(Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The Nationals open a crucial series against the Braves, although it may be too late to gain substantial ground on their leading rival. The Braves lead the Nationals by 12.5 games in the NL East standings. The Nationals trail the second wild-card leaders, the Cincinnati Reds, by 6.5 games. Stephen Strasburg (5-9, 3.04 ERA) takes the mound and is opposed by Mike Minor (11-5, 2.75 ERA). According to Stats Inc, the Braves own the largest division lead by any team through Aug. 4 since the White Sox led the American League Central by 14 in 2005. The lineups are here. As always, discuss the game here.