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Braves-Nationals Preview

Bryce Harper's batting average dropped 30 points over the course of five days during a slump that included his career-best 20-game streak of reaching base coming to an end.

Then, something clicked.

Harper's most recent heroic effort pushed the Washington Nationals over .500 for the first time this season, and he'll look to continue his torrid run in Sunday's series finale against the visiting Atlanta Braves.

The 22-year-old's average dipped from .275 to .245 as he went 1 for 17 with six strikeouts during a five-game stretch that concluded with him going hitless and failing to reach base in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Miami.

Harper, though, responded Wednesday with three homers in a 7-5 win over the Marlins and hit two more in Friday's 9-2 victory over Atlanta, becoming the youngest player in major league history to hit five in two games.

Harper then came up in the bottom of the ninth Saturday and hit a two-run walk off homer that gave Washington an 8-6 win.

''Right when I hit it, I knew it was gone," said Harper, whose six homers in a three-game stretch fell one off the major league record set by Shawn Green in 2002. "Around the bases, got to home plate, and to enjoy that with the team is huge."

The Nationals (16-15) have won nine of 11 and have scored 43 runs in four games against the Braves in that stretch. Harper is 8 for 16 in those contests against Atlanta.

''Certainly we don't expect him to hit a home run every day,'' manager Matt Williams said. ''But he can get in streaks like this where he sees the ball very well.''

Harper is 5 for 11 with two doubles in his career off Alex Wood, who gave up five runs in five innings of a 13-4 loss to the Nationals on April 29 after going 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA in his previous six outings against them.

Things didn't go much better for Wood (1-2, 4.32 ERA) on Monday, as he allowed three runs and nine hits over 4 1-3 innings in a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia.

The Braves have dropped each of the left-hander's last five outings

''I've got to make an adjustment,'' said Wood, who had a 2.59 ERA in 24 starts last season. ''It's a humbling game, to say the least.''

Jordan Zimmermann opposed Wood last month, giving up four runs and striking out seven in seven innings. Zimmermann (2-2, 4.15) allowed one earned run in seven innings of Washington's 6-4 win over Miami on Monday, improving to 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts since allowing eight runs in a loss at Boston on April 13.

The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA in his last six against the Braves (14-16), who have lost seven of eight on the road.

Pedro Ciriaco's two-run, pinch-hit double in the seventh began a rally Saturday for Atlanta, which scored three more in the eighth to tie it. Slowing Harper, however, might be the only way for the Braves to salvage the finale of this series.

"When the guy is going that good, that hot, you're almost going to have to bounce it there,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''And maybe even then he could hit it out of the ballpark.''

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