Opposite dugout: First place on the line with Braves set to play four in Washington

braves-logo.jpgManager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year
Record: 36-35
Last 10 games: 4-6
Who to watch: C Evan Gattis (.294/.346/.588, 16 HR, 38 RBIs); LF Justin Upton (.278/.351/.510, 14 HR, 13 doubles, 37 RBIs); RHP Julio Teheran (6-4, 2.31 ERA, 0.93 WHIP); RHP Gavin Floyd (1-2, 2.98 ERA)
Season series vs. Nats: 5-1, 32 runs scored, 16 runs allowed

Pitching probables
June 19: Gavin Floyd vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7 p.m., MASN HD
June 20: Mike Minor vs. Stephen Strasburg, 7 p.m., MASN2 HD
June 21: Julio Teheran vs. Doug Fister, 7 p.m., FOX
June 22: Ervin Santana vs. Tanner Roark, 1:30 p.m., MASN2 HD

Series breakdown
The Braves spent all but two days atop the National League East from April 12 to June 10, but come to Washington looking up at the Nationals.

First place is on the line as the NL East rivals go head to head for a four-game weekend series at Nationals Park with the Nats leading the pack and the Braves tied with the Marlins for second 1 1/2 games back.

Truth is, the door is most open to Miami this weekend if the Nats and Braves beat up on each other in D.C. But recent history suggests that won't be the case, as Atlanta has had Washington's number the last two seasons, going 18-7 against the Nats during that time.

The Braves have won five of six meetings this season, but the teams haven't played since April 13.

The Nats surged to first place by winning 10 of 12 from May 30 to June 11, and then two more in a row following a four-game skid. The Braves have slipped behind by losing six of eight. At one time, Atlanta was 10 games over .500, but the club comes into the series at just 36-35.

The Nats are no strangers to facing quality pitching and in the Braves, they face another one of the NL's best staffs.

Atlanta ranks fifth in the NL with a 3.41 ERA and second with 594 strikeouts. The Braves possess the majors' fourth-best rotation (3.34 ERA) and throw out their top two starters in the series. Maryland native Gavin Floyd and ace right-hander Julio Teheran will pitch the first and third games of the series, respectively.

Floyd takes a 2.98 ERA through eight starts to the mound against Jordan Zimmermann tonight while Teheran (2.31 ERA) goes head-to-head with Doug Fister on Saturday in a pair of outstanding pitching match-ups. Teheran has tossed two shutouts this season and is coming off a gem where he held the Phillies to one run in eight innings.

The bullpen hasn't been quite as good, ranking 10th in the NL with a 3.55 ERA. But closer Craig Kimbrel has remained reliable, tying for third in the majors with 20 saves in 23 chances while pitching to a 1.98 ERA.

The offense has been the Braves' downfall, although they remain one of the NL's most powerful clubs, ranking fourth with 70 homers.

The rest of the picture isn't as pretty. Atlanta stands 14th in the NL with 258 runs and 11th with a .244 average.

Catcher Evan Gattis has put together a fantastic year, posting a .934 OPS to go with 16 homers and 38 RBIs. Left fielder Justin Upton's .862 OPS, 27 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs have been a huge help. And first baseman Freddie Freeman has an .855 OPS, 33 extra-base hits and 36 RBIs.

However, second baseman Dan Uggla, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, third baseman Chris Johnson and center fielder B.J. Upton have all weighed down the lineup with each posting an OPS under .700.

The pitching has been more than enough to keep the Braves afloat this season and if they continue to have success against the Nats, they have a chance to be back in first place by the end of the weekend.

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In come the Braves

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