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ATL@WSH: Garcia holds Nationals to one earned run

The National League East-champion Braves still have plenty to play for in the final week of the season with home-field advantage in the playoffs still up for grabs, but manager Fredi Gonzalez will take the opportunity to rest some of his players.

The Braves own a half-game lead on the Cardinals and a two-game lead on the Dodgers for the best record in the National League and home-field advantage in the playoffs -- but they dropped the series opener to the Brewers.

Gonzalez gave first baseman Freddie Freeman a rare day off on Monday and the skipper said Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson and Jason Heyward would all get rest this week, with the only known day off coming on Wednesday for Heyward.

"I think having the best record in the National League is important," Gonzalez said. "We have to balance it out. Some guys need rest, and I'm going to take these next seven days. We're going to give a guy one or two a day. I'm not going to give four or five at the same time, but some of the guys are a little banged up, and I think we're going to use this to get a little recharged. I think at the end of the season, having three days off is going to help us through some of those bumps and bruises. In this game, you have to keep the pedal to the metal. You can't just turn it off and on and expect something."

The Braves will have Freddy Garcia on the mound to try to get back on track Tuesday. Garcia, who was acquired in a trade with the Orioles a month ago, has been spectacular for Atlanta since his callup from the Minors in early September. The 15-year Major League veteran started in the Braves' bullpen, but has made two starts this month with a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings.

The Braves' offense will look to rebound from a three-hit clunker in Monday's opener against Brewers right-hander Tyler Thornburg. The 24-year-old right-hander has also been spectacular during his stint with Milwaukee this season. In six starts, Thornburg has eerily consistent numbers with six innings pitched in each of them and no more than two earned runs allowed. That is good for a 1.25 ERA as a starter.

Thornburg's sparkling numbers are surprising considering he went 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts with Triple-A Nashville this season.

"He's throwing the ball great," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He keeps putting up a lot of zeros. I know I get the question every time he's pitched about what happened in Triple-A, but he's really confident right now, and that confidence [comes] along with three plus pitches. Maybe not command over those three plus pitches, but when he does command it, and if he continues to improve his command in the future, you've got a guy who can probably start, and maintain that through a season. But command is going to be an issue, and stamina is going to be an issue -- how he maintains his stuff going through 90, 100 pitches."

Brewers: Thornburg's 2014 role remains up in the air
• It remains to be seen whether Thornburg will be pitching as a starter or out of the bullpen in future outings with the Brewers, according to Roenicke.

Despite Thornburg's impressive numbers in the Majors this season, Roenicke said there are still other routes to consider for Milwaukee's 2014 rotation such as the free-agent market this offseason.

"I'm OK if he comes in [to Spring Training] and it's open," Roenicke said. "We need to decide on exactly what we're doing next year. Are we going to go with young guys on the staff, or is there a free agent that slots in somewhere and that all of a sudden bumps somebody? … Those things happen with [general manager] Doug [Melvin] and what he sees out there on the free-agent market, or a trade or whatever."

Thornburg also pitched well out of the bullpen this season for the Brewers working as a long reliever.

• Rookie pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson will take Wily Peralta's turn in the rotation on Saturday if a blister on Peralta's right index finger -- suffered in his last start on Sunday -- forces him to miss his final start.

Braves: Garcia eyeing Braves' postseason rotation
Garcia will be playing for more than just home-field advantage on Tuesday, as the veteran right-hander will make another pitch to the Braves as to why he should be included in their postseason rotation.

Gonzalez said Monday that Garcia has worked his way into the conversation for the Braves' fourth spot in their postseason rotation, along with Wednesday starter Paul Maholm. The opportunity for the two veterans comes after the decision to move rookie Alex Wood to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

"He knows how to pitch," said Gonzalez of Garcia. "He's not scared, he's not rattled, he's been in those situations. It wouldn't surprise anybody if he's one of the candidates for that spot."

Garcia will make his 13th start of the season between the Orioles and the Braves. He enters Tuesday with a 1.31 ERA and an opponents' OPS of .547 in two starts and three relief appearances spanning 20 2/3 innings with the Braves.

Worth noting
• The Braves are 18-13 against the NL Central this season, while the Brewers are 17-10 against the NL East -- their only winning record against any NL division this year.

• Garcia has only started three games against the Brewers in his 15-year career, and is 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA. Thornburg has never faced the Braves.

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