Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo: "We Intend To Be Playing Meaningful Games In September and October." - Feb, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 8: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals rounds third to score against the Miami Marlinsat Nationals Park on September 8, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

The Washington Nationals finished their season series with the NL East's second-place Braves with four straight losses to their divisional rivals, including the three-game sweep in Atlanta's Turner Field this weekend, but the Nats held a 10-8 advantage over the Braves after 18 games between the two teams in 2012. The Nats took the first three games on the schedule when they swept Atlanta in Washington's first visit to Turner Field May 25th through 27th. 3-0 D.C. The Nationals split a two-game set in the nation's capital on June 2nd and 3rd after the first game of three was postponed. 4-1 D.C.

When they met again in Atlanta three weeks later, 6/29-7/1, the Nats took two of three on the road to take a 6-2 lead in the season series. In a four-game set in Washington on July 20-22nd, Atlanta took the first two including the first-half of a Saturday doubleheader, but the Nationals came back to take the second game that day and the fourth game of the series for an 8-4 lead over the Braves after 12 of the 18 games on the schedule.

The Nats took two of three and a 10-5 lead at home in a series from August 20-22nd against the team that took over second-place on July 8th and came within two games of the #firstplaceNats as late as August 3rd. With the three-game sweep this weekend in Atlanta and the Braves' win over the Marlins Monday night in Miami, the Fredi Gonzalez-led, Chipper Jones-powered Braves are 84-63, within 5.0 games of Davey Johnson's 89-57 Nationals, and they made the season series respectable by winning the last four with the Nats...

"You like to leave a sour taste in the other team’s mouth as they’re leaving," Atlanta's 40-year-old, Hall-of-Fame-bound, 19-year veteran told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Carroll Rogers after the Braves had completed the sweep of the Nationals, which he said let everyone, "... know that on a nightly basis we can stand toe-to-toe with them." Unless the teams meet in the postseason, they stood toe-to-toe together for the last time this season Sunday night. The Braves will have to rely on help from several teams including the LA Dodgers, against whom the Nats are 0-3 before the start of this week's three-game set in D.C.'s Nationals Park.

After Los Angeles, it's Milwaukee for four games in the next-to-last home series of the year in Washington. The Nationals took three of four from the Brewers when the two teams met back on July 26-29th in Milwaukee. Then it's three with the Phillies, who've taken seven of twelve from the Nats this season with six games remaining between the two teams. Between those two series with the Phillies, the Nationals play three more with the Cardinals they took three of four from August 31-September 2nd. The Nats are 11-12 so far against the teams they end the season playing.

The Braves play the Marlins (twice), and the Phillies, Mets and Pirates, three games each over the next three weeks. The Nats are 31-15 against the four teams they finish this season playing. How comfortabled are the Nats with the 5.0 game lead? Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters Sunday night he was fine with where the Nationals stand after 146 games. Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell, in a paragraph of a 678-word answer to a question in a chat this afternoon, got excited about the prospect of the pennant race the sweep in Atlanta may have provided for fans in Washington, D.C.:

"For years, I've said that I wished Washington could experience a REAL pennant race. Well, if they'd won two-of-three in Atlanta, you'd never have seen one this year __just a runaway. Now, maybe, we'll get to see the real thing. Believe me, a 5 1/2 game lead with 16 games left and 10 of them at home is NOT high pennant race tension. But it'll put some chill and thrill in the air at Nats Park this week and next Monday."

Next Monday the Nationals will be finishing up their three-game set with Milwaukee. Then it's six with the Phillies and Cardinals on the road and back home to end the year with three against Philadelphia in Nationals Park. Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound against the Dodgers tomorrow in D.C. The 26-year-old right-hander missed LA the first time around. The Dodgers throw Aaron Harang. When the season started Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo spoke often about the goal being playing meaningful games in September.

Davey Johnson said he wanted a pennant.

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