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Nationals vs Braves Series Preview - "They're going to want our throat." - Bryce Harper

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The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves start a three-game set in Turner Field tonight with Stephen Strasburg on the mound against Braves' right-hander Ervin Santana. Can the Nats turn the tide against Atlanta and keep their losing streak going...

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

During Washington's last series with Atlanta, in June, which saw the NL East division rivals split a four-game set in the nation's capital, Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was asked if there was a bigger issue that could be identified that could explain the Braves' run of success against the Nats.

So far this season, the Braves are 7-3 against the Nationals, and over the last two years, they've won 20 of 29 games between the two teams. Of course, as Williams pointed out, he's only been around for the last ten games.

"I think that if we execute, we do things properly, we have a chance to win every day regardless of who we play." -Matt Williams on recent results against the Braves

"I don't have the history," he said after a 3-0 loss to the Braves that day, but he didn't think there was a "bigger issue" that could explain the lopsided nature of the rivalry in the past two seasons.

"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."

"Tonight they got us and we'll be ready tomorrow," Williams continued, "You can't think any further than that. You can't peek around the corner and you can't look back.  Tomorrow is a tough game for us and we're going to have to pitch well, we're going to have to play good defense and hit and if we do that, then we've got a chance."

The Nationals finished the first half with winning records against the rest of the teams in the division, going 5-3 against the Marlins, 5-1 against the Mets and 6-3 against the Phillies.

Williams was asked again right before the Break about battling it out with the Braves for the NL East crown in the second half.

"I'm not peeking around any corners. And neither are these guys. We have to play tomorrow against a very difficult team. And that's what we concentrate on." -Matt Williams on waiting to play the Braves to worry about them

"I'm not peeking around any corners," he said. "And neither are these guys. We have to play tomorrow against a very difficult team. And that's what we concentrate on. We can control our game and that's it, so I'm not worried about that other than we need to play well tomorrow."

The Nationals entered the Break tied with the Braves for the division lead, but won four straight after dropping the second-half opener to the Brewers and took a 2.0 game lead. Heading into this weekend's series they hold a 4.5 game lead, after going 4-4 on their recently-completed homestand while the Braves dropped eight-straight on the road.

Now they go head-to-head again in a three-game set in Turner Field. Williams was asked if he viewed the upcoming series as a chance to put some real distance between themselves and the Braves.

"I don't think we think that way," he said. "I think we think that we have a very important game tomorrow against a very good team. And we'll try to win that one and then as we've said all year long, when that one's over it's over. Good, bad or indifferent we have to play the next day too."

"They just came off an eight-game losing streak, so they're going to want our throat." -Bryce Harper on series with the Braves

Nats' outfielder, Bryce Harper, whose walk-off blast ended Thursday's marathon game with the Mets, said he expected to face a Braves team determined to snap their current losing streak.

"We're just going to go in and play some games," Harper said. "We're going to try to win some ballgames, of course. Atlanta's very good. They're very good at home and they just came off an eight-game losing streak, so they're going to want our throat. Hopefully we can go in there, we've got three good starters going and hopefully we can win some ballgames."

Jordan Zimmermann started the series finale with the Mets, so he won't pitch this weekend, but he was looking forward to the series.

"We're playing good," Zimmermann said. "We're playing good ball. We're pitching well and driving in some runs, so we're feeling good going into Atlanta and we'll see what happens.

"We want to go down there and at least win the series, two out of three and I think we'll be happy if we can do that. We've had a rough time with them, so we're going to have to play some good ball and see what happens."

Sorry, Braves. Nothing to pin on the clubhouse walls here.

• We talked about this weekend's series, Harper's big hit and Zimmermann's outing vs the Mets on the latest edition of Nats Nightly:

Online Baseball Radio at Blog Talk Radio with District Sports Page Nats Nightly on BlogTalkRadio

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