The National League East will be decided in the second half of the season. The Braves and Nationals have thrown haymakers at one another – and absorbed them, too – for the first half and neither side has budged. They’ve been within four games of one another for the entire season, and within two games since June 4. Percentage points separate them now.
The quality of their play will determine the division, and so will the quality of their second-half competition. Both teams have manageable schedules. The Nationals face also-ran opponents more often – of their final 69 games, 34 come against the Phillies, Mets and Marlins and seven others come against the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
The Braves face stiffer competition, but they also come out of the break with a string of cupcakes and get to play 37 of their final 67 games at home. The division could be decided during a brutal August stretch for the Braves in which they play 19 games in 20 days against the Mariners, Nationals, Dodgers, A’s, Pirates and Reds. If they survive that stretch, they’ll be in great shape. If not, the Nationals will have a chance to bury them with a month left.
The full break down of each team’s schedule:
Home games: 35
Road games: 34
28 games against contenders: Brewers, Reds, Orioles (one makeup game), Giants, Mariners, Braves (nine games), Dodgers
41 games against also-rans: Rockies, Marlins (11 games), Phillies (10 games), Mets (13 games), Diamondbacks
West Coast trips: One: Aug. 29-Sept. 3 against the Mariners and Dodgers – the only time they play consecutive series against contenders in the second half.
Toughest stretch: From Aug. 29 through Sept. 10, the Nationals play nine of 12 games against the Mariners, Dodgers and Braves.
Easiest stretch: From Sept. 11 through the end of the season, the Nationals close with 15 of 18 games against the Mets and Marlins, with a three-game series against Atlanta mixed in.
Home games: 37
Road games: 30
32 games against contenders: Dodgers (seven games), Mariners, Nationals (nine games), A’s, Pirates, Reds
35 games against also-rans: Phillies (nine games), Marlins (10 games), Padres (seven games), Mets (six games), Rangers
West Coast trips: One: July 29-Aug. 6 against the Dodgers, Padres and Mariners.
Toughest stretch: From Aug. 5 through Aug. 24, the Braves play 19 games in 20 days against the Mariners, Nationals, Dodgers, A’s, Pirates and Reds.
Easiest stretch: Right out of the all-star break, the Braves play 14 out of 17 games against the Phillies, Marlins and Padres.
FROM THE POST
A preview of the Nationals’ second half, including the key to their turnaround and a trade deadline primer.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 13, Lehigh Valley 0: Tyler Moore went 4 for 5. Zach Walters went 4 for 6. Brandon Laird went 3 for 4 with a home run and a triple, raising his average to .318. Destin Hood went 3 for 4 with a double. Blake Treinen allowed no runs in six innings on four hits and two walks, striking out six.
Richmond 5, Harrisburg 1: Jason Martinson went 2 for 3 with double. Drew Vettleson went 0 for 4, lowering his average to .200. Brian Dupra allowed five runs in five innings on five hits and three walks, striking out three.
Wilmington 4, Potomac 1: Eury Perez, on rehab, went 2 for 3 with a double. Shawn Pleffner went 2 for 4. Dakota Bacus allowed two runs on seven innings on seven hits and a walk, striking out four.
Hagerstown 3, West Virginia 2: Nick Pivetta allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out three. Wilfer Difo went 1 for 4. John Wooten went 3 for 4 with a homer.
Hudson Valley 6, Auburn 2: Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 2 for 4 with a walk. Travis Ott allowed no runs in six innings on three hits and no walks, striking out six.