"You've got to treat it like its our playoffs." -- Adam Dunn, on beating the suddenly struggling Braves

THE RESULT:  The chants started after the first home run, just a few in the upper deck behind home plate.  After the second homer, they grew louder and spread to different parts of the park.

The cheers came to a cresendo after the two-run single in the sixth.

"It's really good to feel wanted. Who doesn't want that feeling?" the hulking first baseman told reporters after the game.

Nationals Park fans, maybe for the first time ever, were actually letting anyone that would listen know how they felt about the slugger who becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

It remains to be seen who was listening.

Regardless, Adam Dunn drove in five runs tonight for the Washington Nationals, leading his last-place team over the Atlanta Braves 8-3, who now find themselves struggling to hold onto a playoff spot in the National League, before a raucous Friday night crowd of 22,515.

The win marks four in a row for the Nats, the first time this season they've been able to muster that long a winning streak.

The season record stands at 66-88 with eight games left, and you know the team -- and organization -- would love to reach the 70 win mark.  After four wins in a row, that goal actually looks attainable.

The loss also marks four in a row for the Braves.  They started play six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and a half-game behind San Diego for the wildcard and are slumping at the least opportune time of the season.

Dunn hit both his home runs (36, 37) off Tim Hudson (L, 16-9, 2.80), who usually owns the Nationals.  But the veteran righty struggled tonight, walking six and allowing six earned runs on seven hits, striking out just three.  He took a liner off his shin early in the game, but pitched through whatever discomfort he might have had.

On the other hand, Jordan Zimmermann had what Manager Jim Riggleman described as his "best start of the season", throwing five innings and giving up just one earned run (a solo homer by All-Star Omar Infante), three hits, one walk, one hit batter and struck out five.  Zimmermann earned the win (1-2), his first victory since June 29, 2009.

Willie Harris hit an inside-the-park home run in the seventh inning off reliever Kyle Farnsworth.  He drove a ball to the wall in straight center, and Nate McLouth slammed into the wall trying to chase it down.  McLouth lost the ball for a moment, and third base coach Pat Listach waived Harris around third.  The relay throw was a bit up the line, and Harris slid into home head first, beating the play.

It was his 10th home run of the season.

But the night belonged to Adam Dunn -- and the vocal section of the crowd chanting their desire for the front office to get him under contract.  Neither side really has a strong incentive to work out a deal until he files for free agency. 

Unless. of course, the team wants to show some goodwill to their fan base, especially considering the uncertainty going forward with Stan Kasten no longer advising the ownership.

THE GOOD:  In addition to Dunn and Zimmermann, props must be given to Tyler Clippard.  He went two innings, against the heart of the Braves order, and did not allow a hit or walk, striking out four of the six batters he faced.

THE BAD:  Joel Peralta was nowhere near as sharp as he was the other night, allowing two earned runs on two hits in one-third of an inning.

THE UGLY:  Dunn giveth and Dunn taketh away.  A routine ground ball with runners on ate him up at first base, allowing a run to score in the Braves two-run eighth.  But the damage was already done.

THE STATS:  7 Ks, 7 BBs, 2-for-9 with RISP, 0 LOB, 0 GIDP, 2 Errors (Dunn, Zimmermann)

NEXT GAME:  Quick turnaround: Saturday at 1:05 pm.  Yunesky Maya (0-2, 6.32) takes on Derek Lowe (14-12, 4.18).

NATS NOTES:  Ryan Zimmerman sat out his second straight game with a rib cage strain.  Riggleman said the team will be very cautious with the gold gove third baseman, fearful of him aggrevating the injury and missing the rest of the season.

Riggleman said he expects to have CF Nyjer Morgan back in the starting lineup Saturday. Morgan's eight-game suspension ended Friday.