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Instant analysis: Cardinals 4, Nats 3

Instant analysis: Cardinals 4, Nats 3

Game in a nutshell: Stephen Strasburg started the game strong with six shutout innings, but a rocky seventh by Sean Burnett let the Cardinals back in the game. The Nats were able to respond in the next inning with a two-run rally and take the lead. Kurt Suzuki had a big day with a solo home run in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa batted in the seventh inning runs to get the Nats ahead for good. The Cardinals scored a run in the 8th on a Tony Cruz double, but Mattheus got out of the eighth and Tyler Clippard held on in the ninth for the win. It was the 81st win of the season for the Nats which ties their most in a season since moving to Washington, D.C.

Hitting highlight: Suzuki had an all-around great day at the plate and in the field. His fourth inning homer was a crisp line drive that landed in the first row of seats in left field. He then batted home Desmond in the sixth on a single, accounting for each of the Nats first two runs. He also made a nice defensive play earlier in the fourth on a throw home by Bryce Harper. Harpers throw was well in time, but Suzuki needed to step away from the plate for the scoop and make a nice turn to spot the tag.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg had a few long innings due to mistakes by the defense behind him, but throughout the game he was quite sharp. He went six innings and struck out nine, allowed just two hits and one walk. It came after his worst start of the season in Miami and showed his resilience to bounce back. An eight-pitch third inning was huge for the Nats ace after 40 throws through the first two frames.

Key stat: Stephen Strasburg has 195 strikeouts on the season through 156.1 innings pitched. He wont get many more with just one or two starts left, but to hit the 200 mark as he likely will is remarkable in a shortened season.

Up next: The Chicago Cubs (51-81) come to town to face Ross Detwiler and the Nats. The Labor Day game starts at 1:05 p.m. and is the first of another four-game series.

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Jayson Werth homers, Gio Gonzalez sets tone as Nats sweep Phillies

Jayson Werth homers, Gio Gonzalez sets tone as Nats sweep Phillies

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

How it happened: Few things can cure a pitching staff's woes quite like playing the worst offense in all of baseball. Nats pitchers had taken their lumps in recent weeks, but through three games at the Philadelphia Phillies, order was restored. 

Nats starters dominated in all three outings to help recalibrate their bullpen. And now the Nats are back on track just in time for an off-day before they move on to New York to face the Mets.

On Wednesday night, it was Gio Gonzalez who carved up the Phillies. He went six innings with just one run allowed on two hits and a walk. The lone run he surrendered was a solo homer by Freddy Galvis.

Phillies starter Adam Morgan was also very good. He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on three hits. He gave up a solo homer to Jayson Werth and an RBI single to Wilson Ramos before he was pulled.

Werth also had a single for his 26th multi-hit game of the season. Anthony Rendon had two hits including a double, while Michael Taylor, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper went a combined 0-for-12. This was the first time that Harper hasn't reached base since he returned from his neck injury on Aug. 14.

After Gonzalez left the game, Blake Treinen took over to pitch 1 1/3 perfect innings. Mark Rzepczynski also tossed 1 1/3 and allowed a hit. Shawn Kelley then took over to get the final out of the ballgame.

The Nationals swept the Phillies for the third straight time. It was the Nationals' 9th sweep of the 2016 season. 

The Nats finished the month of August with a 17-11 record, the most wins in a single month for them so far this year. They won 16 games in April, May and June.

What it means: Washington has won 20 of their last 23 against NL East opponents and they don't play another team outside of their division until Sept. 23. With Wednesday's win, the Nats moved to 78-55 on the year. That's a 95-win pace.

Gio keeps rolling: Like Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark in the previous two nights before him, Gonzalez took advantage of a weak Phillies lineup to put in one of his best starts in a while. That was a welcomed change after Gonzalez had to go up against teams like the Rockies, Orioles, Indians, Giants and Dodgers for eight consecutive starts. Despite the tough competition of late, Gonzalez has been on quite the tear for weeks now. Over his last 11 starts he's got a strong 3.16 ERA across 62 2/3 innings. Gonzalez still has some work to do to drop his 4.14 season ERA, but 11 starts is not a small sample size. Gonzalez has been solid for two months now.

