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Instant analysis: Phillies 9, Nats 3

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Instant analysis: Phillies 9, Nats 3

Game in a nutshell: An emotional weekend series ended with emotions ramped up to even higher levels. It all started with Cole Hamels drilling Bryce Harper in the back with a first-inning, first-pitch fastball. How did Harper respond? By stealing home. How did Jordan Zimmermann respond? By plunking Hamels in the leg. The Phillies got the last laugh, though. Hunter Pence crushed a two-run homer off Zimmermann in the fourth, and Hamels cruised the rest of the night to deal the Nationals a tough loss in the series finale. Making matters even worse, Jayson Werth suffered an apparent serious left wrist injury trying to make a sliding catch in right field in the sixth. And that was before the entire game blew up during a torturous, six-run ninth inning for the Phillies.

Hitting highlight: What else can you say about Harper? The kid has both the physical gifts and the baseball instincts to do some incredibly special things on the field. He didn't just go 2-for-3 and reach another time on the hit-by-pitch. He single-handedly swiped four extra bases with his hustle, going first-to-third on a single, turning a little looper to left into a double and -- of course -- stealing home.

Pitching lowlight: Zimmermann was sharp early on and showed some intestinal fortitude in retaliating Hamels' plunking of Harper by drilling the Phillies pitcher in the leg. But he fell apart during the fourth inning, serving up a two-run homer to Pence and allowing three more hits. He also loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh, needing Craig Stammen to enter from the bullpen and bail him out. He still got credit for a quality start, but by Zimmermann's lofty standards, this was not a quality performance.

Key stat: Harper became only the second Nationals player to steal home (Ian Desmond did it last year on the back end of a double-steal) and the first teenager to steal home in a major-league game since the Angels' Ed Kirkpatrick in 1964.

Up next: After a much-needed day off, the Nationals open a six-game road trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are both expected to return to the lineup for the 7:05 p.m. game at PNC Park.

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MLB Hot Stove Rumors: Nationals exploring trading Gio Gonzalez to Yankees

MLB Hot Stove Rumors: Nationals exploring trading Gio Gonzalez to Yankees

Here's an interesting report for Nationals fans to keep an eye on: If Washington lands White Sox ace Chris Sale, they may trade left Gio Gonazlez to the Yankees. 

From Rich Mancuso of New York Sports Day:

A reliable National League source early this morning at the 2016 Baseball Winter Meetings confirmed that the Washington Nationals are close to a deal with the New York Yankees that would send lefthander Gio Gonzalez to the Bronx. In return the Yankees would send the Nationals two minor league prospects and maybe another player.

Mancuso stipulates that the trade agreement, which is not yet official, would be contingent upon the Nationals acquiring Sale. 

Gonzalez, 31, is in the last year of his contact with Washington after arriving in 2012 from Oakland. He finished the 2016 season with an 11-11 record, 4.57 ERA and 171 strikeouts. 

MORE NATIONALS: Syndergaard already tired of Sale to Nationals hype

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Would Scherzer, Strasburg, Sale be best rotation in MLB? Syndergaard disagrees

Would Scherzer, Strasburg, Sale be best rotation in MLB? Syndergaard disagrees

The Nationals are vigorously pursuing a trade for White Sox ace Chris Sale, according to multiple reports. And the collective baseball Internet is hyped for the prospect of a rotation including Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Chris Sale. 

MLB Network's Jon Heyman, who has been reporting on the Sale-to-Washington negotiations, thinks the move could put together the best rotation in baseball. 

Cue Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard, who was all too eager to shut that down.

But look at the numbers. Last season, Scherzer, Strasburg and Sale finished with 2.96, 3.60 and 3.34 ERAs, respectively. Scherzer led the NL with 20 wins, Sale had 17 and Strasburg had 15. As for strikeouts, Scherzer led the MLB with 284, Sale came in 5th with 233 and Strasburg ranked 21st with 183. 

It would be a spectacular group.

Thor didn't say whose rotation would be better than those three. Himself, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey? Close, but not quite. At least not yet. 

MORE NATIONALS: Nationals may not be willing to pony up for Harper