In come the Braves

If you happened to miss last night's Nationals win over the Astros, and didn't see right fielder Jayson Werth's tag-avoiding, pop-up-short-of-the-bag slide into second base, I highly suggest you check this out:

Werth said he knew he was going to be out as he went into his slide, so he switched into self-preservation mode. Somehow, it worked.

"I think I've tried that a few different times, and I've never been successful at that," Werth said with a smile after the game. "It worked out today. Hopefully, I don't ever have to try that again."

The play was actually a pretty big one; instead of there being two outs and nobody on if Werth is caught stealing, there was a runner at second with one out, and Werth eventually came in to score on Ian Desmond's single to center.

Yeah, in what ended up being a one-run Nats win, Werth's nifty slide was huge.

Thanks to that win and two-game sweep over the Astros, the Nats go into their four-game series with the Braves with a little momentum built up. They've bounced back after losing the last four games on their recent road trip, and now will enter this series with the 2013 National League East champions with a little spring in their step.

"I think we feel good being where we're at," manager Matt Williams said last night. "We face a really difficult team over the next four games. I think it was really important to win this one tonight, and we need to look to tomorrow now and be prepared for that."

"It's going to be a tough series," center fielder Denard Span said. "It'd be good if we could just protect home field, even though this isn't the playoffs or anything like that. Just do what we do and try to win the series. ... If we go out there and play like we played tonight, play like we played the last two nights - playing aggressive, pitching the ball well, hitting with runners in scoring position - then there's no question we should win."

Thanks to a stretch which has seen them win 12 of their last 18 games, the Nats now hold a 1 1/2-game lead in the NL East, their largest advantage in the division since April 11.

What does that mean, exactly, as we sit on June 19? There are, after all, still 92 games remaining on the Nationals' schedule.

This four-game series won't make or break the Nats' season. But they have gone 1-5 against the Braves this season and have won just seven of their 25 contests against Atlanta dating to the beginning of the 2013 campaign. They'd love to make a statement of some kind over this series.

Yes, the Nats have an edge in the standings over the Braves going into this series. But that doesn't mean much to the players at this point.

"Standings, for me, until you're 10 games up going into September, they don't really matter," Werth said. "Anything can happen. With that said, we've been playing good ball and I think coming into this series, we've got some momentum. Hopefully we can use that momentum and kind of build on it.

"But these guys, this is the best team in the division over the last year. I think if we want to win the division, it definitely goes through them. All these games are meaningful. We know what's at stake and what they mean, even in the middle of June."

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