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MLB Atlanta BravesWashington Nationals

Atlanta Braves are the Washington Nationals’ Worst Enemy

Washington Nationals Atlanta Braves

Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Saturday night, the Atlanta Braves had won five-straight games against the Washington Nationals.

If that’s not bad enough, the Braves had won seven of the eight meetings the two NL East teams have had this season. Take the rivalry all the way back to 2012 and the Braves were 24-7 against the Nats going into Saturday night.

The division rivalry has been completely one-sided.

Nationals starting pitcher Doug Fister gave the Nats a much-needed home win Saturday night, shutting out the Braves through eight innings. The Nats ended up with a 3-0 victory and Fister improved to 6-2 on the season.

The two teams have been trading the top spot in the NL East all year long. When they go head-to-head, however, the Braves come out on top. Against the Nationals, Braves’ pitching has a 1.98 ERA since 2012. SP Ervin Santana is a new addition to the Braves’ rotation. He squares off against the Nationals for the fourth and final game of their visit to D.C. Coming into this series, the Braves were 8-14 in their previous 22 games and struggling to hang on to a first- or second-place spot in the division. They rolled over the Nats in the first two games, but were stunned by a fantastic pitching effort Saturday night by Fister.

Sunday’s fourth and final game of the series is crucial for the Nationals.

With a win, they can retain control of first place in the NL East and begin chipping away at the Braves’ hold over them. The Nationals have struggled against teams that made the playoffs last year and need to prove that they can shutdown the best of the best. Their 3-1 series over the San Francisco Giants in early June showed that they can hang with the top teams, but the Nats need to deliver on a regular basis.

The Nationals have to start by showing they can control their own division and begin gaining ground back in their rivalry with the Braves.

Harry Floyd is a Washington Nationals/MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @floydhe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.