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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

You tell me: How will the Braves fare in D.C.?

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Here's how it looked when last they met. (David Goldman/AP)

Here’s how it looked when last they met. (David Goldman/AP)

As John Sterling, who worked here before becoming the overheated voice of the Yankees, is wont to say: You can’t predict baseball. The Atlanta Braves are headed to Washington D.C. for four games. The Braves have lost six of their past eight series (halving one) and are but a game above .500. The Nationals, who trailed by 3 1/2 games on June 1, now hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Braves and the Marlins.

The Braves, who were just swept by the Phillies, aren’t playing well. The Nats, who swept the Astros but were themselves swept by the Cardinals before that, are playing better. The Nats are getting healthy — everyone but Bryce Harper is back — and probably had more talent than the Braves to begin with. This means something.

So, however, does this: Since Aug. 21, 2012, the Braves are 22-7 against the Nationals. If a team played at that rate against every opponent over 162 games, it would win 123 games, which would be a record. The Braves have come to own the Nats, and when the Nats left here in April, having been swept yet again, they were all but conceding the point. Which doesn’t mean things can’t change. But will they these next four days?

The Braves will see every Washington starter except Gio Gonzalez, who returned from the disabled list to start Wednesday. The Nats will see every Braves starter except Aaron Harang, last seen yielding 13 hits and eight earned runs against Philly. Washington now has a lower team ERA than does Atlanta, and that’s another function of current events: The Braves’ ERA in June is 4.79, fourth-worst in the majors; the Nats’ ERA is 2.67, third-lowest in the bigs.

On the season, the Nationals have outhit the Braves — hey, who hasn’t? — but not by a whole lot. The Nats are 19th in the majors in runs; the Braves are 29th. The Nats are 15th in on-base percentage; the Braves are 26th. Not-so-fun fact: The Braves have been outscored by 13 runs on the season, which suggests that they’re lucky to be a game above .500.

I’d be lying if I said the Braves look like a team ready to break loose. Since Memorial Day, they’ve seemed intent on falling to pieces. But this is baseball, and baseball, as Joe Garagiola always said, is a funny game. And I won’t believe the Nationals can beat the Braves until they actually do.

From myajc.com: The Braves head to D.C. on anything but a high.

From April: The Washington Nationals … or the Washington Generals?

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