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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, September 16th (All times eastern)

Washington Nationals (89-56) at Atlanta Braves (83-63), 8:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Washington - Gio Gonzalez (19-7, 2.93) Atlanta - Mike Minor (8-10, 4.42)

(Sports Network) - Gio Gonzalez tries to become the first 20-game winner in the majors this year and could match a franchise record when the Washington Nationals conclude their weekend set against the Atlanta Braves.

Not only can Gonzalez equal the 20 wins set by Ross Grimsley of the 1978 Montreal Expos, but he gets a crack at becoming just the second D.C. left- hander to ever win 20 games. Earl Whitehill won 22 in 1933.

The Nationals entered this three-game set with a comfortable lead in the NL East, but they're in danger of being swept and could see their edge in the division trimmed to 5 1/2 games on Sunday.

Gonzalez, though, has a perfect opportunity to move Washington closer to a playoff spot by winning for the seventh time in his last eight starts. He's given up just one run over his last three outings, with the Nats winning by a combined 24-2 in those contests.

He's 2-1 with a 4.86 ERA in three games against the Braves.

Mike Minor, who is 2-0 over his last four outings, counters for Atlanta. The southpaw has thrown shutout ball in his last two starts. He's 2-2 in five games versus the Nationals.

With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning of yesterday's game, Andrelton Simmons was hit by a pitch to force in Jeff Baker with the game- winning run in a 5-4 final.

David Ross singled before Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones each drew a walk to load the bases.

Simmons, who scored the winning run for the Braves on Friday, faced a 2-2 count before he was plunked by Ryan Mattheus (5-2). Baker replaced Ross as a pinch-runner earlier in the frame.

Washington put a runner on third with one out in the ninth, but Craig Kimbrel was able to strand pinch-runner Eury Perez to seal the win. It was his 36th save of the season.

Jason Heyward cracked a two-run homer and Freddie Freeman added a solo shot for Atlanta, which has won two in a row on the heels of a three-game skid. They remain on top in the wild card standings.

"Definitely a big win against these guys. They want to bury us everytime they play us," Freeman said. "It was a big win, we were able to come back and get some runs early, and get closer (in the standings). (Heyward), with the big home run to tie us up and (starting pitcher Tommy Hanson) battled. We didn't really help him out too much in the first couple of innings but we battled the rest of the game."

Eric O'Flaherty (3-0) earned the win after pitching a perfect eighth.

Adam LaRoche homered and Jayson Werth had two hits and scored a run for the Nationals.

Washington leads the season series, 10-7.

09/16 10:29:45 ET