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WSH@NYM: Gio dominant through six in 19th victory

The baseball world has once again recognized the Nationals' playoff drought during this breakout season, but a different streak could be snapped Sunday afternoon at Turner Field.

Gio Gonzalez will take the mound for the Nats against the Braves hoping to become the franchise's first 20-game winner since Ross Grimsley went 20-11 in 1978 for the Montreal Expos. Washington could use the win after dropping two straight to the Braves.

Gonzalez has been brilliant over his last three starts -- all wins -- allowing just one run on 11 hits over 22 innings. Through two September starts, the 26-year-old left-hander boasts a 0.69 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.

"When you start looking at one thing, it drives you crazy," Gonzalez said after his last start on the possibility of winning 20 games. "I think the way we are going, it is having fun and continue to play our baseball. If it comes, it comes, but at the same time, I'm looking further than that. I want to continue to contribute to this team."

Gonzalez' most recent outing, though, was somewhat puzzling. Against the Mets on Monday, Gonzalez allowed only one run on three hits over six innings -- though struggles with his command resulted in five walks, tying his season high.

"It's great that Gio won his 19th, but boy, he scared me a lot," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "He had more balls than strikes [earlier in the game.] He was basically all over the zone."

Gonzalez has faced the Braves three times this season, going 2-1 with a 4.86 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.

From the opposite dugout, the Braves will send out another left-hander, Mike Minor, looking to hand Atlanta a three-game sweep. Minor is 8-10 with a 4.42 ERA this season, though he has yet to surrender a run in September. This month, Minor is 1-0 with three hits, 15 strikeouts and six walks over 12 2/3 innings.

Nationals: Bernadina nursing stiff neck after leaping catch
Roger Bernadina arrived at Turner Field on Saturday with "a little stiff neck," according to manager Davey Johnson. Bernadina had crashed hard into the left-field wall while making a leaping catch in the fifth inning of the Nats' 2-1 loss to the Braves on Friday. After throwing the ball into the infield, Bernadina went down to one knee in apparent pain while Johnson and a trainer ran out to attend to him. Bernadina stayed in that game, but was held out of Saturday's starting lineup before coming off the bench as a pinch-runner.

"You just go about the game. It didn't feel good, but I focused on the game," Bernadina said. "That moment, I'm so focused on the game, you don't pay attention to it."

Braves: Chipper closing on Gehrig
Chipper Jones was out of the Braves' starting lineup on Saturday but entered as a pinch-hitter an stayed in the game, going 0-for-1 with a walk. When he returns to action on Sunday, he'll do only three hits shy of passing Lou Gehrig on MLB's all-time hit list.

The third baseman currently sits at No. 59 all time with 2,718 hits. Roberto Alomar (2,724), Tony Perez (2,732) and Goose Goslin (2,735) are also all within Jones' reach.

Worth noting
• After homering in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Braves, Adam LaRoche sits at 30 home runs on the season. LaRoche's career high is 32 with the Braves in 2006, and at 94 RBIs, he is three shy of his career high of 100, set with the D-backs in '10.

• The Braves are 7-10 against the Nationals this year heading into Sunday's series finale, which will be the last game between the two teams in the regular season.

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