Braves' starter Aaron Harang entered Wednesday's series finale in the nation's capital with a (1-4) record, a 5.06 ERA and a .301/.358/.430 line in nine second-half starts over which Atlanta was 1-8.
Against the Braves' NL East rivals from Washington, however, the veteran right-hander has been solid this season.
After three 2014 starts vs the Nationals, and seven innings today in which the Nats scored just one unearned run, the 36-year-old starter is now (2-0) with two earned runs allowed in 20 IP (0.90 ERA).
So what, aside from the shadows in Nationals Park today, makes Harang so tough an opponent?
"I can't tell you why he's so good against us," Denard Span said after going 1 for 4 with a run scored in the Nats' 6-2 loss. "He just did a good job today. He just pitched well today, no ifs, ands or buts about it, he did his job and they were able to get a win today."
"He's just a good pitcher," Bryce Harper told reporters after he went 0 for 3 against Harang and 1 for 4 on the day, taking Braves' closer Craig Kimbrel deep for a ninth-inning home run.
"[Harang] goes out there with 88-89, touching 91, he just pitches. He uses all of his pitches every count, he flips the count sometimes where it's 1-2 he throws a heater right down the middle and he gets you. Sometimes you get a little frustrated against a guy like that, but all in all I felt we did pretty good."
"Today is pretty tough peeping out there," Nationals' manager Matt Williams explained.
"Shadows are tough, breaking ball especially when you have shadows like that is difficult and change of speed. And he can do that really well, regardless of shadows or not. But he just changes speeds and throw strikes to both sides of the plate at any time in the count. So he's difficult."
Harang gave up just six hits and struck out nine, throwing 94 pitches total in his seven innings of work.
After Stephen Strasburg's fourth start of the year against Atlanta, a six-inning outing in which he gave up a total of three earned runs on seven hits, one a home run, while striking out eight and throwing 99 pitches, the 26-year-old right-hander is (0-3) with a 7.17 ERA (17 ER allowed) over 21 ⅓ IP vs the Braves.
B.J. Upton struck first for the visiting team, hitting a first-pitch fastball out to left in the first at bat of the fifth for a 1-0 lead.
The Nationals rallied to tie it with a run on a passed ball with Span on third in the bottom of the inning, but the Braves scored two in the top of the sixth with Freddie Freeman doubling to left and scoring on a Justin Upton single to right and Tommy La Stella doubling to left-center and scoring on a two-out single by Christian Bethancourt, who went down for a full-count curve and sent it to right field for an RBI hit and a 3-1 lead.
"I thought he was pretty good," Williams said of the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick's work on the mound.
"He gave up the homer to [B.J.] Upton, and then Justin hit a ball -- good piece of hitting trying to move the guy from second to third and [Adam LaRoche] dove for it and it went off his glove. Then the pitch to [Christian] Bethancourt was probably down and off the plate and he did a nice job of serving it into right, but other than that I thought he pitched pretty well today."
"I've just got to make a better pitch 0-0," Strasburg said of the 96 mph fastball inside to B.J. Upton that went out to left field. Other than that though, he said he felt fine on the mound.
"I felt great out there," Strasburg told reporters. "I felt like I was hitting my spots and just a couple hits that were just out of our reach and that's the ballgame."
The sixth inning, in particulary, was just a case of the ball being a few inches away from an out on Justin Upton's grounder by first and La Stella's fly to left-center that Span almost caught.
"I mean Freddie [Freeman] is one of the best hitters in the game so you've just got to go out there and try to execute pitches and he hit a pretty good pitch there down the line for a double and Upton kind of hit one right there just out of [Adam LaRoche's] reach and I made a bad pitch to La Stella, with two strikes, trying to go in and it kind of came back over and he put a good swing on. And the 97 [mph pitch] down, that was probably a ball, 3-2, and the catcher just fought off and hit it out to right."
The Nationals did, of course, take two of three from the Braves, but they know there are still games to be played.
"We've just got to keep going," Strasburg said. "Keep trying to win as many games as possible."
"I think that two out of three is good," Williams explained. "Winning a series is good. They swung it really good today, but overall in the series, if we can win two from these guys out of three, that's pretty good."
Washington fell to 82-62 on the year with the loss, but they still hold an eight-game lead in the NL East.
• We talked about Harang and Strasburg, the series in D.C. and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly after this afternoon's game: