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ATL@PHI: Minor strikes out nine over seven innings

The Braves' magic number remains at four as they begin a three-game series with the second-place Nationals on Monday and look to get closer to clinching their first National League East crown since 2005.

It won't come easy against the Nationals who, despite being in second place, sit 10 games back of the Braves in the division and 4 1/2 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.

The Nationals have come on strong as of late, winning eight of their last nine. A big reason has been the offense, which has outhomered opponents, 20-1, in the last nine games.

Braves left-hander Mike Minor looks to shut down that offense -- led by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (nine homers this month) and center fielder Denard Span (26-game hitting streak) -- on Monday and rebound from a rough Aug. 17 start against the Nationals in which he allowed four runs and walked four over 1 2/3 innings.

Washington counters with right-hander Dan Haren, who tossed six shutout innings in his last start after allowing 12 runs over 5 2/3 innings in his previous two outings.

"There is no explanation. It's just the way the season has gone," Haren said after his last start. "The last game I pitched against [the Mets], I gave up six or seven straight singles. Today, I had better stuff with the strikeouts. I was getting a lot of swings and misses. I knew my stuff was better. I was happy I could come through for the team."

Haren tossed eight innings of one-run ball against the Braves on May 2.

Braves: Going deep
Eight Braves have at least 10 home runs, while center fielder B.J. Upton is one homer shy of double digits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves' franchise record for the most players with double-digit home run totals is nine, by the 2007 club.

• First baseman Freddie Freeman has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, during which he's batting .392.

Nationals: Span at 26
Span enters Monday's opener riding a career-best 26-game hitting streak, one shy of Colorado's Michael Cuddyer's for the longest in the Majors this season.

It's the second-longest hitting streak in Nationals history, only trailing Zimmerman's 30-game streak in 2009.

• Zimmerman has homered in eight of the Nationals' last 13 games and his nine home runs this month have already matched the Nationals' record for home runs in the month of September (Adam LaRoche 2012).

Worth noting
• Braves closer Craig Kimbrel has allowed only two runs and 23 hits in his last 47 appearances (47 1/3 innings).

• Braves pitchers have recorded an NL-high 17 pickoffs at first base this season. The Blue Jays lead the Majors with 18. Comments