Wrapping up long road trip, Braves looming next week

Two losses in a row for the Nationals? Not concerned.

This road trip has still been a rousing success. Travel from San Francisco to St. Louis and then back to the diamond did not result in a win thanks to the outstanding pitching of Lance Lynn. The Cardinals right-hander has given up an important postseason home run to the Nats in a relief role, but has done a great job against them as a starter.

OK, I got that call a couple of weeks ago on Nats Insider (every Sunday 90 minutes prior to first pitch on 106.7 The Fan). You know the one. The Nationals aren't legitimate contenders until they can beat the Braves on a regular basis and to another extent, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Adding in Friday's 1-0 loss to St. Louis, the Nationals are a combined 3-8 against the Cardinals and Braves this season. They have been outscored 48-25 in those 11 games. Last season, they were 6-19 against those two clubs. So, that is 9-27 (.250) versus the Braves and Cardinals since the beginning of 2013. Winning one out of four games against this pair of formidable foes won't translate well into divisional or postseason success.

As the Nationals battled to just get a hit on the board Friday, my colleague Josh Land pointed out that the Nationals did have success against these clubs in 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, the Nationals went 10-8 against the Braves and 4-3 against the Cardinals for a combined total of 14-11 (.560).

In 2011, the Nationals went 9-9 versus Atlanta and 4-2 against St. Louis for a combined total of 13-11 (.542).

So, combining 2011 and 2012, the Nationals were 27-22 (.551) against the Braves and Cardinals, much better than the current 9-27 (.250) against that pair since 2013.

The Nationals still have two games left against the Cardinals this weekend, and 13 remaining regular season games against the Braves. That is 15 games remaining against the two teams that have recently had their number.

The Nationals have gone 3-1 against the Giants, 2-1 against the Rangers, 2-1 against the Dodgers and 14-6 against teams other than the Braves in the National League East.

(Don't worry, I see their 2-8 combined record against Oakland, Cincinnati and the L.A. Angels, I got ya. Duly noted.)

Hoping to get Bryce Harper back by sometime in July, plus left-hander Gio Gonzalez and catcher Wilson Ramos back soon, the Nationals will have 10 games against the Braves after Aug. 7. They also backloaded the rainout game against the Marlins for the final week of the season.

Coming up this week, the Nationals will face the Braves in a four-game set June 19-22, all at home. They have not faced Atlanta since April 13. It will be exciting to see how the Nationals, fresh off series wins over the Padres and Giants - a span where they had won 10 of 12 at one point - match up against the Braves now. The starting pitching has been rolling recently, the offense has been patient at the plate and has delivered big hits and the relief pitching has been consistent for pretty much the entire season.

The defense has done well, especially Anthony Rendon at third base and Ryan Zimmerman using his athleticism to make up for a lack of experience in left field. With a revamped feel to the team, maybe now the Nationals will be able to cut into Atlanta's dominance and set the tone for the second half of the season.

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