Despite torrid stretch, Braves on Nats' heels

Despite torrid stretch, Braves on Nats' heels

Despite torrid stretch, Braves on Nats' heels
PHOENIX -- As much as the Nationals have been winning since the All-Star break, the Braves have stayed right on their heels.

Washington entered Sunday's series finale at Chase Field having won eight straight, 10 of 12 in August and 22 of 31 since the All-Star break. But the Nats haven't pulled away in the National League East, as Atlanta has won seven of its last 10 and 20 of 28 since the Midsummer Classic.

Put another way: The Nationals were four games ahead of the Braves at the break, and despite a torrid stretch of baseball, particularly on the road, their NL East lead has only increased half a game.

"We think there's nothing we can do about it," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "I don't want to see anybody change anything. I don't want us to start having to try to play harder or play better because the Braves are winning. If they happen to keep it going, then obviously we need to.

"It's impressive that they're not falling behind at all. They're a really good team. They had some streaks earlier in the year where they were struggling. ... They're playing just as good as we are right now, but that doesn't affect us."

Manager Davey Johnson noted Saturday night that the Nats could play .500 baseball the rest of the way and still finish 95-67. The Braves, meanwhile, would have to win 29 of their final 49 games to tie Washington with 95 wins. But the Nationals, obviously, have higher aspirations than a 24-24 finish.

"We don't need anybody keeping us honest," Johnson said.