With 14 1/2 games separating the two teams, there is almost no chance that the Nationals will catch the Braves in the National League East.
But if the Nationals keep playing the way they have been over the last handful of games, they could make a push for the NL's second Wild Card spot, even though they suffered a tough loss Thursday to the Giants, ending their five-game winning streak.
If the Nationals are going to continue their winning ways, they will have to do so against the Braves -- a task that has not gone well so far in 2013.
The Braves have a 10-3 record against the Nationals heading into this weekend's series at Turner Field. In those 13 tilts, Washington has totaled only 26 runs and the club is collectively hitting .186 with a .277 slugging percentage.
But after scoring only six runs during a three-game sweep by Atlanta last week, the Nationals have scored 36 runs over their last six contests.
"Well, we went through periods where the maximum runs we scored would be two or three," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "I think in this win streak we've been averaging about six. I'd be happy if we had that happy medium in there, get four or five all the time. ... [But] when you're scoring six runs, you're going to come out on top."
Right-hander Alex Wood will get the start for Atlanta. Wood spent most of the season in the bullpen; this will be his fifth straight start since joining the rotation last month.
Wood, 22, probably has a limited number of starts left with Paul Maholm set to return from a wrist injury soon, but Wood has proved he can be reliable and has allowed just one run in his last two starts. In his most recent outing, he tossed six shutout innings and recorded seven strikeouts.
"I feel like I'm really starting to hit my stride. I feel really good," Wood said after that outing.
Taylor Jordan will get the ball for the Nationals with a limited number of starts left before he will be shut down for the season. The team is being careful with the rookie, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011.
"I've never said [what the limit is] and so we're going to pitch him and when we feel that he's had enough, we'll make a decision," said general manager Mike Rizzo.
Jordan, who has never faced the Braves, allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings against the Phillies in his previous appearance.
Nationals: Ramos expected back
Catcher Wilson Ramos is likely to return Friday. He exited Tuesday's game after tweaking his left hamstring and rested Wednesday and Thursday. He has twice landed on the disabled list this season with strains of the same muscle, though this setback is not considered as severe.
Braves: Pastornicky leaves game with sprained left knee
Tyler Pastornicky left Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Phillies early with a sprained left knee.
Pastornicky sustained the injury when he collided with right fielder Jason Heyward while both attempted to catch a fly ball.
The 23-year-old was called up earlier in the week to fill in at second base with Dan Uggla on the disabled list for Lasik eye surgery. Pastornicky was pleased with the opportunity to play every day before being banged up in just his second start since the promotion.
"I feel like it's probably my best position," Pastornicky said. "I just feel a lot more comfortable there. Everything that I've gone through so far, the turns, have been smooth. It's been a pretty good transition."
• Braves infielder Paul Janish recorded his first hit of the season Wednesday, in his 27th game.
• Against Atlanta pitching this season, Nationals hitters have drawn 26 walks and struck out 96 times.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.