When the Braves added a right-handed veteran of 12 Major League seasons and more than 300 games to bolster their injury-riddled rotation late in Spring Training, this was the sort of game why.
Atlanta climbed within 3 1/2 games of first-place Washington in the National League East on Friday with a 7-6 win, and the Braves will send Aaron Harang to the mound opposite righty Tanner Roark in the middle game of the teams' three-game series.
The record doesn't show it, but Harang has been very good of late. He owns a 2.88 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break -- all Atlanta losses. Against the Padres on Sunday, Harang yielded two runs in six innings. It was the 17th time in 23 starts that Harang gave up no more than two earned runs while lasting at least six innings.
Harang will try to continue the Braves' improbable run against the Nats. Following Friday's win, they are 8-3 against Washington and 51-53 against everybody else.
"Every game counts within our division, and I think it's set up that way on purpose," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Eighteen to 19 games in the division. If you're ahead, you've got a chance to expand your lead, and if you're behind, you've got a chance to catch up by winning series against them. Is it the end of the world [if we lose this series]? No, but I would like to win it, start reeling it in a little bit. It's not impossible really."
Added Washington manager Matt Williams: "We want to play well and beat them so there's no ground to be made up and move on to the next series, but you have to play well to do that. They have had great success against the Nationals, so it's up to us to play good and beat them and see where we go from there."
Charged with attempting to reverse Washington's fortunes is Roark. He had been rolling -- tossing seven innings and allowing one run in four straight starts -- until getting touched up by the Orioles on Monday. He allowed five runs on seven hits (two homers) in 6 1/3 innings.
"I think he got some pitches up," Williams said about Roark afterward. "Then he hung a slider to [Delmon] Young. He was pretty good up until that point. The ball was up in the zone."
Roark has faced Atlanta twice this season. He allowed five runs in 4 2/3 frames on April 11 before bouncing back with a one-run, 5 1/3-inning effort on June 22.
Nationals: Outfielders Werth, Souza banged up
Friday started with Washington right fielder Jayson Werth getting a day off to manage his right ankle and right shoulder soreness, and just three innings into the game, his replacement in right, Steven Souza Jr., exited with left shoulder inflammation after banging into the right-field wall.
Kevin Frandsen replaced Souza and played left. Bryce Harper moved from left to right.
Werth's ailments, meanwhile, aren't considered anything too serious -- just the usual pains that come along with a long season.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of things," Williams said. "We'll get the guys to work on him. Hopefully, he'll be good to go for the next two and then we get another off-day [on Monday], so that will help him a lot."
Braves: Upton brothers set Major League record
When Justin Upton sent a two-run home run to straightaway center in the first inning and B.J. Upton followed suit with a two-run shot to left in the second, that did more than just give the Braves a sizable early lead. They set a Major League record by homering in the same game five times, which is more than any other brother combo in history.
"I think it's enough to say two brothers have been in the big leagues as long as we have, and getting the opportunity to play with each other is enough," B.J. said. "For us to be able to break a record, you can only dream about that."
Their effort Friday night broke a tie with Vladimir and Wilton Guerrer as well as Jason and Jeremy Giambi. The Uptons tied them on June 24 when they homered in the same game for the fourth time.
Justin's long ball helped him reach a personal milestone, too. It was his 20th of the season, giving him back-to-back 20-homer seasons for the first time in his career.
• The Braves are hoping to avoid placing shortstop Andrelton Simmons (left ankle) on the disabled list. He wore an air cast on his ankle and walked with a slight limp Friday afternoon, but reported improvement over his condition on Thursday.
• The four home runs Stephen Strasburg allowed Friday were a career high.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.