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ATL@SD: Santana strikes out six in 6 2/3 innings

After being swept for the third straight series, the Braves are looking for someone, anyone, to turn things around. They hope Ervin Santana will be their stopper Friday night against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals at Turner Field.

It will be an important series for both ballclubs, divisional opponents with playoff aspirations -- Washington sits in first place in the National League East, while Atlanta is 4 1/2 games back in second -- but especially for the scuffling Braves.

Atlanta continued its slide with an eighth straight loss on Wednesday, falling to the Mariners in Seattle. The Braves have also lost 12 of their last 16 games. They'll return home for Friday's series opener looking to get back into the thick of the playoff hunt with Santana on the mound.

Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche knows the Braves' struggles won't last forever.

"It's a matter of time before they turn it around. That's why we need to keep doing our thing and not worry about that," LaRoche said. "I've always said we're going to take care of ourselves and whatever happens with other teams, happens. Regardless, they're still a very dangerous team and we need to go into Atlanta knowing that. Especially against us this year, they've been really, really good [at 7-3]. They bring their 'A' game. They're a good ballclub."

The Nationals are 9-7 since the Braves slide started -- July 21, the day Washington took over sole possession of first place -- but that's good enough to break away in the division.

"It's kind of been slow and steady this whole year -- no real big droughts and, again, no long win streaks," LaRoche said. "But now would be a good time to kind of take off and build that gap a little bit."

They will seek to do it against Santana on Friday. The right-hander, who is 10-6 with a 3.59 ERA this season, is the last pitcher who's won a game for the Braves. Santana struck out 11 Padres over eight scoreless innings on July 28.

Santana has also pitched during the losing streak, but he was not the pitcher of record, taking a no-decision in his last start after throwing 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball on the road against the Padres on Saturday.

Santana's opponent will be Strasburg, a fellow righty and the Nationals ace. He put together his first scoreless outing since April in his last start, arguably his best of the year. Strasburg threw seven innings, allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in a win over the Phillies on Sunday.

Strasburg is just 8-9 on the year, but he holds a 3.39 ERA. He had a solid -- if unspectacular -- July, with four games of two runs or fewer and two four-run outings, before dominating in his first start of August.

Braves: No timetable yet for Simmons' ankle sprain
Donning a soft cast and tape around his left ankle, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons gingerly limped around the Safeco Field visitors' clubhouse Wednesday morning. Crutches leaned against his locker.

Simmons was forced to exit in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 4-2 loss on an odd play that began when Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison grounded an RBI single into left field. As Justin Upton's throw sailed high over home plate, Simmons looped around the infield and caught his foot covering third base, then crumpled to the ground. After being examined by a trainer and manager Fredi Gonzalez, he was replaced by Ramiro Pena.

Shortly after, the club announced that Simmons sprained his ankle.

"I was really mad I had to come out of the game," Simmons said. "You have no idea. I wish it was a play where I was running and sliding -- something productive."

Simmons maintained that the ankle was feeling better Wednesday than it did the night before, but he added he had no idea if the sprain might require a stint on the disabled list. He is considered day to day.

Nationals: Ramos activated from paternity list
Wilson Ramos didn't get the start in Thursday's series finale against the Mets, but he was activated from the three-day paternity list. The Nationals optioned Sandy Leon back to Triple-A Syracuse to make room on the roster.

Ramos' wife, Yeli, gave birth to a baby girl Tuesday. Washington manager Matt Williams said he was hopeful Ramos would make it to the park in time for Thursday's contest, but Ramos was waiting at the hospital for doctors to discharge his family. Backup backstop Jose Lobaton got the start instead.

The club expects Ramos to fly with the team to Atlanta and be available Friday against the Braves.

Worth noting
• Rehabbing Braves reliever Jonny Venters threw 20 fastballs in a bullpen session Tuesday and felt good afterward, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Venters, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012, is trying to make his way back from a second Tommy John surgery. There is no public timetable for his return.

• Washington center fielder Denard Span is batting .448 with a .935 OPS in August.

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