average in five starts and tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings in Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field. He scattered four hits, struck out three and walked two batters.

Hudson, a right-hander, has won both of his Turner Field starts this season and owns a strong 14-3 mark to go along with a 2.05 ERA in 23 career starts against the Nationals.

Washington will resume its NL East journey through Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami tonight and had a three-game winning streak stopped with Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Phillies in the finale of a three-game series.

Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who pegged Nationals rookie Bryce Harper in the back during a win on May 6 at Nationals Park and was suspended five games for admitting to it, shut down Washington again to the tune of eight scoreless innings and eight strikeouts. Edwin Jackson countered Hamels on the hill and was dealt the loss, as he gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

"I was just trying to keep us within striking distance," Jackson said.

Adam LaRoche homered and Harper added a hit for the Nationals, who lost for the fourth time in seven tries and are 2-1 on a nine-game road trip against division foes. After missing a day because of right shoulder issues, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday and collected a hit in four at-bats.

The Nationals are hoping slugger Michael Morse will return to the lineup soon and he is currently on the disabled lost with a torn left lat muscle in his shoulder. He is expected to play extended spring games starting Friday in Viera, FL. A June 8 return is a possibility for Morse.

"In Morse's mind, he is ready tomorrow, as soon as he is playing one game," Nats manager Davey Johnson said recently. "His throwing is what aggravated his arm. I'm not worried about his hitting. He is always thinking about hitting, and he has been hitting on the sly, probably throughout this whole thing. I'm more worried about him throwing, and that could aggravate it."

Johnson will hand the ball to starter Ross Detwiler tonight in Atlanta and he is 0-2 in his last three starts. Detwiler battled through his worst outing of the season in Saturday's 6-5 loss to Baltimore, as he allowed a season-high six runs and nine hits through five innings. He fell to 3-3 in eight starts to go along with a 3.65 ERA.

Detwiler is 1-2 in three road starts this season and 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in six career games (3 starts) against the Braves.

Washington and Atlanta are meeting for the first time since splitting 18 matchups a season ago. The Nationals have won two in a row since losing three straight.

05/25 10:36:53 ET