Aug 2, 2011, 4:19 AM EST
Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Rick Ankiel homered twice to pace the Nationals’ lineup Monday night.
It’s a long way from the basement to the penthouse of the NL East, which may very well be baseball’s toughest division.
Sure, the AL East has the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. But the Phillies and Braves stack up against anyone else in the game, and the Mets and Marlins (despite some flaws) usually manage to keep themselves near the .500 mark.
Which leaves the Nationals in an unenviable position, trying somehow to leapfrog all those clubs and thrust themselves into the mix. They’ve been unable to make much of any dent in the seven seasons since they arrived in the District, finishing last five times, in fourth place once (2007) and currently sitting dead-last again.
If they have any visions of climbing that ladder, they simply must do a better job holding their own against these division rivals. They haven’t come close to doing that against their biggest nemeses: the Phillies and Marlins. And they’ve been hit-or-miss against the Mets.
But for some reason, the Nationals have been able to get the best of the Braves. Monday night’s 5-3 victory was their 15th in 28 head-to-head games with Atlanta over the last two seasons,
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