Getting a little distance within the division

As Giants first baseman Brandon Belt failed to secure a low, skipping throw and Adam LaRoche crossed first base safely in the ninth inning of last night's game, plating the game-winning run for the Nationals, a group of ballplayers about 650 miles away let out a frustrated groan.

According to reporters in Atlanta, Braves players watching the end of last night's Nationals game on a clubhouse TV made a loud, exasperated noise and dropped a few expletives when it became clear the Nats had earned another victory.

It's only early July and we haven't even hit the All-Star break yet, but that's the state of the National League East at this point.

The Nationals possess the best record in the NL and now hold a 4 1/2-game lead in the division. It's the second-largest margin between first- and second-place teams in all of baseball, and over the last 10 days, the Nats have shown no signs of letting up.

The 4 1/2-game division edge is also somewhat magnified by the fact that the Nationals have played great ball against their NL East opponents so far this season.

They're 16-9 against division foes and a combined 10-4 against the two teams that are reasonably within striking distance in the Mets and Braves.

Now, before heading into the break, the Nationals will have a chance to pad their division lead with three games at home against the lowly Rockies, who are tied for the worst record in baseball.

The Nationals will send Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against Drew Pomeranz, Jeff Francis and Jeremy Guthrie.

Yes, the Nats had a bit of a tough time with the Rockies a week ago, splitting a four-game set in Colorado. But their trio taking the mound (a combined 2.83 ERA) sure seems to have a bit of an edge over that of the Rockies (a 5.49 ERA).

The talented but flawed Marlins are nine games back. The Phillies are not even in sight at a whopping 13 games behind. And the Nationals are only getting healthier and seemingly picking up more steam with each passing day.

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