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WSH@CIN: Detwiler yields no earned runs in six frames

The Braves renew their National League East rivalry with the Nationals on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Nationals Park.

The Nationals dominated the season series early on in 2012, but the Braves rebounded toward the end of the year. Atlanta won six of the final 10 meetings, including the last four.

The Braves are atop the division and have won six straight games after completing a three-game sweep of the Marlins on Wednesday in Miami.

"Winning always is good. It's a good feeling," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez. "It will be an exciting series. They are throwing three pretty good pitchers against us. So it will be a nice test for us offensively."

Atlanta bolstered its offense during the winter by acquiring B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, but pitching has been instrumental to the Braves' early success this season.

"We've got all this power and this balanced lineup, but it's going to be about the pitching at the end of the year," Gonzalez said. "Not only with our team, but with every team."

The Nationals are the perfect example. Washington won the NL East in 2012 behind a strong starting rotation, led by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.

The Braves will face both Strasburg and Gonzalez over the weekend, but begin the series against left-hander Ross Detwiler.

Detwiler looked good in his season debut and held the Reds to an unearned run over six innings on April 6 in a no-decision. The southpaw has pitched well against the Braves in his career. He's 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 11 appearances against Atlanta, including eight starts.

"We have some good pitching," said Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth. "That whole team strikes out a lot and we have strikeout pitchers. So we'll see how we match up."

The Nationals are also coming off a three-game sweep after beating the White Sox, 7-4, on Thursday. Washington is 6-0 at Nationals Park, the most home wins in the Major Leagues.

Julio Teheran gets the ball for the Braves for his first career start against the Nationals. Teheran showed promise during Spring Training with a 1.04 ERA in six starts, but struggled in his 2013 debut against the Cubs on April 6. The right-hander allowed five runs on eight hits, including two home runs, over five innings in a no-decision.

Braves: Laird to start over Gattis
• With Teheran taking the rubber, Gerald Laird will be behind the plate instead of rookie Evan Gattis. The Braves want the veteran catcher to work with the young Teheran.

In six games, Gattis is hitting .391 with three home runs and six RBIs. Laird, 33, is 4-for-10 with two doubles in three games, but he doesn't have the same raw power as Gattis, who belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning on Wednesday.

Gattis still might be in the lineup, though. Gonzalez said Wednesday that there was a slight chance Gattis would start at first base Friday.

• B.J. Upton was held out of the lineup Wednesday as Gonzalez gave the outfielder a chance to rest and clear his head in anticipation of Friday's matchup. Upton is off to a slow start this year with a .103 average and 12 strikeouts in eight games.

"I'm seeing the ball well," Upton said. "Pitch selection is a little off for me right now. I'll say inconsistent. But it's getting better. I feel good up there. That's all that matters. I'll start hitting the ball here pretty soon. I'd rather it be now than in August or September."

Nationals: Haren impressed by former teammate Upton
• Nationals right-hander Dan Haren won't face Justin Upton, his teammate for three years with Arizona from 2008-10, in this series, but the starter is still impressed by the outfielder's hot start.

Upton, acquired by the Braves in the offseason, leads the NL with six home runs and is hitting .353 (12-for-34). Haren said the two-time All-Star appears to be sending a message to his former team.

"Everyone agrees that the talent has always been there," Haren said. "He had times where he has put it all together, making an All-Star team. He has never put it together for that long. Right now, he is in one of those streaks where he is tough to get out. I think he is a little inspired, trying to show the Diamondbacks how good he can be and obviously play hard for his new team."

Worth noting
• Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is 5-for-14 (.357) in his career against Detwiler with one double and one RBI.

• The Nationals won the season series last year, 10-8.

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