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WSH@ATL: Gio K's Johnson to work out of an early jam

The Nationals carry a season-best lead over the Braves of seven games in the National League East as they look to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the reeling D-backs are simply hoping to avoid a four-game sweep that would be just another tough August blow. Arizona is 4-13 during the regular season's fifth full month.

While one club is trending upward and the other downward, they find common ground in the southpaws they will trot out on Thursday. Both Gio Gonzalez and Wade Miley could use a reversal of fortune.

Longevity has been an issue for Gonzalez, who has pitched fewer than six innings in four of his past six outings. He has struggled to keep opposing batters off the basepaths, allowing eight or more baserunners in four straight starts. Gonzalez had allowed that many men to reach base only once in his previous seven turns.

"I felt I was attacking the strike zone. I made pitches that I wanted to make, just tough breaks," Gonzalez said following his outing against the Pirates on Aug. 16. "I got ground balls that I wanted, they just found the hole. I got broken bats, and they found hits. So that's just baseball. That's how it's going for me this year. You've got to keep grinding, keep grinding."

Miley, meanwhile, has had some recent success. He has given up only four earned runs in his past 13 innings, striking out 17 and walking only three. But inconsistency has plagued Miley all season long.

He has nine quality starts in 14 outings since the beginning of June, surrendering two earned runs or fewer in six of those turns. But he has a 9.85 ERA in his non-quality outings during that stretch, struggling to keep his team close on nights when he does not have his best stuff working.

But after Miley limited the surging Marlins to only two runs (one earned) while fanning nine in seven innings on Aug. 16, the D-backs are confident in him.

"From the first pitch of the game, it seemed like he had really good stuff," shortstop Cliff Pennington said. "He battled, though. We didn't pick him up the way we should have, and he still gave us a chance to win the game. He threw a great game."

D-backs: Marshall's scoreless streak snapped
• Evan Marshall took the loss on Wednesday night as he surrendered a game-winning single to Anthony Rendon in a 3-2 loss to Washington. The loss snapped a run of seven straight scoreless outings.

Rendon's run-scoring base hit also marked only the third time Marshall has surrendered a run in 21 road outings. He has given four earned runs in 20 innings away from Chase Field.

Nationals: One win from matching history
• Washington's current nine-game run has it one win shy of its club-record winning streak of 10 games, set in 2005. 

The Nats have made a habit of keeping it close during this current run, winning six of the nine contests by one run, including Wednesday's triumph over the D-backs, which was their fourth walk-off win in the last five games.

Worth noting
• D-backs closer Addison Reed has converted nine straight save opportunities, the third-longest streak of his career. He had 16 straight conversions from Aug. 25, 2012 to May 2, 2013.

• Washington is 61-7 when scoring four or more runs and 11-46 when scoring three or fewer.

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