Braves well aware of DC series' importance

Braves well aware of DC series' importance

WASHINGTON -- The Braves know exactly how much this three-game series with the Nationals can mean for both teams.

Washington (75-46) entered the meeting at Nationals Park with a five-game lead over Atlanta (70-51), and it's a series that could go a long way toward determining what happens in the National League East this season.

"It's a big series," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Monday's opener. "It's a series that we can make up some room,[or] they can extend [the lead]."

After the Nationals beat the Mets on Sunday, manager Davey Johnson said they were ready to go, and said there wouldn't be many surprises since both teams know each other well.

Gonzalez agreed with Johnson before the series opener.

"Both teams have a lot of respect for each other," Gonzalez said. "It's going to boil down to who pitches the best over the course of the three days. We know it's a big series, and those walks in the seventh inning, or those leadoff walks in the eighth [and] missed opportunities early in the game are going to come back and bite you."