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WSH@ATL: Haren hurls eight strong frames vs. Braves

WASHINGTON -- Thursday was supposed to be an off-day for the Nationals and Tigers, but thanks to Tuesday's rainout, the clubs instead will spend it closing out their two-game set.

Washington will try for the quick sweep following Wednesday's 3-1 victory, its third straight win and fifth in six games. Detroit, which saw its four-game win streak snapped, still has taken nine of its past 11.

Both pitchers -- the Tigers' Doug Fister and Nationals' Dan Haren -- will be working on extra rest, thanks to the rainout.

Fister (4-0, 2.48 ERA), who has had five days off since pitching on Friday, will be going for his sixth consecutive quality start. The right-hander has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a game this season.

On Friday at Houston, Fister sailed through six scoreless innings but didn't record an out in the seventh, giving up three runs -- two earned -- on nine hits in taking a no-decision.

Haren (3-3, 5.01) is working on six days' rest and said he doesn't mind.

"You have to take it in stride," Haren said. "[Tuesday] was pretty much an off-day anyway. You [only] get so many off-days in a season. You hope to enjoy [them]. At least they called it early, so we can just relax."

Haren got off to a rough start but has turned it around, with a 1.93 ERA over his last two outings. On Thursday at Atlanta, he pitched eight innings -- moving past the sixth for the first time -- and held the Braves to one run on four hits while throwing only 90 pitches.

Manager Davey Johnson said Haren was more concerned with his health and arm strength coming out of Spring Training but now is "just pitching."

"Last two or three times out, he's been outstanding -- location, movement, changing speeds, reading hitters. He's been great," Johnson said. "More the Dan Haren I know."

Tigers: Martinez relegated to bench
Playing in a National League park, the Tigers don't have room in their lineup for designated hitter Victor Martinez, who did not start on Wednesday and likely won't again on Thursday. Martinez, who missed last season while recovering from knee surgery, believes he could catch if needed.

"I mean, I'm pretty healthy," Martinez said. "That's not a concern at all. It's a matter of just getting ready."

For now, Martinez is a pinch-hitter. He has only 45 pinch-hit plate appearances in his career, including a flyout on Wednesday, and last got a hit in that role in 2009.

• Tigers starting pitchers have recorded a quality start in 21 of 23 games going back to April 11. They have a 2.80 ERA over that span.

Nationals: Pick your catcher
Johnson has the luxury of two starting-quality catchers, in Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki, and he has alternated between them, except for when Ramos was on the disabled list. Ramos started consecutive games for the first time on Saturday and Sunday, and Suzuki was back in the lineup on Wednesday.

As far as how he will divide their time moving forward, Johnson said he is open to different approaches, including going with the hot hand. One idea he doesn't much like is having one guy be the personal catcher for a certain pitcher or pitchers.

"I really think both those guys, Suzuki and Ramos, are very well prepared, going over scouting reports. They've caught everybody, and we've been successful with whoever we've got behind the dish," Johnson said. "I've talked to the pitching coach, [Steve] McCatty, when I've had a question about who to catch, you know, 'Is there a pitcher preference?' And by and large, his reply was, 'No, they like throwing to both of them.'"

• Right fielder Jayson Werth figures to be out of the lineup for the fifth straight game on Thursday, when he will have an MRI done on his ailing right hamstring. Johnson said a stomach virus has left Werth dehydrated and contributed to the muscle tightening. 

Worth noting
• The Nationals' win on Wednesday was their first in seven games against the Tigers since the franchise moved from Montreal. It also was the teams' first meeting at Nationals Park.

• Fister's only career start against Washington came as a member of the Mariners in 2011, when he gave up one run over eight innings at Nationals Park.

• Haren has a 3.63 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers. Comments