Head to Head : 6 games left, 3 in DC in August, 3 in ATL in September. No advantage, and the Nats could likely put the Braves away in that first series making the second one irrelevant.
Home v Away : The Braves play 30 games at home the rest of the year. The Nats play 34. Advantage Nats, you'd think. The Braves though have been great on the road and mediocre at home this season. Just a fluke? Probably.
Long Stretch: The Braves have the longest stretch playing 20 straight games from August 10th-29th, ending in a West Coast swing. But their second longest stretch is 13 games. The Nats play stretches of 17 games (starting tomorrow, also ending on the West Coast), 16 and 15 games in the last few months. Why's it work out that way? They have two, odd, DAY OFF - 3 GAME SERIES - DAY OFF, 5 day sets coming up. Don't see an advantage either way right now, if the Braves are still close come September though they'll have a slight edge here.
Braves : Home v Astros (3), Padres (4), Rockies (4). Away vs the Giants (4), Padres (3), Mets (3), Brewers (3), Pirates (3).
Nats : Home vs Cardinals (4), Cubs (4), Brewers (4), Phils (3). Away vs the Astros (4), D-Backs (3), Giants (3), Cardinals (3).
NL East wise the Braves get an extra series vs the Mets away vs the Nats playing the Phillies in DC. I don't like the way either of these teams are playing right now. Outside the division, you'll notice that the Braves catch three of the worst teams in the NL at home. 11 games. where they should win 9 or so. The Nats get the Cubs and a fading Brew Crew instead, slightly better teams, and they catch the Astros away. Right now I give the edge the the Braves but that could change. The Nats don't play the Cardinals until late August. With any luck they'll be out of it, rather than surging for a playoff spot. Sometimes it's not who you play, but when you play 'em.
Overall, I wouldn't go either way right now. IF the Braves hold close, and finish that 20 game stretch (which includes the next Braves v Nats set) within say... 3 games AND the Cardinals stay close in the WC race, then you can worry about that September. If instead the Braves and Cardinals fall off, and the Nats find themselves 6 up heading into the final month with a set vs the Dodgers as the only non-Braves playoff contending team left, you can kick up your feet and coast into the pennant.
Other Notes :
- ZNN is getting both over and underrated. How could he be overrated after such an awesome month/season? The whole "6IP" thing. It's a pretty meaningless accomplishment in any single game. Six innings doesn't "save" a bullpen, nor does it ensure a win. It's nice to have over and over again but to celebrate it is to celebrate consistency, not excellence. It's a Don Sutton of stats, not a Tom Seaver. How could he be underrated? HE GAVE UP 5 RUNS IN 6 STARTS IN JULY. He had 31 baserunners in 37 innings. He had 31 strikeouts in same time frame.
- Yes I know the Nats offense has looked pretty good this past month, that's even accounting for the Coors Field explosion. But they also have only played 3 games vs teams with a better than average pitching staff during that time. They've faced the Braves (8th) twice, the Marlins (10th), the Mets (12th) twice, the Brewers (14th) and the Rockies (16th) twice. The good news is that they don't face many good pitching staffs the rest of the way either so I'd expect this scoring run to continue in some fashion.
- Relief pitching worrying you? Maybe it should. Their ERA is up to 4.73 in July.
- Yeah I know you are also probably worried about the injuries piling up. Desmond, LaRoche. Just remember the Nats were injured before. As long as the starters hold up the team will be fine.