The Braves and Nationals will play twice on Saturday at Nationals Park. Atlanta's wacky 11-10 victory in 11 innings on Friday night -- when it erased a 9-0 hole -- proved anything can happen. Should one team triumph on both ends of the double dip, the impact could be felt throughout the National League East. The Braves can shave two games off their 2 1/2-game deficit, while the Nationals can pad their lead and further separate themselves from their division foes.
"This is a big day," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "We're playing the second-place club. Even last year, when we'd go in and play clubs that were ahead of us -- Atlanta when they were fighting for the pennant, Philly -- we get up for those games. They like to get up for the toughest competition."
The Nationals are 7-3 against the Braves this season, despite Friday's collapse.
"It's the same emotion over on the Atlanta side," Johnson said, "except they need to prove themselves that they can beat us and get back on top. The emotion's going to be the same both ways."
In the first contest on Saturday, Atlanta's Ben Sheets (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will oppose Washington's Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.89 ERA). In the nightcap, Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52 ERA) will take the hill for the Braves, while the Nationals will counter with John Lannan, who will make his season debut.
"This is a big series for both clubs," Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez said. "We could make up a lot of ground and Davey is probably over there talking about getting a little bigger lead on us."
Braves: Jones scheduled for afternoon rest
Third baseman Chipper Jones returned to the lineup on Friday after missing two starts with right knee soreness. He's expected to rest during the first game of Saturday's twin bill, but start the nightcap. In his final season, the 40-year-old is batting .310 with eight homers and 37 RBIs.
Nationals: Desmond returns to lineup
All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond was back in Washington's starting lineup Friday night after missing five games with a left oblique strain.
The injury kept Desmond from participating in the Midsummer Classic. The 26-year-old is batting .289 and leads all Major League shortstops in home runs (17), RBIs (52) and slugging percentage (.510).
"Obviously, when you play this sport, any time you can get rest, you take advantage of it," Desmond said.
Desmond went 1-for-4 with a pair of walks in Friday's loss to Atlanta.
Right fielder Michael Morse went 3-for-6 with a 465-foot three-run homer on Friday to boost his average to .296. The homer was the longest hit at Nationals Park.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, rehabbing from a broken left wrist, was scratched from a rehab outing with Class A Potomac on Friday because of inclement weather and stiffness after he took his first swings in 2 1/2 months.
Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who started the All-Star Game, went 3-for-4 with two walks, scored four runs and made a flashy diving stop to cap Atlanta's win on Friday. Uggla entered the game mired in a 9-for-91 slump (.099 average).