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Instant analysis: Nats 8, Phillies 4

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Instant analysis: Nats 8, Phillies 4

Game in a nutshell: Desperate for a win in perhaps their biggest house of horrors, the Nationals turned to man who has known almost nothing but misery in Philadelphia in John Lannan. The left-hander responded with another solid outing, but more importantly benefited from some major early run support. Three Nationals homered off Kyle Kendrick in the game's first two innings, opening up a 5-0 lead in the process. The Phillies, though, kept chipping away, scoring twice off Lannan, then once off Ryan Mattheus, then once off the slumping Tyler Clippard to leave this a 5-4 game entering the ninth. Would this one require a tense finish? Nope, and for that the Nats can thank Jayson Werth. After getting the local fans riled up by pretending to throw a foul ball into the stands, he stepped to the plate and delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth for some huge insurance runs. That made life easy for Drew Storen, who didn't even have to appear in a save situation. Good thing the Nationals won, too, because the Braves beat the Marlins again to improve to 9-2 over their last 11 games. So the lead in the NL East remains four games with seven to play, with the magic number now down to 4.

Hitting highlight: They all came early, and they came before you could blink. Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Kurt Suzuki all homered in a span of seven batters, all of them impressive. But let's spotlight Harper, because he's once again doing things few have ever done before at his age. With 20 homers, he's only four shy of Tony Conigliaro's teenage record. With 93 runs scored, he's only seven shy of Buddy Lewis' teenage record. And with his 17th stolen base, he's now the first teenager in big-league history in the 17-17 club. Three more steals and he'll join the 20-20 club.

Pitching highlight: He may not acknowledge it publicly, but Lannan knows all too well about his past struggles in this ballpark and against this team. So he certainly took the mound tonight knowing the pressure was on to deliver. And he responded in impressive fashion. Obviously it helped to be staked to a 5-0 lead, but Lannan opened his night by inducing three straight groundballs. He walked only one batter over his 5 13 innings. And though he was charged with two earned runs, both scored thanks in large part to defensive miscues. Above all else, Lannan did what the Nats needed him to do: Throw strikes, get deep enough into the game and give his team a chance to win. He's now made five big-league starts this season, and has a 4-0 record to show for it.

Key stat: The Nationals are one of only three NL teams with four 20-homer players this season. The others: the Brewers and Cardinals.

Up next: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, when Gio Gonzalez goes after his 21st win of the season against Phillies rookie right-hander Tyler Cloyd.

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X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

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Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

The Nationals know this feeling all too well, the anxious wait for test results to determine the severity of an injury to a star player. The latest, with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, includes an MRI set for Tuesday morning.

Ramos suffered a right knee injury on Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the sixth inning, the same knee in which he tore his ACL and MCL back in May of 2012. Ironically, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was also there for that one, in Cincinnati as the skipper of the Reds.

The Nats will hope and pray that this time it's not as serious.

"He doesn’t look too good tonight," Baker said. "You could tell he was in pain. We have to wait till tomorrow to come up with something definitive.”

Ramos buckled to the ground and pointed to his knee after a relay throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman sailed high over Ramos' head and required him to jump to catch it. The Nationals were playing on a wet field following a 20-minute rain delay and they believe the injury could be related.

“That probably had something to do with it. Yeah. Last time he hurt his leg it wasn’t an impact play either," Baker said. "We just got to pray for Wilson and hopefully he’s OK.”

The Nationals have already seen Stephen Strasburg go down with a right flexor mass strain, an injury that has put his postseason availability in question. Bryce Harper is currently out with a jammed left thumb. And Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup for seven straight games with a strained left buttock.

Harper received good news on Monday that his X-ray was negative, but that's four of the team's five 2016 All-Stars who are banged up with just six games and 10 days left to go until the playoffs begin.

That's an unusual string of bad luck at a bad time to have it.

"My dad told me, ‘Don’t say what else can go wrong because something else can go wrong.’ I’m thinking what else can go right? I don’t think like that. I don’t allow myself to think like that," Baker said. 

"Those thoughts come into everybody’s head, but you’ve got to dispel them and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess. Bryce’s X-rays came out negative, so that’s a positive note in itself. It just seems like down this stretch you lose a guy, gain a guy. Like Stephen Drew. I’m glad we got Stephen Drew back. And who knows? Somebody else might step up and be the hero, the least likely of people. That’s how I think.”

Ramos earned his All-Star nod with a breakout season at the plate. He's batting .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBI and an .850 OPS. He has the lowest catcher's ERA in baseball and has emerged as one of the best backstops in the game, right before he's set to hit free agency this winter for the first time in his career.

Losing Ramos would be devastating for the Nationals at this point in the year.

"He’s a leader of this team. It’s a tough break, really is," Drew said. "It didn’t look too good. My thoughts and all these guys on this team hope for the best for him and we’ll be thinking about him.”

Everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse is pulling for Ramos, but Baker knows the Nats will have to keep going if his injury is serious. Backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino will have to step up in his absence, however long it is.

"I feel badly because you know how we all feel about Wilson, but it’s part of the game," Baker said. "You hate (for) it to happen this late, right before the playoffs, but our next step is try to figure out a way to play without Wilson. I’ve been mixing and matching this year and most of my life. Therefore it’s another obstacle and I just got to try to go back to the drawing board and figure out something."

[RELATED: Nationals on playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round]

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