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Nationals Take On Braves In Series Finale

(Sports Network) - Brandon Beachy impressed the Atlanta Braves by pitching well on short notice in a very important game, so much so that the team will call upon the rookie pitcher once again in a big spot this afternoon.

Beachy takes the mound for today's road clash with the Washington Nationals with his team locked in a tie for the lead in the National League Wild Card race with only seven games remaining in the regular season. The Braves share the top spot with San Francisco, which was knocked out of first place in the NL West following last night's 10-inning loss to Colorado.

Atlanta pulled even with the Giants by virtue of a 5-0 victory over the Nationals in Saturday's second test of this three-game series, getting a brilliant effort from Derek Lowe and a pack of relievers to come through with a sorely-needed win.

Lowe (15-12) worked the first five innings and scattered five hits and a walk in helping the Braves put an end to a frustrating four-game losing skid. Peter MoylanJonny VentersCraig Kimbrel and Billy Wagner finished off the six-hit shutout with a scoreless frame apiece.

"I've been fortunate to have been part of teams that have been in pennant races, and I think the main thing is to be able to act as if it is any other game," said the 14-year veteran Lowe. "Don't go out there and try to be a superhero and do things that you are not capable of doing."

Atlanta still has an outside chance at winning the NL East, but trails Philadelphia by six games heading into the final week of play.

The Braves led 1-0 after five innings before breaking the game open in the sixth. Derrek Lee started the uprising with an RBI double, and Alex Gonzalez belted a three-run homer two batters later to put the contest out of reach.

Gonzalez's blast chased Washington starter Yunesky Maya (0-3), with the Cuban rookie surrendering five runs (four earned) and eight hits before exiting after 5 1/3 innings.

"I thought he was better today than what he was the last time," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said of Maya, who was making his fourth big league start. "I think that what he's showed us is what he is and I think it is going to work."

Beachy showed the Braves something as well in making his major league debut in an emergency capacity this past Monday in Philadelphia. With intended starter Jair Jurrjens scratched just hours before the Braves' game with the NL East- leading Phillies because of a sore knee, the 24-year-old stepped in and allowed three runs -- only one of which was earned -- in a 4 1/3-inning stint.

He wound up taking the loss that night, but performed well enough to get the nod in place of a still-ailing Jurrjens again this afternoon.

Beachy received a promotion to the majors when rosters expanded in September after compiling a 5-1 record with an outstanding 1.73 ERA in 35 games (13 starts) between Double and Triple A, including a 2-0 mark with a 2.17 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) with Gwinett of the International League.

While the Braves will be sending out a pitcher with virtually no big league seasoning, Washington hands the ball in the finale to 14-year vet Livan Hernandez. The 35-year-old comes in hoping to duplicate a stellar showing against Atlanta earlier this month, when he yielded five hits and fanned six over eight shutout innings in a 6-0 Nationals' triumph at Turner Field on September 14.

Hernandez wasn't nearly as effective in Monday's home start against Houston, as the right-hander was tagged for eight runs (four earned) on eight hits, including two homers, in just five innings of an 8-2 loss. The defeat brought him to 10-12 in 31 assignments this season and raised his 2010 ERA to 3.75.

Despite owning a poor 7-16 record with a 4.88 ERA in 32 career games (31 starts) against Atlanta, Hernandez has fared well when facing the Braves this season. In four encounters with today's opponent in 2010, he's 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA.

As a team, Washington has won nine of 17 bouts with Atlanta this year, including five of eight tilts held in Nationals Park. The Nationals also took two of three on the road from the Braves from September 13-15.