From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Hoping for a big team celebration soon, Gio Gonzalez checked off a few more individual accomplishments.Gonzalez became the first 21-game winner in the majors, Michael Morse hit two homers and the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 Thursday night to move closer to an NL East title.Bryce Harper also connected for the playoff-bound Nationals, who reduced their magic number to three. They have a four-game lead over Atlanta with six to play."We have to keep fighting," Gonzalez said. "It won't be easy. We just want to do what we've been doing all year."Gonzalez (21-8) settled down after a shaky start and lasted six innings, allowing three runs and six hits. He's the first NL lefty to win more than 20 games since Dontrelle Willis won 22 for the Florida Marlins in 2005. His 21 wins are a franchise best and the most by a pitcher in the nation's capital since Bob Porterfield had 22 for the Washington Senators in 1953.Gonzalez and Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (20-6) are considered the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young Award.The Phillies closed out their home schedule with a loss that left them on the brink of postseason elimination. They trail St. Louis by six games for the second wild-card spot with six games remaining. They finished 40-41 at home, their first losing record at 9-year-old Citizens Bank Park."We competed. We never gave up when people never thought we'd even be mentioned for a playoff spot," slugger Ryan Howard said.The Nationals already are the first major league team in D.C. to reach the postseason in 79 years. They're looking for their first division crown since moving to Washington and the second in franchise history. The Montreal Expos won the NL East in 1981, a strike-shortened season."We've got three more we've got to win," manager Davey Johnson said.Tyler Cloyd (2-2) got roughed up by an offense that feasted on his straight fastballs. Cloyd, who was 15-1 in the minors this season, allowed six runs and six hits in five-plus innings.Cloyd walked Danny Espinosa to start the fifth and Jayson Werth with two outs. Harper then hit a soft liner to left for a single, scoring Espinosa for a 4-3 lead.Morse crushed a two-run shot to right-center to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead in the sixth. The ball sailed over Philadelphia's bullpen and landed in front of Washington's relievers, traveling an estimated 448 feet."It felt real good coming off the bat," Morse said. "It's been a tough year for me, but the team's played great and everybody has been picking up for everybody."Harper ripped one out to right-center to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first. He also homered in his first at-bat Wednesday to become the second teenager to hit 20 homers, joining Tony Conigliaro.Darin Ruf lined a three-run double over Harper's head to put the Phillies up 3-1 in the first."I was a little bit out of whack," Gonzalez said about walking two batters in front of Ruf. "I was like a split personality out there, talking to myself trying to figure it out. I really wanted to make a quality start."Ruf earned the nickname "Babe" by leading all minor leaguers with 38 homers this season, breaking Howard's single-season record at Double-A Reading. He hit his first homer Tuesday in his third at-bat and first start.Morse connected in the second to cut it to 3-2.The Phillies acquired Gonzalez from the Chicago White Sox along with Aaron Rowand and another minor leaguer in 2005. They traded him back to the White Sox with Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia in 2006 in what turned out to be the worst trade by Hall of Famer Pat Gillick in his three years as Phillies general manager.Gonzalez has won at least 15 games three straight years and is a two-time All-Star. Floyd has won double-digit games five consecutive seasons. Garcia won one game for Philadelphia.NOTES:Ross Grimsley was the only other pitcher in NationalsExpos history to win 20 games. He did it in 1978. ... Morse became the sixth player to hit 15 homers for the Nationals, most in franchise history. It was his second multihomer game of the season and fifth of his career. ... Harper is three homers shy of matching Conigliaro, who hit 24 for the Boston Red Sox in 1964. ... The Phillies lead the majors in attendance at 3,565,718. ... Cliff Lee (6-8) faces Mark Buehrle (13-13) when the Phillies start a three-game series at Miami on Friday night. ... Edwin Jackson (9-10) tries to become the fifth Washington starter to win 10 games when the Nationals visit St. Louis on Friday.
When you’re fighting for a playoff spot, it’s not only about what happens to you. It’s also about what happens to the teams you’re competing against for that playoff spot. And one of the Redskins’ main competitors got a some very bad news this morning.
The Giants, who are in the No. 5 spot in the NFC, the first wild card spot, got word today that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has had sports hernia surgery. The recovery time is at least four weeks, probably more like six. The Giants’ season is likely to be over by the time six weeks elapse, barring a playoff run without one of their best defensive players.
Pierre-Paul has helped solidify what was a shaky Giants defense last year. He has seven sacks and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He has been heating up down the stretch with 5.5 sacks in his last three games.
His loss is a big blow for the Giants. They are a game ahead Buccaneers, who hold the No. 6 spot, and a game and a half ahead of the Redskins, who are currently seventh.
The Redskins play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins have to pick up just one game on the Giants over the next three to have a shot at passing them in the season finale.
The chances of that happening looked pretty good with Washington playing playing three teams with losing records in the Eagles, Panthers, and Bears and the Giants going against division leaders Dallas and Detroit in addition to the Eagles. With the Giants now without Pierre-Paul, the Redskins’ probabilities got tilted in their direction a little bit more.
Just finishing ahead of the Giants wouldn’t guarantee a playoff spot but it would come close. It would mean that the Redskins would have at least nine wins and the Redskins’ tie means that two teams would have to get to 10 wins to knock them out of the playoffs. The Bucs have to win threea more games to get to nine wins and the Packers and Vikings would have to run the table.
One week into the voting for the 2017 NHL All-Star game and Alex Ovechkin has some work to do if he wants to be named captain of the Metropolitan Division team for the second season in a row.
The NHL released the top five vote-getters after one week of voting. Ovechkin sits in second behind rival Sidney Crosby.
Here are the Metropolitan Division’s top five:
- Sidney Crosby
- Alex Ovechkin
- Phil Kessel
- John Tavares
- Taylor Hall
Crosby was not selected to last season’s All-Star Game, but this year he may be hard to catch. Not normally a top goal-scorer, Crosby currently leads the NHL in goals with 17. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has only 12 to this point, good for 10th in the league.
Ovechkin was voted team captain last season, but withdrew from the game with an injury.
Here are the top five players from each of the other divisions:
- Carey Price
- Jaromir Jagr
- Shea Weber
- Jack Eichel
- Patrice Bergeron
- Patrick Kane
- P.K. Subban
- Jonathan Toews
- Patrik Laine
- Vladimir Tarasenko
- Connor McDavid
- Brent Burns
- Johnny Gaudreau
- Anze Kopitar
- Joe Thornton
Fans can vote at NHL.com/vote through Jan. 2. The game will take place on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles.
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