Stephen Strasburg plans to make that task more difficult.
The right-hander takes the mound Friday night as Washington seeks a seventh victory in nine meetings with visiting Atlanta this season in the opener of a four-game set.
Atlanta (50-41) has surged to within 3 1/2 games of the Nationals after beating San Francisco 3-2 on Thursday for its eighth victory in 10 games.
Washington (53-37) fell 9-5 to the Mets later in the day, and the Braves could claim the division lead with a four-game sweep, which they haven't accomplished versus the Nationals franchise since Sept. 20-23, 1996, against the Montreal Expos.
The Braves have hit .229 while dropping six of eight in 2012 to the Nationals, who have won nine of the last 11 matchups. Dan Uggla , though, is 7 for 13 with two homers and a pair of doubles lifetime off Strasburg, who is 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA in three starts versus Atlanta this season.
Strasburg (10-4, 2.66 ERA) ended a career-worst three-start skid by allowing six hits in six innings of Sunday's 4-0 win over Miami, escaping brief bouts of trouble and also adding an RBI single in the fifth inning.
He's 10 for 26 with a homer and four doubles this season."That's the kind of Strasburg I've grown to love," manager Davey Johnson said. "Even though he had two or three rough jams, he pitched out of them by basically making pitches with his fastball."
Strasburg, however, tied the shortest outing of his career when he gave up three runs and walked four in three innings of a 7-5 loss at Atlanta on June 30. He was forced to leave early and received multiple intravenous fluid treatments due to the city's record 106-degree heat.
It's only expected to be in the high 80s in the nation's capital as Strasburg looks to help Washington avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since June 24-25.
Ian Desmond singled as a pinch-hitter, and he'll return to the lineup Friday after not starting the last five games while battling a strained oblique.
"We fought back, even without our best guys out there, which is a good sign," Desmond told the team's official website. "We had some good at-bats coming down the stretch there."
Zimmerman is 3 for 21 lifetime against Atlanta starter Tommy Hanson , who is coming off one of his toughest outings of the season. The right-hander gave up six runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of Atlanta's 8-7 win over the Mets on Saturday.
Hanson (10-5, 4.02) had a 3.32 ERA on June 15 that has steadily increased while he's gone 3-1 with a 5.87 ERA over his last five starts.
He allowed two runs in seven innings to beat Washington 3-2 on June 3.
|July 14, 2012||Jack Wilson||15-Day DL||Dislocated right pinkie finger|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||15-Day DL||Broken right pinkie finger|
|July 08, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
|July 05, 2012||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Left elbow impingement|
|June 17, 2012||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|July 18, 2012||Jhonatan Solano||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|July 01, 2012||Chien-Ming Wang||15-Day DL||Strained right hip|
|June 30, 2012||Stephen Strasburg||Day-to-Day||Left game - heat exhaustion|
|June 24, 2012||Xavier Nady||15-Day DL||Right wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Oblique soreness|
|June 11, 2012||Roger Bernadina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chipper Jones has seen a lot in his 19 seasons with Atlanta. Even he hasn't seen anything like what the Braves did Friday night.
Atlanta was down 9-0 after five innings with Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the mound. The Braves came back to take the lead in the top of the ninth, after the Nationals tied it Atlanta pulled out a wild 11-10 win on Paul Janish 's run-scoring bloop single in the 11th.
"I don't even know where to start," said Jones, who drove in two runs with a single in the Braves' four-run eighth inning. "I still can't believe it. I mean, 9-0. That's never happened to me since I've been here."
In the top of the 11th, Dan Uggla led off with a single against Tom Gorzelanny (2-2), advanced to second on Ryan Zimmerman 's throwing error and then went to third on a passed ball before scoring on Janish's bloop that just barely fell in past shortstop Ian Desmond 's outstretched glove.
"A really crazy game, but it counts, right?" Janish said. "All that matters is that we end up with one more than them, so it worked out."
It was the Braves' largest comeback since 1987 and pulled them within 2 1/2 games of the Nationals in the National League East. The teams will play three more games this weekend, including a doubleheader Saturday.
"It's a big series, and there's no way we were just going to go down without a fight," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The nine-run lead was the largest ever given up by the Nationals franchise, including the games played as the Montreal Expos.
"Arguably the worst game I've ever managed in my life," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "I've never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it'll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did."
Atlanta scored four runs in both the sixth and eighth innings. Tyler Clippard came on in the ninth hoping to close the game for the Nationals, but walked leadoff batter Dan Uggla and hit Jarnish, who was squaring to bunt. After pinch-hitter David Ross struck out, Michael Bourn tripled to right field to score both runners.
"The old saying, when you're down that much, if you get the closer up the bullpen you feel like you won a moral victory," Gonzalez said. "We got him in the game, we kept scoring runs, and it was like, `Hell, we've got a chance to win this thing."'
Craig Kimbrel blew his second save in 30 chances in the bottom of the ninth when Danny Espinosa hit a solo homer into the visitors' bullpen in left-center field to tie the game at 10.
Eric O'Flaherty (2-0) pitched the 10th to earn the win, and Chad Durbin was perfect in the 11th for his first save.
Michael Morse and Zimmerman each hit two-out, three-run homers off Braves starter Tommy Hanson , who gave up a season-high eight runs on eight hits.
Morse's fifth homer of the year - a bomb that nearly reached the Red Porch restaurant in the centerfield concourse - came in the first. Zimmerman added his 12th in the fourth, hitting a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats. The Nationals scored three more in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Washington starter Stephen Strasburg and Steve Lombardozzi 's two-run single.
Lombardozzi had three hits in the game, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
Pitching on his 24th birthday, Strasburg held the Braves scoreless through the fifth, when rain started to fall, but seemed to tire in the sixth, giving up four runs, starting with a two-run homer by Brian McCann scored the Braves' first runs with a two-run homer in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske narrowly missed another when he hit a double off the top of the wall, and Martin Prado capped the four-run inning with a two-run double off reliever Michael Gonzalez .
"Either way, even if we didn't win the game, it would be one of the best games I played in my career," Prado said.
NOTES: Nationals OF Jayson Werth , on the DL with a broken wrist, was scheduled for a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac on Friday, but Washington manager Davey Johnson said it would be pushed back to Saturday because Werth was feeling some stiffness and a forecast of rain. ... SS Ian Desmond , who has been dealing with a strained oblique muscle, was in the starting lineup for the first time since July 14. ... Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said 3B Chipper Jones will sit the first game of Saturday's doubleheader. ... Freeman doubled in the second to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, and C Brian McCann doubled in the fourth for a 10-game streak.