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Braves vs. Nationals Preview: Atlanta Heads North To Take One First Place Nats

WASHINGTON - JULY 27:  Tommy Hanson #48 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 27 2010 in Washington DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 27: Tommy Hanson #48 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 27 2010 in Washington DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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The Braves and Nationals will kick off a huge four-game series this weekend in Washington D.C. that should have big implications on the National League East race. It's only late July as of today, but Atlanta currently sits 3.5 games back in the standings and cannot afford to fall much further behind without panic setting in.

As for the series itself, they'll meet on Friday night, play a doubleheader on Saturday and then wrap up the series Sunday afternoon. Thunderstorms are in the forecast all day and night on Friday, although they're expected to clear out for the rest of the weekend.

The Nationals are basically the same team they've been the last few months. They're armed with an excellent pitching staff and just got closer Drew Storen back from the disabled list. Bryce Harper is still impressing, Ryan Zimmerman is still struggling by his lofty standards, and Jayson Werth should be back in a couple of weeks.

Here are the pitching matchups and start times for each game:

Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET - Tommy Hanson (10-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.66 ERA)

Saturday, 1:05 ET - Ben Sheets (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. John Lannan (0-0, --)

Saturday, 7:05 ET - Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-5, 3.89 ERA)

Sunday, 1:35 ET - Jair Jurrjens (3-3, 6.20 ERA) vs. TBD

For more on the Braves, check out Talking Chop. Head over to Federal Baseball for Nationals news.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.