08/12/12 4:00 PM ET
Nats bullpen beaming with confidence
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
Despite torrid stretch, Braves on Nats' heels
PHOENIX -- As much as the Nationals have been winning since the All-Star break, the Braves have stayed right on their heels.Washington entered Sunday's series finale at Chase Field having won eight straight, 10 of 12 in August and 22 of 31 since the All-Star break. But the Nats haven't pulled away in the National League East, as Atlanta has won seven of its last 10 and 20 of 28 since the Midsummer Classic. Put another way: The Nationals were four games ahead of the Braves at the break, and despite a torrid stretch of baseball, particularly on the road, their NL East lead has only increased half a game. "We think there's nothing we can do about it," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "I don't want to see anybody change anything. I don't want us to start having to try to play harder or play better because the Braves are winning. If they happen to keep it going, then obviously we need to. "It's impressive that they're not falling behind at all. They're a really good team. They had some streaks earlier in the year where they were struggling. ... They're playing just as good as we are right now, but that doesn't affect us." Manager Davey Johnson noted Saturday night that the Nats could play .500 baseball the rest of the way and still finish 95-67. The Braves, meanwhile, would have to win 29 of their final 49 games to tie Washington with 95 wins. But the Nationals, obviously, have higher aspirations than a 24-24 finish. "We don't need anybody keeping us honest," Johnson said.
Flores snaps Nats' drought behind dish
PHOENIX -- Jesus Flores throwing out a would-be basestealer in the bottom of the fourth inning of Saturday's 6-5 win over the D-backs might not have been the most important play of the game. It probably saved Edwin Jackson a few pitches, kept a runner out of scoring position and allowed him to work a quicker inning after laboring through three long ones.But those plays have been few and far between this season for the Nationals, so Flores' throw was appreciated by Jackson and manager Davey Johnson. "I don't know how many straight [opponents] have stolen, 30 or something?" Johnson said. "It was great to get that one and get that monkey off our back." The Nationals hadn't caught a runner stealing this month, and they've only caught two since June 15. Flores has thrown out five of 50 runners this season, and the Nationals' 14 runners caught stealing ranks second to last in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates. They've given up 84 stolen bases, with a 85.7 success rate that is also the second-worst in the Majors. "That throw out at second was huge for us to get out of that inning. He did a great job back there," Jackson said. "Anytime you can battle through with a pitcher and you throw 100-plus pitches through five, it's a credit to the catcher for sticking with you and trying to keep you on track. He did an excellent job."