WASHINGTON -- After getting swept by the Braves earlier this month at Nationals Park, the Nationals see their upcoming four-game series against Atlanta as being important, even though it's early in the season. The series between the two clubs starts Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Turner Field.
Entering Sunday's action, The Braves had a 2 1/2-game lead over the Nationals. In their last series, the Braves outscored the Nationals, 18-5. The Nationals not only didn't pitch well, but they played below-average defense.
"Obviously, we want to go in there and take care of business," said right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who will pitch the third game of the series. "They came [to Nationals Park] and pretty much embarrassed us. We didn't play very well that series. … We feel we are playing pretty good ball right now. We'll go down there and try to win as many ballgames as we can and win the series down there. We can try to sweep them at their place and send a message that we are a lot better than we showed [at Nationals Park]."
Center fielder Denard Span said Atlanta took Washington by surprise in the first game of the three games by coming back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Nationals, 6-4, in 10 innings.
"We jumped out to a big lead. They just kept chipping away and they didn't give up," Span said.
Asked if the Braves took the Nationals by surprise in the last series, outfielder Jayson Werth said, "They were hot. They were on a roll. We weren't playing real well. That happens sometimes. That's why you play each other 18 times in the division. … At the end of the year, whoever has the best record wins the division. We have a long way to go, a lot of games to play and we'll be all right."
LaRoche at a loss concerning recent slump
WASHINGTON -- Last year, Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche got off to a great start, hitting .329 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. This year is another story. He is in a dreadful slump to start the season, going 10-for-74 [.135] with 28 strikeouts. LaRoche is at a loss as to how things could get better at the plate.
"I don't know. I have one or two options here: Keep my head up, keep swinging or I pack up and go home. I'm not ready to go home yet," LaRoche said. "It helps when the team wins -- three out of the last four [against the Reds] made it a lot easier. You don't sweat it as much. You come out of a game like today where you leave some guys on base, we end up losing, makes it a lot tougher."
Manager Davey Johnson thought about giving LaRoche the day off on Sunday, but LaRoche declined. He is picking everyone's brain on the team and see if they notice anything wrong when he is inside the batter's box.
"I want to see if someone can pinpoint something that I'm not seeing. So I'll continue to watch film and continue to work through it," LaRoche said.
Zimmerman to make rehab trip to Potomac
WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said he will have his rehab assignment with Class A Potomac this week.
Zimmerman will work out with the team on Monday and then play a few innings Tuesday. He will try to play a few more innings on Wednesday. Zimmerman will then return to Nationals Park to work out on Thursday before being activated from the disabled list on Friday.
Zimmerman is currently on the disabled list because of a left hamstring strain. Once Zimmerman returns to action, the Nationals will likely send third baseman Anthony Rendon back to Double-A Harrisburg.
Zimmerman has played in 15 games and is 12-for-53 with a home run, 11 RBIs and three runs scored.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.