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Nats have chance to bury Braves

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Nats have chance to bury Braves

There was a point, for a couple of hours in between games of their July 21 day-night doubleheader, when it appeared the Nationals were on the verge of surrendering their lead in the NL East to the Braves. After taking the first two games of that four-game series, Atlanta had crept to within 1 12 games and appeared to have momentum on its side.

All the Nationals have done since is go 22-7. During that same span, the Braves have gone 18-10.

Which makes the dynamic for this week's showdown between the two clubs a bit different than perhaps everyone expected. Instead of coming back to D.C. with a chance to reach or even overtake the Nats, the Braves instead arrive here a full five games back and desperately needing to take at least two of three simply to avoid falling into an even deeper hole.

That's an advantageous position for Davey Johnson's squad to find itself in.

"It goes back into July, August: We've played them pretty good," the manager said. "So they need to prove something to themselves when they come in here. And we're still trying to prove it to everybody. It's going to be fun."

The Nationals have gone 8-4 against the Braves this season, winning the last two games of that previous series to help create some separation between the two clubs. In the month that has elapsed since, Washington has become the frontrunner, with Atlanta now trying to play catch-up.

Through it all, players have tried to insist they're not constantly keeping an eye on the team directly behind them in the standings, even though they're well aware of the state of things at this moment.

"Sure, we're paying attention to Atlanta," Johnson said. "But we're concentrating at what we've got at hand."

What they've got at hand this week is an opportunity to deal their lone remaining challenger for the division title a serious blow. With Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler lined up to start these three games at home, the Nationals have positioned themselves well.

Not that they're taking anything for granted.

"We have a great team. But the Braves have been playing unbelievable baseball as well, so it's not going to be an easy three games," Danny Espinosa said. "It's definitely going to be a dog fight with them."

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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC