Lannan, Werth overcome their Philly demons

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Lannan, Werth overcome their Philly demons

PHILADELPHIA -- For John Lannan, the moment came in the bottom of the third, when faced with a bases-loaded jam he struck out Ryan Howard and got Carlos Ruiz on a comebacker.

For Jayson Werth, the moment came in the top of the ninth, when faced with a riled up Phillies crowd in what had become a one-run game he delivered a two-run dagger of a base hit to silence the angry mob.

And for the Nationals, the moment came a few minutes later, when Drew Storen got John Mayberry Jr. to ground out harmlessly to third base and seal an 8-4 victory that moved this team one step closer to the NL East crown and exorcised some Philadelphia demons in the process.

"A big game, a big outing for John," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "That was a huge win for us."

They're all huge at this stage of the calendar year, each win lowering the magic number -- it's now down to 4 -- and reducing the plausibility of a last-minute flip-flop of teams atop the NL East standings.

Yes, the Braves won again Wednesday night -- their ninth win in their last 11 games -- but they still trail the Nationals by four games with only seven left to play. Each day they fail to close the gap is a wasted day from their standpoint.

The most important thing the Nationals can do right now is win games themselves, something they've done 94 times this season but something they've struggled to do inside Citizens Bank Park. That made this victory all the more significant, especially because of the history of two players who were influential in pulling this one off.

Start with Lannan, whose big-league career began in Philadelphia five years ago with an unexpected ejection for plunking Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in succession and had only gone downhill since then. In seven starts in this ballpark entering Wednesday, the left-hander was 1-5 with a 7.06 ERA.

Lannan, though, has stared down all kinds of adversity during the strangest year of his professional life, so it only felt appropriate to overcome one of his biggest hurdles and beat the Phillies in a game his Nationals desperately needed to win.

With 5 13 innings of two-run ball, Lannan improved to 4-0 in five big-league starts this season, all of them significant wins.

"He's been outstanding for us this year," manager Davey Johnson said. "That's his fourth win up here. Big game against Atlanta, big one here. He's just been a big boost for us."

Though he was mostly sharp during this outing, Lannan did find himself in one big jam when ht loaded the bases with one out in the third. All of a sudden, Howard stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game up on one swing. Given Lannan's sordid history in this place, few would have been shocked had that nightmare scenario happened.

The lefty, though, took a different mindset with him to the mound.

"I've been in that situation here so many times and come up short, so I told myself not to do what I did back then," he said. "I don't even know what I was doing, I just told myself I wasn't going to let it happen because it's happened so many times here. I kind of was fed up with it and kind of just went from there."

So Lannan calmly struck out Howard on a curveball, then snagged Ruiz's comebacker to snuff out the rally and preserve a 5-1 lead.

The Nationals had staked their starter to that cushion thanks to an early explosion against Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick. Three of their first eight batters belted home runs, with Bryce Harper becoming only the second teenager ever to hit 20, Desmond increasing his career-high total to 25 and Kurt Suzuki adding his fifth over his last 22 games.

"The kid got us going again," Desmond said.

Harper may have got them going early, but Werth got them over the hump late with a huge hit just when it looked like the Nationals' lead was tenuous.

After chipping away all night, the Phillies got the deficit down to 5-4 in the eighth and nearly tied the game against slumping reliever Tyler Clippard. Desperate for an insurance run in the top of the ninth, the Nationals wound up getting three, the first two delivered by Werth in dramatic fashion.

Standing in the on-deck circle during that inning, Werth picked up a ball fouled off by Danny Espinosa. The one-time Phillies right fielder turned to toss it to a group of kids seated behind the Nationals dugout but claims he was concerned a group of "unruly middle-aged men that, to me, appeared to be snarling" right behind them.

So Werth tossed the ball into the dugout instead, a move that prompted the entire ballpark to shower boos upon him for the next five minutes, including as he battled through his at-bat against right-hander Justin DeFratus. The boos turned to cheers only for a moment after DeFratus buzzed him with a high-and-tight fastball, then everyone turned silent when Werth laced a 2-2 pitch up the middle for a base hit that scored two runs and gave the Nationals much-needed breathing room.

"I was so excited for him," Harper said. "I wanted to jump up and down and scream. ... These fans going crazy, booing him, telling him he sucks and whatnot. They don't know what they're missing. He's an unbelievable ballplayer, and he's been clutch for us all year. He's what gets us going."

Werth, who forcefully clapped his hands together after rounding first base, wound up scoring moments later when Harper delivered his ninth triple of the season, extending the lead to four runs. He downplayed the booing by a fan base that used to adore him when he manned right field in this ballpark.

"It's really just part of playing in Philadelphia," he said. "That's what makes it great. I had a lot of fun here. I had a lot of good times and wouldn't trade those for the world."

Werth, of course, is enjoying some good times with the Nationals right now. While the Phillies are on the verge of missing the postseason for the first time in six years, he's on the verge of clinching the NL East and embarking on a postseason run with his new club.

Which means plenty more key at-bats for a guy who seems to relish those opportunities.

"I mean, as time goes on here, as we get into October, there's probably going to be even more of that," Werth said. "I've been here before, definitely don't mind it."

