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NYM@ATL: Harang strikes out nine over six strong

The last time Braves starter Aaron Harang faced the Nationals, he enjoyed a banner day. Wearing a Mets uniform, Harang struck out 10 batters in six innings on Sept. 12, 2013, notching a quality start in defeat at Nationals Park.

However, as Harang prepares to face Washington seven months and one day later as the Braves go for the sweep, his last outing against Atlanta's National League East rival is out of mind.

"I haven't even thought about it," Harang said.

And why should he? Through two starts this season, Harang has performed even better and owns a 0.71 ERA. He took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Brewers on April 2 and gave up just one run on two hits in six frames against the Mets on April 8.

Harang wiped the slate clean and watched the Nationals with fresh eyes on Friday and Saturday, studying the lineup that entered Saturday night's game ranked third in the Majors with a .786 team OPS.

"You've got to be careful, because they all have the potential to hit the home run," Harang said. "You've got to go out and make sure you're executing pitches and moving the ball around the zone.

"The best way to limit their production is keep runners off base. You've got to make sure you're not walking guys, and when you do, try and keep the damage at bay."

Harang has not surrendered any homers this season, but his four walks against the Mets on Tuesday are the second-most he has issued since the beginning of last season. The Nationals are averaging 3.3 walks per nine innings against the Braves this season.

Last season, they were issued only 2.8 walks per nine. But if Harang is unable to match the success of his first two performances, rallies like Atlanta's back-to-back outputs of seven and six runs against Washington give the veteran hurler confidence.

"On good teams, when the offense is struggling, the pitching has got to step up and help cover that," Harang said. "When the pitching's struggling, you hope the offense can fire on all cylinders and help pick up the guys when they're not pitching as well."

Gio Gonzalez will oppose Harang. Gonzalez, like Harang, is enjoying a stellar start to 2014 with a 2-0 record and a 0.75 ERA. The Nationals have lost six straight games started by Gonzalez against the Braves.

Braves: Floyd, Minor to make rehab starts
• Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd will each have their third rehab outing on Sunday. Minor will start for Class A Rome, and Floyd will take the mound for Triple-A Gwinnett.

Each pitcher is expected to throw 75 pitches. Floyd started and Minor pitched in relief for Gwinnett in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday. Floyd threw 60 pitches in four innings of work, while Minor threw 65 pitches in 2 1/3 innings.

Barring any setbacks, both pitchers are expected to join Atlanta's rotation during the final week of April.

• Craig Kimbrel recorded his 144th career save on Saturday night and now trails John Smoltz's franchise record by 10. The outing also marked his 18th career save against the Nationals, tied with the Mets for his most against any team.

Nationals: Frandsen flourishes while filling in
• With Denard Span sidelined due to a concussion and Jayson Werth only available to pinch-hit due to a tight groin, Kevin Frandsen earned the start in left field and finished 2-for-3 with a walk Saturday.

The performance was Frandsen's first multihit game since Sept. 22, 2013, and he raised his batting average to .455 (5-for-11) this season.

• Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will be out four to six weeks due to a fractured right thumb he suffered on Saturday.

Worth noting
• Adam LaRoche is batting .242 (8-for-33) with four home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in his career against Harang.

• Andrelton Simmons is batting .357 (5-for-14) and Chris Johnson is batting .333 (6-for-18) against Gonzalez.

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