Continued from page 1

“It just seems like they find a way to win,” Span said. “Even [Saturday] night, we were able to win, but they’ve broken our hearts time and time again. We’ve had the leads. I think they’ve probably come back at least four of those [12] wins, and that can crush a team.

“I haven’t played against a team like that in awhile, where they just have our number and you’ve just got to tip your cap off to them.”

With their words, the Nationals offered nothing but praise and respect for the Braves, who lead the National League East by 15 1/2 games with six weeks remaining in the season. The Braves have beaten them. Thoroughly and resoundingly. But the way it’s happened seems familiar to them.

“It’s not like they’re destroying us and doing big damage,” said Gonzalez, who allowed the first two batters of the game to score but nothing more to go seven strong, badly needed innings. “They’re just playing small ball and finding their hits. That was us last year. Now we see it from the other side.”

Added Johnson: “They’re pitching very well, their bullpen has been great, and their bench is doing an outstanding job. Their run differential is over 100. That’s the formula. That’s what we did last year, which we’re not doing this year. I think they have a heck of a ballclub, and they’re playing at a very high level. Even the guys coming off the bench are playing very well. That was our strength last year, too. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to carry it over this year.”