NL East margin balloons to biggest in majors

Photo by Hyoshub Shin

At the all-star break, no division race was more competitive than that of the National League East. In fact, the Braves and Nationals were tied at the top. Fast forward six weeks, however, and no margin between first place and second place in any division is larger. A red-hot Washington team suddenly leads a slumping Atlanta squad by 7.5 games.

While the Nationals have won 12 of their last 15 games despite having dropping the first two of a three-game series at Philadelphia earlier this week, the Braves have lost three in a row and are 10-16 in their last 26 outings. Fredi Gonzalez’s club lost the last two after winning the first two of a four-game set at Cincinnati last weekend and it fell to the host Mets 3-2 on Tuesday. Alex Wood turned in solid outing in New York, going seven innings and giving up three runs on just five hits and one walk. At-

lanta cut a 3-1 deficit in half in the seventh but could not pull even during its final two chances. “You can take positives from anything,” Wood said in his postgame interview when asked about his solid performance in a loss. “But we’re here for one reason; that’s to make it to the playoffs and win as many games down the stretch as we can. And the reason I’m on the mound…you can’t help but kind of take re- sponsibility because you’re the guy with the ball in your hand.”

JUSTIN STILL IN FORM …

Silent bats continue to be a problem for the Braves, who have scored just five runs in their last three games and have not crossed the plate more than three times in any outing since last Thursday. Their season total of 499 runs puts them perilously close to second to last in that department in the National League (every team is well ahead of San Diego).

Justin Upton, however, is still swinging a hot bat. The left fielder has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games and he has six multi-hit performances in his last nine contests. Upton bounced back from a rare 0-for-9 stretch last Saturday and Sunday to go 3-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored on Tuesday. He has six home runs and 23 RBIs during the month of August.

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