The three teams still in the National League East race have built their records very differently:
> The first-place Phillies are a meager one game above .500 against NL East opponents -- 22-21 -- but they are an impressive 41-28 against everyone else.
> By contrast, the second-place Braves are a sterling 34-17 against NL East opponents, but they have a cumulative losing record – 26-31 – against everyone else.
> And the third-place Nationals have a middling record both inside and outside the division: 23-22 vs. NL East opponents, 34-32 vs. everyone else.
What it all adds up to, entering a four-game Braves-Nationals series that opens in Washington with a Tuesday doubleheader, is a 63-49 record for Philadelphia, 60-48 for Atlanta and 57-54 for Washington. The Phillies have a one game lead over the Braves and a 5.5-game lead over the Nationals. Both the Braves and the Nats gained a half game late Monday night when the Phillies lost to Arizona in 14 innings.
The Braves opportunistically have piled up wins against the Mets and Marlins, going a combined 20-7 against those two downtrodden NL East teams. The Phillies, on the other hand, are a combined 11-10 against the Mets and Marlins. The Nationals are 14-9 against those two teams.
There’s a particularly striking disparity in how the three NL East contenders have fared against the Mets. The Braves have a 12-4 record against them, while the Phillies are 3-5 and the Nationals 6-6. The Phillies have 11 games remaining against the Mets; the Braves have only three.
The Phillies’ record has been boosted by six wins in seven games against the Pirates, whom the Braves have not played yet this season. (The Braves will meet the Pirates on Aug. 20-22 in Pittsburgh and Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Atlanta.) The Phillies are 10-5 in inter-league play, while the Braves are 7-8.
A grueling stretch opens Tuesday for the Braves -- 22 games in the next 20 days, including two doubleheaders in the next seven days.
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> Will Ohio State keep Urban Meyer? Mark Bradley doesn't see how it can. Read his column here.
> Chase Elliott awakened the echoes of his father's Hall of Fame career – as well as the siren atop Gordon Pirkle's Dawsonville Pool Room – with his first Monster Energy Cup victory in New York, Steve Hummer writes here.
> The Hawks are expected to open the season on the road as Philips Arena renovations are being completed. Read Chris Vivlamore's report here.
> Matt Ryan and the Falcons are emphasizing red-zone efficiency. Read Max Marcovitch's story here.