Patterson leads Nats against Braves

Nationals welcome back Patterson

After a victorious return to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Monday, the Nationals look to gain more ground on the National League East frontrunners Tuesday with the second of four games against the Braves.

The Nats enter the day 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta and Florida, who leads the division by percentage points.

John Patterson -- who has been sidelined with lower back spasms -- makes his first start since May 15.

Patterson pitched seven shutout innings April 21 against the Braves, but got the no-decision as the Nationals lost, 2-1. He has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in May.

Braves left-hander Mike Hampton is also expected to make a return from the disabled list. The southpaw has been out with a strained left forearm since May 15.

Hampton lasted only 2 1/3 innings in his last start before getting hurt, but tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Houston in his previous turn. He pitched eight innings of one-run ball against the Nats in an 11-2 win April 11 at Turner Field.

Marlon Byrd hit two RBI doubles Monday to support Tomo Ohka and push the Nationals to a 3-2 win before a Memorial Day crowd of 39,705.

After the game the Nats activated Patterson and outfielder Wil Cordero, and optioned Tyrell Godwin and Brendan Harris to Triple-A New Orleans.

Pitching matchup
ATL: LHP Mike Hampton
• 4-1, 1.96 ERA in 2005
• 1-0, 1.13 ERA vs. WSH in 2005

WAS: RHP John Patterson
• 2-1, 2.98 ERA in 2005
• 0-0, 0.00 ERA vs. ATL in 2005

Player to watch
At .375, left-handed hitting Brad Wilkerson has the team's best batting average against lefties this season [of players with at least 20 at-bats against them]. Entering the series, the Nationals were hitting just .256 against lefties.

"It's good for the Rolaids and Tums people. It can be enough if you're getting this good of pitching, but it's like walking a tight rope. -- manager Frank Robinson, on his team being able to win when scoring just three runs

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
Official game notes

On television
• ATL: Turner South

On radio
• ATL: WGST-AM 640, WKLS-FM 96.1

Quick hits
Wilkerson extended his Major League lead to 22 doubles. ... The Nationals have used 39 players this season -- most in the Majors. ... Only 16 members of the Nats' 25-man active roster Monday were with the team on Opening Day. ... Atlanta pitcher Kyle Davies had tossed 13 1/3 scoreless innings to open his big league career before Byrd drove home Nick Johnson in the fourth Monday.

On deck
• Wednesday: vs. Braves, 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: vs. Braves, 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: vs. Marlins, 7:05 p.m. ET

David Selig is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.