Nationals begin stretch drive with pivotal homestand vs. NL East rivals New York Mets and Atlanta Braves

The Washington Nationals, hot off an 8-2 road trip, return to the Nation's Capital this week to face the New York Mets [Aug. 17-19] and the Atlanta Braves [Aug. 20-22], two longtime rivals who are eager to gain ground on the NL East frontrunner.

"In a pennant race, every single game has added importance and we want to gain every advantage we can," said Nationals Manager Davey Johnson. "Let me tell you, the roar of supportive fans gives our players a huge boost."

Next week's series against the Braves is particularly critical, as the two teams currently occupy the top positions in the division with the Nationals currently leading the Braves by four-and-a-half games heading into the weekend.

Fans who don't want to miss a minute of this vital homestand can still purchase great seats to see the Nationals take on their division rivals for the final time at Nationals Park during the 2012 regular season.

"The Braves have been hot on our heels for most of the season," said Mike Rizzo, Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. "They would love nothing more than to come into Nationals Park and gain some advantage in the closing weeks of the regular season, but we're determined not to let that happen."

To purchase tickets, visit nationals.com/tickets.