The Braves had circled this week's series against the Nationals since the beginning of September, once it had become clear they were on pace to clinch the National League East with weeks to spare. The opportunity to celebrate the club's first title since 2005 inside the ballpark of the defending division champs seemed like an irresistible stroke of revenge.
Due to a tragedy in the nation's capital on Monday morning, both teams will have to wait an extra day to begin their pivotal three-game set. The Nationals postponed Monday night's matchup hours after at least 13 people were killed when a shooter opened fire at the D.C. Navy Yard, just a few blocks from Nationals Park.
"All of us here in the Nationals organization were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic events that occurred this morning only a few blocks from Nationals Park," the Nationals said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families."
Instead, the teams will play a split doubleheader on Tuesday, with Game 1 scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET followed by the nightcap at 7:05 p.m. Atlanta's magic number sits at four following a weekend home series against the Padres in which the Braves lost two of three and scored a total of five runs. If they can find a way to win the series against the streaking Nationals, they will clinch the NL East.
"We're still in a good spot," third baseman Chris Johnson said after Sunday's 4-0 loss. "There's no panic in this locker room. We know going into Washington, we win the series, we win the division, so it's pretty cool. We'll go in there and win some games and see if we can get this thing over with."
Mike Minor will be the first pitcher tasked with silencing a Washington offense that has cruised thanks to 20 home runs in its last nine games. The left-hander has seen his early-season struggles giving up the long ball reemerge, with five home runs allowed in his past three starts.
It has been a trying year for Nationals starter Dan Haren, but the veteran right-hander has made the most of his limited opportunities against the Braves. He lasted eight innings in a 3-1 win on May 2 and picked up the save in an emergency relief appearance to close out the Nationals' 8-7 win in 15 innings on Aug. 17 in Atlanta.
Later on Tuesday, Freddy Garcia will look to continue the success he has enjoyed since the Braves selected his contract from Triple-A Gwinnett on the first day of September roster expansion. He turned in six strong innings in Miami to secure a 6-1 win on Thursday in his first Major League start since June and will start Game 2 of the doubleheader opposite Nationals righty Tanner Roark, who is looking to become the first rookie this season to win seven decisions in a row.
Braves: Freeman chasing 100 RBIs
• Atlanta's shutout loss on Sunday meant that first baseman Freddie Freeman remains one RBI shy of his first 100-RBI season. Freeman moved to the brink of the milestone with a solo home run on Saturday, his 21st of the season.
"I'm healthy this year," Freeman said after that 2-1 win. "I have some confidence in my eyes, and I did have that little [disabled list] stint in April, but that's about it. I've been able to stick with a routine this year with [hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher], and I've been able to go out there and stay consistent."
Freeman has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, and his 12 RBIs against the Nationals this season are second only to his total of 17 against the Mets.
• Garcia's second starting nod of the month indicates that for at least one more turn, the Braves will effectively go with a six-man rotation to navigate their six-game road trip through Washington and Chicago. Minor, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood have all had starts skipped in recent weeks to recharge for the playoffs.
Nationals: Zimmerman's red-hot September
• Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was relatively quiet at the plate in Sunday's 11-2 win over the Phillies, finishing just 1-for-5, but he has recaptured his power stroke at the right time throughout the Nationals' recently concluded 19-game tour of the bottom three teams in the NL East. He belted nine home runs in 11 games between Sept. 2-13 and has posted an OPS of 1.071 since the Nationals began their current lengthy stretch of divisional play with a three-game series against Miami starting on Aug. 27.
• The NL East may be all but wrapped up, but the Nationals' recent tear has put them squarely back in the race for one of the two Wild Card spots. After falling nine games off the pace on Aug. 7 following a sweep at the hands of the Braves, Washington is 25-10 and batting .294 as a team over that stretch. The Nationals are five games behind the Reds for the final spot.
• The Braves hold a 12-4 edge in the season series.
• Haren has a 6.00 ERA in 12 home starts this year.
• Garcia has made only two appearances at Nationals Park in his 15-year career, allowing a total of three earned runs in nine innings.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.