Werth hits No. 20: Another night, another homer for Werth, who now has four in his last six games. He had eight in August alone, which ties a career-high for homers in a month for him. This one was a 453-foot bomb to straightaway center field off Morgan, one that nearly took out a TV camera.

It was Werth's 20th homer of the season, the first time he's reached 20 since 2013 when he finished 13th in NL MVP voting. And by getting to 20, the Nats have five players with 20 homers or more. The others are Harper, Murphy, Ramos and Danny Espinosa. Only one other MLB team - the Orioles - also has five players with 20 or more bombs this season.

Ramos is heating up: Ramos spoke on Sunday about how having two days of rest prescribed by Dusty Baker had helped rejuvenate his swing and so far the results are backing up that premise. His RBI single on Wednesday gave him hits in all five games since he returned from his two-game layoff. He also has RBI in four of those five outings. The Buffalo saw his season average dip from .338 on Aug. 7 all the way to .312 on Aug. 27 in a span of just 15 games. But if he keeps swinging it like he has in recent days, that number will start to go back up.

Up next: The Nats finally have an off-day after playing 20 games in 20 days, a stretch that took a serious toll on their pitching staff in particular. On Friday night they get back to work in New York to start a three-game series at the Mets. First pitch in the opener is 7:10 p.m. with A.J. Cole (0-1, 4.97) set to go up against Cy Young candidate Noah Syndergaard (12-7, 2.55).

[RELATED: Turner on playing like a little kid, rest helped Ramos]

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NL East: Mets dealt another blow with Neil Walker's back injury

NL East: Mets dealt another blow with Neil Walker's back injury

NEW YORK (AP) -- Second baseman Neil Walker was out of the New York Mets' lineup for a fourth straight day and the team revealed he has a herniated disk in his back.

Both Walker and the Mets had previously classified the injury as a stiff back. Manager Terry Collins indicated he wasn't at liberty to reveal the exact diagnosis during Tuesday's pre-game news conference, but general manager Sandy Alderson shared the condition to a few reporters early Wednesday afternoon.

Collins was pressed for additional details before the Mets took on the Miami Marlins.

"The issue is, the herniated disk is causing weakness in one of his legs," Collins said. "The weakness is causing numbness in one of his feet. The numbness is keeping him from playing."

The Mets were waiting for a second opinion on Walker's condition to determine if surgery is necessary immediately or if he could try to play through the injury over the final 4 1/2 weeks of the regular season.

Walker has matched his career high with 23 home runs in his first season with the Mets.

Walker's 2012 season with Pittsburgh ended prematurely with a similar injury. He went through six weeks of physical therapy to rehabilitate a disk in his lower back.

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Gio Gonzalez faces Phillies as Nats look for sweep on road

Gio Gonzalez faces Phillies as Nats look for sweep on road

Nats (77-55) at Phillies (60-72) at Citizens Bank Park

The Nationals saw Tanner Roark and Max Scherzer dominate in the first two games of this week's series in Philly. On Wednesday, they will send Gio Gonzalez (9-9, 4.25) to the mound looking for a sweep.

The Nats have swept the Phillies each of the last two times they've squared off and have won eight straight overall in head-to-head matchups. Gonzalez has seen the Phillies twice this year with just two earned runs allowed in 13 1/3 total innings of work.

Pitching for Philly will be lefty Adam Morgan (1-8, 6.50). Morgan has also seen the Nats twice with nine earned runs given up in 12 2/3 innings combined.

Trea Turner has the day off for the Nationals with Michael Taylor starting in center and batting leadoff. Turner is actually just two hits away from tying a franchise record for most hits in a month. Given this is the last day of August, he should fall just short.

Besides the Taylor change, the rest of the Nats' lineup looks just as it did in Tuesday's win.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Phillies - Adam Morgan

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
LHP Gio Gonzalez

PHILLIES

TBA
LHP Adam Morgan

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