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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

Now the Braves can’t even dominate the Nats

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Chris Johnson is shocked at striking out. Like he never strikes out. (Nick Wass/AP)

Chris Johnson is shocked at striking out. Like he never strikes out. (Nick Wass/AP)

Over four games in D.C., we saw the essence of the 2014 Atlanta Braves, the team that doesn’t score many runs but doesn’t yield many, the team that has come to own the Washington Nationals. We saw, in sum, what we’ve been seeing all along.

As of Friday night, the Braves had run their season record against the Nats to 7-1 and had reclaimed the lead in the National League East. With Jordan Zimmermann already beaten and Stephen Strasburg lucky not to have been stuck with a loss, the Braves were positioned to leave D.C. with a 3-1 series win if not a split. Instead they lost the next two games, scoring a grand total of one run.

The Braves’ offense, or more precisely the lack thereof, has become the great equalizer in the NL East race. The Braves can outpitch anybody, the Nationals included. The Braves’ starters worked four quality starts in the series; the Nats’ starters worked three. The teams split the four games.

The Braves lead the majors with 52 quality starts (at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs). Alas, the team has won but 38 games. The Braves missed a chance to distance themselves from the hurting/struggling Nats, and now it’s the Braves — without Gavin Floyd, the third starting pitcher this calendar year to be lost to a bum elbow — who are hurting.

The Braves’ pitching is good enough to keep them in almost every game. The Braves’ hitting is so bad (still next-to-last in the majors in runs, and boy has that stat gotten old) to lose enough winnable games that this team is nine games under .500 since April 27. Having won only one of their past nine series, they’re fortunate to be within 1 1/2 games of first place.

Oh, and one thing more: The Floyd injury surely prevents the Braves from thinking about trading him for a bat, and it probably means Alex Wood just became untouchable, too.

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