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Nats-Mets instant analysis

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Nats-Mets instant analysis

Game in a nutshell: After a marathon game last night, the Nationals hoped to get both a productive start out of Edwin Jackson and some early run support to make manager Davey Johnson's job a little easier in the later innings. They got both. Slumping Adam LaRoche started things off with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first. Michael Morse added two more opposite-field hits, the second of them driving in his first run of the season. And Jackson did his part, overcoming his own throwing error to churn out seven quality innings. And unlike last night, the back end of the Nationals' bullpen took care of business and closed this one out without the need for any antacid. Tyler Clippard's fifth save since taking over pseudo-closer duties ensured the Nats' second straight win over the Mets and extended their lead in the NL East to two games.

Hitting highlight: Throughout his three-week slump (during which he went 6-for-55 and saw his batting average drop nearly 70 points) LaRoche insisted he wouldn't panic. He'd been through much longer slumps before, and he felt he'd learned how best to overcome them: By resisting the urge to try to change something. It's only one game, but whatever he did tonight certainly worked. With his three-run homer in the first, LaRoche gave the Nationals an early lead. He later added a single in the fifth and a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Put it all together, and the veteran first baseman had his best game in quite some time ... and perhaps started off another prolonged hot streak at the plate.

Pitching highlight: Jackson's stuff was dominant right from the outset, as evidenced by his two strikeouts to open the game. And he only surrendered three hits over seven innings. The right-hander still could have used some refinement, though. Two of the Mets' three runs scored as a direct result of self-inflicted wounds: A leadoff walk issued to New York's No. 8 hitter in the third, and then a two-base error on an errant pickoff throw in the fourth. All things considered, though, Jackson turned in a quality start and gave the Nationals exactly what they needed: seven strong innings after having used up their entire bullpen last night.

Key stat: With one swing in the bottom of the first inning (and then one more swing in the bottom of the seventh), LaRoche recorded twice as many RBI (4) as he had notched in his previous nine games combined (2).

Up next: The two teams will have a quick turnaround for Thursday's series finale. Chien-Ming Wang faces knuckleballer R.A. Dickey at 1:05 p.m. at Nationals Park.

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Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The tag was clearly fake. What happened next was all too real for the NL East champion Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper got hurt and needs X-rays.

Harper injured his left thumb making an awkward slide to avoid a pretend tag by Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and the teams later cleared the benches Sunday in Washington's 10-7 win.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Harper was "sore" and would have X-rays on Monday. The reigning NL MVP had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the same thumb in 2014.

Harper led off the third inning with a triple. As he neared third, Kang acted as if a throw was coming and feigned a tag.

Harper went down, was checked by a trainer and stayed in. He scored on Anthony Rendon's double and was replaced in the field in the bottom half by Chris Heisey.

Kang insisted he merely intended to keep Harper from scoring when right fielder Josh Bell's throw was way off line.

"First of all, I meant no harm," Kang said through a translator. "During the relay play, I tried to hold the runner on third base. That's all I tried to do."

The next time Kang came up, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind him and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker as the benches emptied.

Cole said he was trying to pitch inside to Kang. Baker said the entire situation wasn't ideal for a team that is focusing on a playoff run.

"We don't want guys suspended," Baker said. "But you know, boys will be boys, and you've still got to defend your teammates."

Washington's Jayson Werth was in the middle of the skirmish. Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.

"I was very surprised I was the only one ejected considering," Rodriguez said. "I got blamed for being the one that instigated, but you can watch the film yourself."

Werth had a pinch-hit, two-run homer and Heisey had a go-ahead single during a five-run burst in the eighth. The Nationals' rally came against former teammate Felipe Rivero (1-5).

Rivero had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 25 innings since being traded from Washington to the Pirates.

Kang hit a two-run homer off Koda Glover to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh.

Shawn Kelley (3-2) wound up with the win. Former Pirates closer Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 43rd save.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli did not play after taking a foul ball off his wrist Saturday. ... RHP Neftali Feliz (arm) threw off flat ground but is not yet ready for a return to the mound.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark (15-9 2.70 ERA) had his start pushed back one day after the Nationals clinched the NL East on Saturday night. He'll looking for his career-best 16th win as Washington hosts Arizona for a four-game series.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA) will start as Pittsburgh begins a four-game series against the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Kuhl has allowed seven earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in his two previous starts against Chicago this season.

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Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

With the division title clinched the night before, it seemed the Nationals were poised for an uneventful series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. 

That wasn't to be, as the two clubs engaged in a benches clearing altercation in the bottom of the third inning. The tension started in the top of the frame, when Bryce Harper was injured while sliding to third base on a triple. The Nats took exception to Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang faking a tag on Harper, which may have led to the injury. 

So when Nats starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in the bottom of the inning, the near-fracas was ignited.

Cole was immediately ejected from the game, benches cleared, and each side exchanged words. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was also ejected from the game.