What the series has been short on is any sort of shakeout in the division race -- at least so far. The Braves entered the series trailing the Nationals by 3 1/2 games and have inched to 2 1/2 games back. But a Washington victory in the series finale would leave the teams right back where they began.
The Nationals will send left-hander Ross Detwiler to the mound to try and return the teams to where they stood on Friday afternoon. The Braves, meanwhile, will turn to right-hander Jair Jurrjens as they try to narrow the gap in their last head-to-head meeting with the Nats until Aug. 20.
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said the Nationals have been the better team this season, leaving the Braves with work to do in the season's final few months.
"They established themselves as the frontrunners by playing very consistently through the first 90 games," Jones said. "I said earlier that every series we've played them this year, they've been better than us, and that we had some work to do to get better."
The Nationals, with the benefit of being in first place already, are focused on the immediate task at hand.
"It's games. We need to continue to do what we've been doing," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "If we do that, then we're going to be right where we want to be at the end of the year."
Braves: McCann's streak over, but remains hot
Though he struck out in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter in the second game of Saturday's day-night doubleheader, catcher Brian McCann is on a hot streak entering Sunday's series finale. The strikeout snapped his 11-game hitting streak, during which he hit .357. Seven of his 16 home runs this season came during the streak, including one in each of the first two games of this weekend's series.
Even after Saturday night's loss, the Braves have the best road record in the Major Leagues. They are 28-18, giving them a 1 1/2-game lead on the Nationals, who have the second-best road record in the NL.
Nationals: Harper OK after fouling ball off ankle
Outfielder Bryce Harper left the first game of Saturday's day-night doubleheader after fouling a bunt attempt off his left ankle. An MRI showed only a bruise. Harper was not in the starting lineup of the nightcap, but he did pinch-hit in the game, which the Nationals won 5-2. Harper slashed a pinch-hit single through the right side of the infield. He also stole second base and scored a run. Manager Davey Johnson said he expected Harper to play Sunday.
Shortstop Ian Desmond may get a day off Sunday, Johnson said. "Probably iffy. Two games today, little inclement weather," Johnson said. "He's a gamer, and he had thing around him, all that stuff on taped up and everything else. I doubt if he'll be able to go tomorrow." Desmond has played four straight games, but was double-switched out of Saturday night's game in the bottom of the seventh inning. Demond is hitting .286 with 17 home runs this season.
With their win in Saturday's nightcap, the Nationals assured themselves of still being in first place in the NL East when the series ends regardless of Sunday's result. The Nationals have been in first place in the division for 98 days this season, the second-most in the Major Leagues. The Rangers have been in first place in the American League West for 105 of the season's 108 days.
The Nationals have staked Detwiler to a four-run lead in both of the games he's started against the Braves this season. While the Braves have overcome the deficit each time, the Nationals eventually won both games.