Can anyone stop the Braves?
Atlanta won its 12th consecutive game on Tuesday, when it beat the Nationals and pushed its lead in the National League East to 14 1/2 games.
"The goal every season is to win as many games as you can," Justin Upton said after Monday's triumph. "So I don't care what kind of lead we've got. We've got to come out and win every night. That is our goal."
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez both pitched well in the first two tilts of Washington's series against the Braves, but neither effort proved to be enough to earn a win. In Wednesday's series finale, the Nationals will turn to All-Star Jordan Zimmermann to attempt to halt the surging Braves.
Zimmermann owns a 2.97 ERA in six career outings against Atlanta. He posted a 7.18 ERA in five July starts, though he righted the ship on Friday, when he tossed six scoreless innings in Milwaukee to claim his 13th win.
"I was throwing strikes, attacking guys and keeping the ball in bottom of the zone, and elevating when I needed to," Zimmermann said. "... It seemed like every inning I was in a jam. I was able to wiggle out of them."
Right-hander Kris Medlen (8-10, 3.85 ERA) will try to run the Braves' winning streak to 13 games. He said he feels he has corrected the mechanical issues that have plagued him most of the season.
"I'm putting some scoreless innings together," Medlen said. "It's always good when you can pick a spot where you can say, 'Oh, I messed up there,' as opposed to before, when the whole game I felt [awkward]."
Entering the season, the Nationals were the NL East team many expected to run away with the division. Manager Davey Johnson pinpointed a handful of reasons to explain why that has not panned out, as the Nationals sit five games below the .500 mark.
"You know, the difference between winning and losing is just real small," Johnson said. "A lot of little things -- losing [Bryce] Harper for a month, Jayson Werth out a bit, [Ryan Zimmerman] recovering from the arm surgery -- all the little things add up and can affect your performance. It's my job to stay positive and hope at some point we get it all going."
Braves: Maholm progressing
• With Tim Hudson shelved for the season, the Braves will need Paul Maholm's help down the stretch. Maholm, who has compiled a 9-9 record and 4.41 ERA in 20 starts, has been sidelined since July 20 with a bruised left wrist. The left-hander completed a side session on Tuesday, a step forward that provided the club more encouragement than the session he endured on Monday.
• Right fielder Jason Heyward departed Tuesday's contest in the first inning with a strained neck. The Braves announced his status as day to day.
• Upton extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games on Tuesday.
Nationals: Roark joins club
• The Nationals optioned reliever Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse and promoted pitcher Tanner Roark to the big league squad. The righty went 9-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts) for the Chiefs.
"It's so surreal," Roark said Tuesday. "At first when I got the call and [Syracuse manager] Tony Beasley told me, I was like, 'Wow. OK, this is what I dreamed for.' And then it started to sink in."
• Werth is six hits shy of 1,000 for his career.
• During their winning streak, the Braves have outscored opponents, 71-28.
• Nine of the 12 games between the Braves and Nationals this season have been decided by one or two runs.