It may be somewhat different in the batter's box in Wednesday's finale.
A night after plunking Bryce Harper , the Braves may be wary of retaliation from the Nationals as they try to extend their longest winning streak in 13 years with another sweep in the nation's capital.
Atlanta (69-45) leads the division by 14 1/2 games over second-place Washington (54-59), winning 12 in a row for the first time since a 15-game winning streak from April 16-May 2, 2000.
The Braves showed few signs of slowing Tuesday, beating the Nationals 2-1 after taking the opener 3-2 a day earlier.
The latest victory, however, may have stirred some emotions for the series finale and beyond. Atlanta's Julio Teheran hit Harper with a pitch two innings after the reigning NL Rookie of the Year homered. Harper barked at Teheran and both benches emptied, though no punches were thrown.
"Obviously Bryce didn't like it, (and) we don't blame him," first baseman Adam LaRoche said.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson isn't forgetting the incident.
"You file it for future reference," Johnson said.
Johnson may be even more concerned with Washington's struggles at the plate. The team is batting .228 while dropping five of seven, and a lineup shuffle produced just five hits Tuesday.
"There's no point in looking back and hanging our head. We've got two options now: We can cash it in and think about next year or we can grind it out and see what happens," said LaRoche, who is 6 for 41 with two homers in his last 11 games. "I'm pretty sure we're going to keep pushing."
The task may be made much more difficult against a Braves pitching staff that has a 2.17 ERA during the team's winning streak.
Atlanta has also compiled a 1.31 ERA while winning its past six visits to Nationals Park.
Kris Medlen (8-10, 3.85 ERA), who will get the ball in the finale, helped start that run by scattering seven hits with seven strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of a 5-1 win Aug. 22.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in three career starts versus the Nationals. He won his second straight start Friday in Philadelphia despite allowing four runs and three homers among his six hits over six innings.
Atlanta's offense, batting .290 over the last 12 games, certainly hopes it fares better against Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.06) than it did when he pitched two-hit ball for eight innings of a 2-0 win in Atlanta on May 1.
The right-hander has struggled in his last two home meetings with the Braves, going 0-1 while surrendering seven runs with five walks in 11 innings, and he's 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA over his last three home outings overall after going 9-0 with a 1.50 ERA over his first 10.
Zimmermann, who's tied with St. Louis' Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright for the league lead in wins, was better on the road Friday. He walked four and hit a batter over six innings, but didn't allow a run in a 4-1 win at Milwaukee.
Harper is 4 for 21 with two homers during Washington's home skid against the Braves. He's 2 for 10 with a solo homer versus Medlen, but 0 for 4 this year.
|August 06, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Strained neck|
|July 29, 2013||Reed Johnson||15-Day DL||Left knee tendinitis|
|July 26, 2013||Gerald Laird||15-Day DL||Kidney stone|
|July 25, 2013||Tim Hudson||15-Day DL||Fractured right ankle|
|July 21, 2013||Paul Maholm||15-Day DL||Bruised left wrist|
|July 21, 2013||Paul Maholm||15-Day DL||Left wrist contusion|
|August 01, 2013||Ross Ohlendorf||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|July 24, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Blister|
|July 24, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left knee soreness|
|July 04, 2013||Ross Detwiler||60-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 23, 2013||Dan Haren||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 23, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin strain|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Order another round for Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who has learned that a winning streak can be tough to swallow.
The Braves won their 13th straight Wednesday night, summarily dismissing the Washington Nationals 6-3 to complete a three-game sweep and take a staggering-for-early-August 15 1/2-game lead in the NL East.
Now Gonzalez will have to keep drinking up. It turns out that the streak happened to begin on the day that bullpen coach Eddie Perez first gave the manager some sort of protein drink. Gonzalez hates the taste, but he can't stop drinking it with his team on such a roll; sure enough, he was sipping the concoction from a cup in the dugout a couple of hours before Wednesday's game.
"They may be giving me poop. I don't even know what it is," Gonzalez said. "But I've been drinking them for 13 days in a row now. We're superstitious, you know."
Maybe there are some four-leafs clovers stashed in the clubhouse as well, the way the Braves have been playing. While they have a ways to go before they can mathematically clinch, this week has served as a psychological clincher that only could be undone by a monumental collapse.
"We came in here and we let `em know," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "We're here to stay."
Jason Heyward singled and Justin Upton doubled in a three-run eighth inning, Upton also homered, and Braves starter Kris Medlen (9-10) allowed three runs and three hits over seven innings. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 36th save, working out of a bases loaded jam by getting Wilson Ramos to line out to right to end the game.
The eighth-inning runs came with two outs off relievers Ryan Mattheus (0-1) and Ian Krol as the Nationals lost their fourth straight and sixth of their last eight. The defending division champs scored only six runs in the three games and are losing hope for an alternate path to the postseason as well, falling nine games off the wild card pace.
"Lot of ground to make up, but you never know what can happen in this game," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "If nothing else, get our pride back by playing better."
The game was played nicely by both sides one night after a fastball to Bryce Harper 's thigh cleared both benches and led to a public spat between the clubs' official Twitter feeds. Braves general manager Frank Wren said before the game that a tweet directed at Harper was "an inappropriate attempt at humor." When asked about any possible retaliation, Johnson said it would be "just baseball as usual" before flashing a smile.
As it turned out, the only confrontation involving Harper was between the young slugger and his own manager, when the two bickered in the dugout over whether Harper should come out of the game because of a nagging knee injury.
"Yeah, he was checking on my leg and asking how I felt," Harper said. "I just told him I felt fine and I don't want him to take me out."
While the game passed without incident between the two teams - no one was hit by a pitch - the saga might not be over. The teams play six more times this season, including a three-game series next week in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez has to stomach another protein shake. The good news: The Braves have Thursday off before opening a homestand.
"At least," Gonzalez said, "I get tomorrow off with the shakes."
Notes: Andrelton Simmons started the rally in the eighth with a two-out double off Mattheus. After a walk to a pinch hitter, Heyward singled in a run off Krol. Upton followed with a two-run double to the left-field corner. ... Braves CF B.J. Upton has his first four-hit game of the season to raise his average to a season-high .198. ... Nationals RHP Tanner Roark made his major league debut with two scoreless innings. He also made a superb defensive play, diving to catch Medlen's sacrifice bunt attempt and throwing to first for a double play. ... Heyward returned to the lineup after leaving Tuesday's game with a strained neck muscle. "I felt a lot better when I woke up," he said. "Didn't have any head weirdness or headache or anything like that."
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