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Instant analysis: Cardinals 10, Nats 9

Instant analysis: Cardinals 10, Nats 9

Game in a nutshell: What should have been a fantastic pitchers' duel between two of the NL's best (Jordan Zimmermann and Kyle Lohse) instead turned into a wild slugfest filled with twists and turns. The Nationals stormed out to a 6-2 lead after two innings, but then Zimmermann gave all the runs back and more, putting the Cardinals up 8-6 after four. A three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth put the Nationals back on top, 9-8. But then Sean Burnett coughed up the lead in the eighth and left this a tie game. Drew Storen recorded a huge out to end that inning and was given a chance to return for the ninth. But a leadoff single to Allen Craig and then the inability to prevent Craig from stealing second cost the Nationals. David Freese's RBI single scored Craig, and when the Nats went down in the bottom of the ninth, they were handed a frustrating, 10-9 loss. On the bright side, the Braves lost again to the Phillies, so the lead in the NL East remains 6 12 games, with the magic number down to 24.

Hitting highlight: They stormed out the gates with six early runs, then were silenced and saw their lead disappear. But a sixth-inning rally got the Nationals back on top, with contributions from several players. Danny Espinosa got things started with his 15th homer of the season. Jayson Werth then kept things going with a two-out double to right. That forced Cardinals manager Mike Matheny into summoning lefty Mark Rzepczynski to face Bryce Harper. The rookie did his job, drawing a walk, and that forced Matheny to turn to Fernando Salas to face Ryan Zimmerman. Zim responded with a base hit to left, bringing home the tying run. Then he appeared to purposely get caught in a rundown, stalling things just long enough for Harper to come around and score the go-ahead run. A crazy finish to a big inning for the Nationals.

Pitching lowlight: What's going on with Zimmermann? It's a real question for the Nationals right now, because the right-hander hasn't looked right for a while now. He was ambushed for a career-high eight runs in only 3 23 innings today, serving up two towering homers and losing his location during a laborious fourth inning he couldn't even finish. If this was just one blip on the radar, it wouldn't be cause for concern. But this has become a disturbing trend. After posting a 2.28 ERA over his first 21 starts this season, Zimmermann's ERA over his last six outings is now 6.16. Is there a problem with his shoulder? His velocity has been strong throughout this stretch. Whatever the reason, the Nationals have to hope their presumed playoff ace can figure things out, stat.

Key stat: The Nationals are the only MLB team to post a winning record in each of the season's first five months: April (14-8), May (15-13), June (15-10), July (17-9), August (19-10).

Up next: The series concludes with Stephen Strasburg on the mound for one of his final starts of the season. Veteran Jake Westbrook gets the nod for the Cardinals in the 1:35 p.m. contest.

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Nationals were willing to give up the farm for Chris Sale

Nationals were willing to give up the farm for Chris Sale

By Jason Dobkin

The Nationals were ready to give up a host of top prospects to get Chris Sale from the White Sox.

They weren't able to nab the ace — Chicago decided to trade Sale to the Red Sox for a group of prospects headlined by second baseman Yoan Moncada — but it wasn't for lack of a competitive offer.

The Nats were deep in talks with the White Sox on Monday night, offering up two of their top prospects in right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito and outfielder Victor Robles. They were also reportedly willing to let go of another top pitching prospect, Reynaldo Lopez, who originally wasn't on the table.

Giolito and Robles are two of the best prospects in baseball, and Lopez isn't far behind. Moncada, though, is considered possibly the No. 1 prospect. In addition to Moncada, the Red Sox also gave up stud pitching prospect Michael Kopech.

RELATED: Should the Nationals pursue Andrew McCutchen?

The Nats could have possibly gotten a deal done involving Trea Turner, but they weren't willing to budge on him.

The Nationals' missing on Sale comes not long after they also missed out on pitcher Mark Melancon, who signed with the Giants.

Considering how much Washington was willing to part with to get Sale, losing out on him probably hurts.

MORE: Two ways to look at the Nationals' missing out on Chris Sale

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Reports: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox, not Nationals

Reports: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox, not Nationals

The Nationals missed out on a major trade target when news broke this afternoon that the White Sox had traded ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox. 

The report comes from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. 

Washington had been the frontrunner to land Sale as recently as this morning. And as recently as 30 minutes ago, the Nationals vs. Red Sox contest seemed like it could go either way.

But apparently the Nats couldn't match Boston's offer of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech plus two minor leaguers, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network. 

Now, the dream rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Sale won't happen. 

The trade for Sale was so close, it could impact other potential deals for the Nationals. The team reportedly explored trading Gio Gonzalez to the Yankees if Sale indeed ended up in Washington. 

MORE NATIONALS: Report: Nats exploring trading Gio to Yankees