After last night's loss, the Washington Nationals are 1-6 against the Atlanta Braves so far in 2014 and 9-17 against their NL East divisional rivals since the start of the 2013 campaign. In the nation's capital over the last season-plus, the Nats are just 3-10 against the defending division winners.
Though the Nationals hold a .5 game lead in the NL East after last night's loss, and though it's still relatively early, before the latest series began, Nats' right fielder Jayson Werth acknowledged that he and his teammates were going to have to turn things around and get through the Braves if they want to win the division for the second time in three seasons.
"This is the best team in the division over the last year or so," Werth told reporters after Wednesday night's win over the Astros, "and I think if we want to win the division it definitely goes through them, so all these games are meaningful and we know what's at stake and what they mean, even in the middle of June."
Adam LaRoche told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr, that he was at a loss to explain the lopsided nature of the rivalry in the past two seasons:
"'I don't know what it is,' LaRoche said. 'You got to think losing that many games it's not all coincidence. They play us tough, you know, plain and simple. They come up with some big hits and we seem to not get a lot of action on the basepaths. I don't know what it is at this point. Between them and St. Louis, just kind of snake bit, those two teams.'"
Matt Williams has only been on the Nationals' bench for seven of the games between the Nationals and Braves over the recent run of dominance by Atlanta, so he said he was reluctant to buy into the idea that the Braves had the Nats' number or are in the Nats' heads.
"I don't have the history," Williams said. "So I don't buy into that. I think that if we execute, we do things properly, we have a chance to win every day regardless of who we play."
Williams is sending the same lineup that struggled against Gavin Floyd and the Atlanta bullpen last night out to face Braves' lefty Mike Minor today.
The Nationals, as a team, have a combined .284/.345/.408 line against left-handed pitchers this year, good for 1st in the NL (tied with the Rockies) in AVG, 2nd in OBP (behind the Pirates - .349) and 7th in SLG (tied with the Brewers).
• Here are the lineups for the second game of four with the Braves in D.C.:
|ATLANTA BRAVES||WASHINGTON NATIONALS|
|Tommy La Stella - 2B||Denard Span - CF|
|B.J. Upton - CF||Anthony Rendon - 3B|
|Freddie Freeman - 1B||Jayson Werth - RF|
|Evan Gattis - C||Adam LaRoche - 1B|
|Jason Heyward - RF||Ryan Zimmerman - LF|
|Chris Johnson - 3B||Ian Desmond - SS|
|A. Simmons - SS||Danny Espinosa - 2B|
|Jordan Schafer - LF||Jose Lobaton - C|
|Mike Minor - LHP||S. Strasburg - RHP|