After back to back losses to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Braves hold a 6.5 game lead over their division rival the Washington Nationals ahead of a crucial four-game series. For the Braves, a lot will be learned from this series.
Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Braves started hot with a sweep over San Diego. They stayed hot after beating Milwaukee in the first game, but would go on to drop the next two games and the series. It was the first series loss for the Braves since the June 4th series against the Pirates. The Braves had won 9 of their last 10 series up to that point.In the end, the post-All-Star road trip was a success for the Braves, going 4-2.
With the Nationals coming into Atlanta, the Braves won’t have much time to focus on their losses in Milwaukee. Luckily, for the Braves, the Nationals dropped their series finale to the Orioles, which kept the Braves NL East lead at 6.5. If the Nationals had won yesterday’s game with the Orioles, this series would have even bigger implications wrapped up in it.
The Nationals were not the team knocking on Atlanta’s door this time of the year. But here we are. Washington has been able to keep somewhat of a pace with the Braves, both teams going 7-3 in their last ten games. Great pitching is the thing spearheading the Nationals to fight for the NL East title led by Stephen Strausburg, Max Schrzer, and Patrick Corbin. Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Juan Soto among others, are handling the offensive side for the Nationals. The Nationals have not messed a step since losing Bryce Harper.
The Braves shouldn’t be too concerned, however. They are the team that has played themselves into the position of having a lead over the Nationals and the rest of the NL East. The Braves have been one of the best teams in baseball. Sure, the pressure is on the Braves to maintain the lead. But the pressure is also on the Nationals not to get buried when this series is over. If the Braves can take 3 of 4 from the Nationals, the lead has suddenly been increased to the point of questioning whether the Nationals can overcome such a lead. The onus and pressure lies with Washington this series.
With all of that said, the Braves don’t want to walk away from this series with their NL East lead around 2.5-3.5 games. That would be too close for comfort for the Braves. However, I do not see this Braves team dropping this series to Washington. Maybe they’ll come away with a 2-2 split. Or maybe they can take 3 of 4 from the Nationals. Whatever happens, the Braves need to be on their toes. The Nationals are hot on their trail.