The Atlanta Braves have lost seven in a row, the latest coming on a night when they actually scored off Felix Hernandez, albeit on a broken-bat single, but were undone when Tommy La Stella dropped a pop-up. (At least he didn’t lose a grounder in the lights, as Chipper Jones managed to do against the Marlins in the Epic Collapse of 2011.)
The Braves remain three games behind Washington in the National League East. That’s not great, but it could and probably should be much worse. The Nats have lost eight of their past 13 games and six of the past nine. Last week they lost a series to the sub-.500 Marlins and split with the sub-.500 Phillies. Last night they were beaten by the sub-.500 Mets and Zack Wheeler. We can’t really crown the Nationals the Carpe Diem Kings, can we?
This becomes important because the Nats will play three games at Turner Field this weekend, and they stink against the Braves. Washington was 6-13 against Atlanta last season and is 3-7 this time, and the Nationals had to win the two most recent meetings just to manage that. If they come here and get swept — they did just that in April — they’ll be given further cause to wonder about themselves.
The Nationals should be better than they’ve been. (Yes, they’ve had injuries, but every major contributor is back apart from Ryan Zimmerman, who cannot stay healthy and may be lost for the duration.) If the Braves missed a chance to distance themselves from the Nats in April, the Nats are missing that same chance now.
Question is, are the Braves capable of doing anything about it? When a second-place team loses seven straight this deep into a season and the first-place team has been playing lesser opposition, the second-place team has to feel lucky to find itself only three games back. For that alone, the Braves can consider themselves blessed.