Nationals blow out Royals to continue strong road trip

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Nationals blow out Royals to continue strong road trip

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 13-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium: 

How it happened: After letting Tuesday night’s game slip out of their hands, the Nationals wasted no time on Wednesday afterrnoon making sure the series finale at Kansas City was theirs right from the jump. The Nats exploded in the first inning with six runs off Royals starter Kris Medlen and never looked back, cruising to a 13-2 blowout victory to move to 19-8 on the season to match the 1979 Expos for the best start in franchise history. They also matched the best 27-game record for a D.C.-based team, tying the 1925 and 1932 Senators.

Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper homered, Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and Daniel Murphy had four to tie a career-high. Stephen Strasburg went six innings with just two runs allowed on five hits and a walk. He moved to 5-0 on the season and now holds a 2.36 ERA through six starts. 

What it means: The Nationals recovered well from their disappointing loss on Tuesday night just in time for a huge series at the Cubs. The Nats now hold some positive momentum as they prepare to face the team with the best record in baseball. The Cubs and Nats will battle in what is about as exciting a series you can find this early in the season. And whatever happensin those four games, the Nats will finish this supposedly scary road trip with at least a .500 record after winning on Wednesday.

Another huge first inning: The Nationals once again got off to a blazing start in the first inning, this time putting up six runs off Medlen. Amazingly, five of those runs came across before Medlen even recorded an out. Harper and Jayson Werth had RBI singles, Zimmerman and Murphy had RBI doubles and Clint Robinson added a sacrifice fly in the frame. The Nationals have scored 32.5 percent (39 of 120) of their total runs this season in the first inning.

Harper has big day: Harper had been in a major slump lately with multiple strikeouts in three consecutive games and just one hit in his previous five outings. On Wednesday, Harper had two hits including his 10th homer of the season, a solo shot to right field in the fifth inning. It was Harper’s first multi-hit game since April 23.

Zim continues to heat up: For the third straight day, Zimmerman posted a multi-hit game. On Wednesday, it was a season-best three hits including his first inning RBI double. Zimmerman is now batting .264 on the season and is 7-of-14 in the month of May. 

Murphy’s career day: Murphy homered for the second straight day, but that was just a small part of what was overall one of the best games of his entire MLB career. He matched a career-high with four hits, had three RBI and scored a career-best four runs. Murphy now has hits in 23 of his 26 games this season with multiple hits in 13 of those outings. He was a triple short of a cycle in the win.

Up next: The Nats move on to Chicago to begin a four-game series at the Cubs. The opener is an 8:05 p.m. ET first pitch at Wrigley with Joe Ross (3-0, 0.79) and Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.52) set to start.

Nationals make big jump in updated sportsbook World Series odds

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Nationals make big jump in updated sportsbook World Series odds

Bovada has released their updated World Series odds after the first month of the 2016 MLB season and the Nationals are rising the ranks. They are now tied for second in best odds to with the World Series with the New York Mets. The only team ahead of them is the Chicago Cubs, who they face in their next series beginnning Thursday.

Here are teh full updated odds courtesy of Bovada:

                                            Odds on 4/4/16             Current Odds (5/316)               

Chicago Cubs                                       5/1                    5/1                                           

New York Mets                                      12/1                  10/1     

Washington Nationals                            18/1                  10/1

Boston Red Sox                                   14/1                  12/1     

Chicago White Sox                                33/1                  12/1

Toronto Blue Jays                                 10/1                  12/1                                         

Kansas City Royals                               14/1                  14/1     

Los Angeles Dodgers                            12/1                  14/1                                         

San Francisco Giants                            8/1                    14/1                                         

Texas Rangers                                      25/1                  18/1                             

Pittsburgh Pirates                                  20/1                  20/1                             

St. Louis Cardinals                                18/1                  20/1                                         

Detroit Tigers                                        20/1                  22/1                                         

Seattle Mariners                                    40/1                  22/1                                         

Arizona Diamondbacks                          25/1                  28/1                                         

Baltimore Orioles                                   40/1                  28/1     

Cleveland Indians                                  18/1                  33/1

Houston Astros                                     16/1                  33/1     

Los Angeles Angels                              40/1                  33/1

Oakland Athletics                                  66/1                  40/1     

Miami Marlins                                        50/1                  50/1

New York Yankees                                25/1                  50/1                                         

Tampa Bay Rays                                   40/1                  50/1                                         

Colorado Rockies                                 150/1                75/1                                         

Philadelphia Phillies                               150/1                75/1                                         

Minnesota Twins                                    50/1                  125/1                                       

San Diego Padres                                 125/1                150/1                                       

Cincinnati Reds                                     125/1                200/1                                       

Milwaukee Brewers                                125/1                200/1                                       

Atlanta Braves                                       150/1                500/1                                       

Nats look to bounce back against Royals with Strasburg on the mound

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Nats look to bounce back against Royals with Strasburg on the mound

Nats (18-8) vs. Royals (14-12) at Kauffman Stadium

Tuesday night was a tough loss for the Nationals, as they saw Jonathan Papelbon blow a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. On Wednesday, they will look to bounce back with Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 2.25) on the mound.

It's a quick turnaround with a 2:15 p.m. ET first pitch. Despite that, Wilson Ramos is back in there at catcher. Ryan Zimmerman will be the desiganted hitter with Clint Robinson starting at first base.

First pitch: 2:15 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 869
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stephen Strasburg vs. Royals - Kris Medlen

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
DH Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
C Wilson Ramos
1B Clint Robinson
SS Danny Espinosa
(RHP Stephen Strasburg)

ROYALS

SS Alcides Escobar
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Alex Gordon
2B Omar Infante
RF Jarrod Dyson
C Drew Butera
(RHP Kris Medlen)

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