'Big series' awaits Braves against first-place Nats

'Big series' awaits Braves against first-place Nats

ATLANTA -- At the All-Star break, the Nationals led the Braves by four games in the National League East. Now, more than a month later, the Braves still trailed the Nationals by four games entering Sunday.

Atlanta missed an opportunity to cut into Washington's lead Saturday, when the Mets beat the Nationals, 2-0, but the Dodgers knocked off the Braves, 6-2. It was the 17th time since the All-Star break that the Nationals and Braves games had the same result, leaving the standings unchanged.

The Braves will get a chance to make up ground when they go to Washington for a three-game series beginning Monday. With just six games between the two teams left this season, right-hander Tim Hudson said the head-to-head matchups become more important.

"Those six games are the most important ones of the year in my eyes," Hudson said. "They're the team we need to beat; they're the team we've been chasing most all of the year. It's a big series."

Entering Sunday, the Braves were the only team in the Major Leagues to not gain or lose any ground in their division race since the All-Star break. No matter what happens in the Braves' series finale against the Dodgers, they'll have their best chance to close the gap when they arrive in Washington.

"When you play the first-place team, that is where you're going to make the ground up," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "We're four games back. Unfortunately we lost on [Saturday], we could have gained a game. But that's just how it goes. You're not going to win every game."