A chance to put the final nail in the divisional race

Yesterday sure made for an interesting off-day.

We had Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, who lives in the Houston area, interviewing for the Astros’ managerial job.

Porter is highly thought of within the Nationals organization and is considered a candidate to eventually replace Davey Johnson once Johnson decides to step out of the managerial role. Porter missed out on two past managerial openings after interviewing for the position; he was up for the Pirates job in 2010 and the Marlins gig last year, only to see both organizations go in another direction.

A few Nats players have remarked in the past that they think Porter will make an excellent manager one day. The question now is whether he’ll get that chance in Washington or somewhere else.

Yesterday also gave us an interesting back-and-forth between renowned orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum and, well, himself.

The Los Angeles Times published a report yesterday which quoted Yocum saying that the Nationals hadn’t asked for his advice on whether they should shut down Stephen Strasburg this season, and that he hadn’t talked to general manager Mike Rizzo all year, something which goes contrary to what Rizzo has previously said.

The Nationals claimed that they used information from Yocum and sought his counsel when it came to whether they should cap Strasburg’s innings in this his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Later in the day yesterday, Yocum, who not only performed Strasburg’s Tommy John but also operated on Jordan Zimmermann, Sammy Solis, Lucas Giolito and other Nationals pitchers, then clarified his comments, saying that he had indeed talked with the Nationals this season and offered his medical opinion on Strasburg’s recovery process.

Glad we got all that cleared up. And I’m sure Strasburg is just thrilled to know that his name is still making headlines even though he hasn’t thrown a pitch in nearly a week and won’t again the rest of this season.

The Nationals open a three-game series with the Braves tonight in Atlanta, a series that is big because it’s the last time these two teams meet in the regular season.

It’s also big because, unless the Braves score a sweep of their visitors, the Nats might be well on their way to putting away the division title.

The Nats lead the Braves by a season-high 8 1/2 games entering tonight, an edge which will be incredibly tough for Atlanta to overcome with only 18 games left on its schedule.

Should the Braves take two of the three games this series, they’d still trail by 7 1/2, leaving them with little hope of overtaking the top spot in the division with about 2 1/2 weeks left. Barring a miracle finish, a sweep is really their only chance of staying in the NL East race at this point.

The Nationals will send Ross Detwiler, Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez to the mound these next three days, while the Braves will counter with Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson and Mike Minor.

Buckle up, folks. This is a chance for the Nationals to put things away.

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