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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

Game in a nutshell: The night began as a referendum on Chien-Ming Wang's status as the Nationals' No. 5 starter and the possibility of Ross Detwiler taking his spot. But the entire storyline turned in the top of the eighth when Rays reliever (and 2010 National) Joel Peralta was ejected for having a foreign substance in his glove. Memories of the 2005 brawl between the Nats and Angels when Jose Guillen tipped off Frank Robinson about Brendan Donnelly having pine tar in his glove immediately came rushing back. In the end, this bit of controversy didn't help the Nationals' cause, because Tampa Bay's Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney shut the door in the bottom of the eighth and ninth, quashing any potential game-winning rally. Thus, the Nats still lost their fourth straight game ... though they did create some intrigue for the rest of this series.

Hitting highlight: Michael Morse asked Davey Johnson the other day to drop him in the lineup because he was "killing the team." Johnson wouldn't listen and kept Morse in the cleanup spot tonight. That proved to be the right move, because Morse finally connected for his first homer of the season, drilling a line shot over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. The umps reviewed it to ensure the ball actually cleared the fence, which it did, and Morse celebrated the home run that perhaps will get his season on track.

Pitching lowlighthighlight: We'll do both categories tonight, because Wang's start clearly was a lowlight while Detwiler's relief appearance clearly was a highlight. Wang got himself into trouble from the very beginning and never righted himself. He had no trouble getting ahead of hitters -- he had two strikes on all five batters in the top of the first -- but he couldn't put any of them away. Detwiler, on the other hand, had no trouble putting hitters away. He retired 11 of 12 batters faced, the lone one reaching via a hit-by-pitch. Whether this turn of events was enough to produce a WangDetwiler swap in the No. 5 rotation slot remains to be seen.

Key stat: Of the last four non-quality starts by the Nationals rotation, Wang has pitched three.

Up next: Stephen Strasburg makes his first start in a week (thanks to a pair of off-days). The Nats ace will face prospect Chris Archer, making his major-league debut for the Rays in the 7:05 p.m. game at Nationals Park.

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Gonzalez takes the mound as the Nats kick off weekend set vs. Rockies

Gonzalez takes the mound as the Nats kick off weekend set vs. Rockies

Nats (74-53) vs. Rockies (60-67) at Nationals Park

The Nationals will look to make it back-to-back wins Friday night as they host the Colorado Rockies for the first of a three-game weekend set. Washington will send Gio Gonzalez (8-9, 4.30 ERA) to the mound to oppose rookie right hander Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 13.50 ERA). 

The last time these two clubs met, the Nats dropped two of three in Colorado, as they were overwhelmed by the Rockies' power-laden lineup. Dusty Baker and company will hope to fare better this time around in the friendly confines of Nats Park.  

Speaking of Baker, his lineup will be without Wilson Ramos for the second straight day. The Nats' skipper explained before Friday's game that his catcher is fine, and that the move is to simply give him an additional day of rest. Jose Lobaton, who called Thursday night's shutout against the Orioles, will be back in there and batting eighth. Other than that, it's the typical lineup. 

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Rockies - Jeff Hoffman

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
LHP Gio Gonzalez

ROCKIES

CF Charlie Blackmon
1B Stephen Cardullo 
3B Nolan Arenado
RF Carlos Gonzalez
LF Ryan Raburn
C Nick Hundley
2B Daniel Descalso 
SS Cristhian Adames
RHP Jeff Hoffman

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MLB Power Rankings: The Royals arrived, just in time

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MLB Power Rankings: The Royals arrived, just in time

Just when everyone was writing the 2016 Kansas City Royals' obituary, they win 9 in a row and plant themselves in the thick of the playoff race. It's possibly the most Royals thing in the world to do. How did the other teams fare? To the rankings! 

30. Atlanta Braves (LW: 30)

Adios, Jeff Francoeur. 

29. Minnesota Twins (LW: 29)

It's still weird to think that before this season, people thought they'd be a playoff team. 

28.  Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 28)

Matt Wisler looked dominant in his almost-no-hitter of the Diamondbacks. 

27. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 25) 

The Joey Votto offseason trade rumors are starting to heat up! 

26. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (LW: 26)

Are there really rumors that the Angels are the team seriously looking into Tim Tebow?

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Nats make the traded they needed

Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Nats make the traded they needed

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DOWNLOAD THE SHOW ON iTUNES

On this week's episode of 'Baseball in the District,' Tim Murray and I began by breaking down the Nats' recent trade for lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski, how he will fit in their bullpen and how much they potentially miss Max Schrock, the prospect that they gave up.

We then discussed Katie Ledecky's appearance at Nationals Park and her interview with the media. That got us talking about the most awkward experiences we've ever had with famous people.

Also in this week's episode was talk about Trea Turner's impact this season and whether he is currently the Nats' most complete player. Mixed in is our thoughts about the Beltway Series and why the O's have had the Nats' number.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.