Don't look now, but the Nationals have their largest division lead since the end of the 2012 season. Yesterday's win over the Phillies coupled with Atlanta's loss to the Padres gave the Nats a 3 1/2 game lead in the National League East. That's the widest margin between a first- and second-place team in the NL. Currently, the Tigers are the only division-leading team in the majors with a larger lead. Detroit is five games up over the Royals in the American League Central. The Nats have played well the last couple of months, of course, and by taking the last two games of their four-game set with the Phillies over the weekend, they got back up to 11 games over .500 at 60-49. But a major reason for Washington's widening lead in the division has been the rough patch the Braves have hit as a team. Atlanta was swept by the Padres over the weekend (a San Diego team that entered that series 12 games under .500) and the Braves have now lost six straight and 11 of their past 15. Yeah, you read that right. Eleven of their past 15. The Braves are really struggling. Three of their last five losses have been of the walk-off variety, including the last two. And this came after a 10-1 loss to the Padres in Friday's contest. The Braves' run differential has dropped to plus-nine on the season, tied for 13th-best in the majors. The Nats now have a plus-80 run differential, tops in the NL and third-best in the majors. And things aren't about to get any easier for Atlanta the next couple of weeks. After having a day off today, the Braves will play two against the Mariners (three games over .500), three against the Nats (11 games over .500), four against the Dodgers (14 games over .500), three against the A's (24 games over .500), three against the Pirates (seven games over .500) and four against the Reds (one game over .500). I'll do the math for you: that's 19 straight games against teams who currently have records above .500. The Nats, on the other hand, have 10 of their next 17 games against sub-.500 teams. The kicker there, of course, is the three games between the Nats and Braves at Turner Field from Friday through Sunday. The Braves have taken seven of the 10 games between these division rivals so far this season, and we've talked quite a bit about their success against the Nats dating back the last couple of years. But if the Nats can flip the script and start playing better against the Braves, they could have a chance to open up a solid division lead here in the next few weeks. Atlanta is scuffling and about to hit a brutal stretch in its schedule. The Nats are playing fairly well and won't face many stiff tests in the near future. We'll see if that allows Matt Williams' squad to separate from Atlanta a bit.