I'm off to Atlanta, ready for some quality National League East baseball and a city that doesn't have a ridiculous pollen count.
I forgot to take my allergy pill yesterday and probably ripped off 150 sneezes in a 12-hour span. My apologies to everyone near me in the press box.
When the Nationals last saw the Braves back at Nationals Park a little over two weeks ago, they got their butts handed to them. Not much other way to put it.
Atlanta outscored the Nats 18-5 over that three-game sweep, with the Nationals putting up just one run over the final 25 innings. The Nats made four errors in those three games and allowed 29 Atlanta hits.
The Braves marched out of D.C. with an 11-1 record and looked something close to unstoppable.
Since then, the Braves have gone 4-8. They've lost seven of their last nine. They're no longer looking so unstoppable.
That's the beauty of this game. It all can turn in the blink of an eye.
The Nats, meanwhile, have righted the ship after a rough stretch, taking three of four against the Reds.
These two division rivals will play 16 more times before the end of the season, so there's no need to treat these four games in Atlanta like they're the be-all, end-all. But the Nats certainly remember what happened in the district the last time they faced the Braves, and they're eager to get another crack at the team currently atop the NL East.
"It's a big series. It is," Adam LaRoche said. "Regardless of what time of the year it is, this is the time that we can turn the tides a little bit. They came in here and killed us, so it'll be nice to try to even that out and keep the momentum going a little bit."
The Nats will send their Nos. 1-4 starters (Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren) to the mound this series, while the Braves will throw Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen, their Nos. 5, 1, 2 and 3 starters.
The Nats saw Teheran, Hudson and Maholm in that series in D.C. a couple of weeks ago. Those three combined to allow five earned runs over 20 2/3 innings in that set, with Hudson and Maholm both pitching gems.
The Nats will get a bit of a boost with catcher Wilson Ramos coming off the disabled list today after missing the last 15 days with a strained left hamstring. Ramos pointed out following yesterday's game that it was during that Atlanta series that he suffered the hamstring injury, so tonight's game will bring things full circle a bit.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is back from injury, but catcher Brian McCann is still out and right fielder Jason Heyward recently joined him on the DL.
The Braves aren't at full strength, but neither are the Nats, who still are without Ryan Zimmerman. That won't do much to damper this series between two teams with plenty of talent.
"They're in front of us," Johnson said. "They're playing awful good. We come down there, we got the right match-ups going, so it should be a great series."