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Many pundits figured the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals would decide the National League East, and it appears the division race could be finalized when the division-leading Braves visit the Nationals starting Monday. Mike Minor starts the opener as Atlanta brings a 10-game lead over Washington into the three-game series. The Braves are searching to re-ignite their offense with two weeks remaining in the regular season, having scored three runs or less nine times in 14 games this month.
Washington has kept Atlanta from clinching by winning 10 of its past 12 contests. The Nationals’ offense has roared to live recently, scoring 6.1 runs per game since Sept. 3 and posting six runs or more seven times in their past nine games. Denard Span collected two hits in Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia to extend his hitting streak to 26 games.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network, SportSouth (Atlanta), MASN (Washington)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves LH Mike Minor (13-7, 3.15 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Dan Haren (9-13, 5.02)
Minor has been outstanding for Atlanta most of the season, but he is 2-2 with a 4.79 ERA in his past six starts. The 25-year-old, who struggled with allowing home runs early in his career, has given up five longballs in his past three starts. He has no record in two starts versus the Nationals in 2013, allowing six earned runs in 7 2/3 innings (a 7.04 ERA).
Haren made one of his best starts of the season Wednesday at New York, holding the Mets to one hit with one walk and eight strikeouts in six shutout innings. The veteran right-hander (who turns 32 Tuesday) is 5-2 in his past 10 starts after starting the year 4-11. He is 1-0 in two games against Atlanta this season, allowing a total of one run on five hits.
1. Washington is a major league-best 25-10 since Aug. 9 and has won six of its past seven series.
2. Haren earned the first save of his 11-year career Aug. 17 in Atlanta, pitching a scoreless 15th inning.
3. Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman has a seven-game hitting streak.
PREDICTION: Braves 5, Nationals 4