Washington Nationals right-hander John Patterson, who struggled with a sinus infection in his last start, is still battling the ailment and is concerned that he might not be able to make his next scheduled start, tomorrow in New York against the Mets.

"I feel better," he said. "But I've lost so much weight. We haven't talked about what we're going to do as far as pitching yet. But I'm not sure."

Patterson was at RFK Stadium yesterday after spending the previous two games at home. "I basically slept for two days," he said.

The infection, Patterson said, caused him to lose 10 pounds. The Nationals, however, are in a bind with their starting pitching because of injuries to Ryan Drese and Tony Armas Jr. In yesterday's 9-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves, they started rookie reliever Jason Bergmann, the first of eight pitchers Manager Frank Robinson used.

The options, if Patterson can't go, aren't terribly appealing. Esteban Loaiza has pitched twice on three days' rest this season, winning both starts. But he said after yesterday's game that he is making his regular turn, on four days' rest, Wednesday. Patterson could be moved to Friday's game in San Diego, which would leave another game to a slew of relievers tomorrow.

"It'd be a different approach," Robinson said, though he wouldn't reveal how he would change his strategy.

Johnson Starts Anyway

Though Robinson said on Saturday that first baseman Nick Johnson wouldn't start a game until at least tomorrow -- giving his bruised heel more time to rest -- Johnson was in the lineup yesterday. He went 2 for 4 with his 13th homer and three RBI in his first multi-hit game since Aug. 13.

"It's going to be sore the rest of the year," Johnson said of his heel. "But when you get between the lines, you just do it."

Johnson's two-run single in the eighth ricocheted off the head of Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche, who had to leave the game. LaRoche was well enough afterward to talk to reporters, but the incident was reminiscent of the play on which Johnson broke his cheekbone last August.

"I feel for him a lot," Johnson said of LaRoche.

'Not My Finest Hour'

Bergmann, the man who started the all-hands-on-deck approach to pitching the game for the Nationals, gave up two runs in the first inning, but just one hit, Chipper Jones's RBI double.

"It wasn't my finest hour," he said. "I have to do my job. I didn't feel like I did that to the best of my ability."

Bergmann lasted just two innings. . . .

Rick Short and Johnson hit back-to-back homers off John Smoltz in the sixth, the third time the Nationals have hit consecutive homers all year and the first at home. Ryan Church and Vinny Castilla did it on April 9 at Florida, and Johnson and Jose Guillen did it August 14 at Colorado.

Atlanta's Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones responded with the game-winning, back-to-back shots in the ninth, the ninth time the Braves have hit consecutive homers this season. Jones and Jones have done it three times.