Williams won't let recent difficulty against Braves cloud preparation

The Braves have now won six of the first seven games against the Nationals this season following Thursday's 3-0 series-opening win. The Nationals have lost four straight against Atlanta, with their only victory a 2-1 decision April 6.

Nationals manager Matt Williams said he takes the series with the Braves one game at a time and will not let the recent downslide against Atlanta cloud his team's preparations for tonight.

Williams said Gavin Floyd's curveball last night was as one reason why Atlanta was able to shut out the Nationals.

"We'll take Desi (Ian Desmond) as an example. Last night, he swung at some bad ones," Williams said. "But if you look at Desi's history, last year, all but one of his homers came on curveballs. So, OK, he certainly hits them. But last night it was really good.

"We don't go beyond that. I don't think you can go beyond that as a player or as a coach other than to say they played better than we did last night. It doesn't mean we can't flip the coin tonight."

Williams has said the history between the Braves and Nationals does not mean much to tonight's outcome, using the following analogy.

"I guess I would pose the question back if I could," Williams said. "If we won last night, would it all be over? No. Right? That is how deep we go.

"If you would to say if we would've won last night by a scored of 10-0, would all the history be over with? No. That is all we can think about is tonight."

Williams said Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos did well in batting and fielding practice before Friday's game against the Braves.

"They both looked good," Williams said. "Everything's on schedule. Willie's leg feels good.

"Bryce's thumb was a little bit tender, not in the surgical part of it, but on the back side, which is expected, because he is doing a lot of strength stuff. But he was able to swing today with no issues and drive the ball. He is right on schedule too. Everybody's good. We will look at their plans in the next day or so and see what we will do."

Harper is on the disabled list following surgery to repair a torn left thumb ligament dating since April 26, while Ramos is on the DL with a right hamstring strain retroactive to June 11.

Williams said Ramos could start minor league rehab games as early as this weekend.

"We will see how he comes out of today," Williams said. "Certainly, he has got more stuff to do - strength stuff, test stuff, running, all that - so that could be this weekend. Bryce, at some point during the road trip. That is where we are at right now."

Does the time frame as to when Harper return have to coincide with when Ryan Zimmerman gets back up to speed at third base?

"We want to have our best lineup, our best nine guys in there on any given day," Williams said. "So that is part of the evaluation and part of the decision that has to be made on any given day when Harp is ready.

"We have to also take into account Wilson, too. How does that stack our lineup? Does that allow us to give guys days off? All of those things that's been beat to death so far. It's a question that has to be answered and we will answer it when the time comes."

Williams said Zimmerman could play third base today if necessary.

"So could he do it if we needed him to do it? Yeah."

Williams broke down the plan for Zimmerman and how many reps he will get at third base coming up in the next few weeks.

"A little bit," Williams said of Zimmerman's practice at third base. "He is starting a progression. He will continue to do that over the course of the road trip in anticipation of Harp coming back. That is still unclear, we don't know when that will be. Every other day he is getting some work."

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