Nationals skipper Davey Johnson isn't shy about such topics. Johnson said he follows all 30 teams closely, especially the Braves, who sit 2 1/2 games behind Washington for the National League East lead.
"We've still got to play them six more times," Johnson said. "Now's just the fun time. They're playing good. We're playing good. But you've got to play your best today. Today's all that matters. I never worry about a week from now or something."They'll go through down spells. They've got things going. They're playing really hot, and they haven't caught us. Last I looked, [over] the last 10 games, our record's better than theirs. It's fun. I like a good horse race."
The Nationals and Braves won't hook up again until later this month. For now, Washington will try to salvage the final contest of its three-game series against the Phillies. On Thursday at Nationals Park, the Nationals will send Ross Detwiler (5-4, 3.24 ERA) to the mound against Philadelphia southpaw Cole Hamels (11-5, 3.31 ERA).
The Nationals activated Jayson Werth from the 60-day disabled list Thursday, and the 33-year-old veteran was in the lineup for Thursday night's game against the Phillies, playing center field.
Detwiler will face a reformed Phillies offense that no longer has Shane Victorino or Hunter Pence serving as outfielders. Both players were part of trades on Tuesday. Manager Charlie Manuel's new-look outfield included Nate Schierholtz, John Mayberry Jr. and Dominic Brown on Wednesday.
Manuel said he'd mix and match and added that Brown -- once regarded as the organization's top prospect -- could patrol any of the three outfield positions.
"I might try him at all three," Manuel said. "Put him out there and let him play a while and see if he can be comfortable and stuff like that. I might try him at all three, see which one he plays best."
Detwiler will look to last longer atop the hill. He was pulled after 4 2/3 innings during Washington's 6-0 loss to the Brewers on Friday. He wasn't thrilled about yielding four runs on seven hits.
"I don't want to come out of the game ever, especially in a spot like that," he said. "But I put us in a hole early, and it's tough to dig out of that hole."
Phillies: Hamels looking forward to start
In his first start since signing a six-year, $144 million contract extension, Hamels took the loss after allowing five runs (three earned) on four hits and six walks in five innings of a 6-1 defeat to the Braves on Friday.
"It was a long week," Hamels said following the outing. "I don't think I'll ever have to experience it again. It's a long, stressful week. The highs and lows you have as a person or athlete, it was probably the ultimate. To have it during the baseball season was a little different. Guys will go through it during the offseason and obviously don't have to go out the next day and play.
"I'm glad I can finally try to move past it. I think this start is something I'll definitely move past. Getting back to the normal routine and keeping my emotions in check, that would be more characteristic of what I'm used to."
Hamels has beaten the Nationals twice this season, tossing eight innings in each outing.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz sat out Wednesday's contest while battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Ruiz leads the Phillies in batting average (.340), home runs (14) and RBIs (58).
"What he's got is something that on certain days it's worse than others," Manuel said.
Nationals: Zimmerman expected to start on Thursday
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has battled various injuries all season. He was held out of the starting lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday after tweaking his back during Sunday's win over the Brewers. He pinch-hit in the eighth inning on Wednesday and delivered a single before getting caught trying to steal second. He said he expects to start on Thursday.
"Davey kind of likes to give us an extra day at this point in the season just to make sure it gets out of there," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman batted .366 with a 1.186 OPS, 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in July.
All-Star rookie Bryce Harper put together a pair of hits and a run scored on Wednesday. He entered the game hitting .171 in his previous 18 games.
Entering Wednesday's action, the Nationals had thrown out just 15 percent of basestealers, the second-worst mark in the Majors.
Philadelphia designated infielder Mike Fontenot for assignment on Wednesday and recalled infielder Michael Martinez.