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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

Remember that blown 9-0 lead to the Braves exactly one week ago? That debacle of a ballgame that left some wondering whether the Nationals' charmed season was about to go down the toilet?

Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

In the week since, the Nationals have gone 6-1, losing only the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. They've seen their pitching staff produce seven consecutive quality starts, none of those member of the rotation having allowed more than two earned runs. They've scored an average of 5.7 runs per game. They've increased their lead in the NL East to five games. They sit 20 games above .500 for the first time since the franchise arrived in Washington. And, at 59-39, they own the best record in baseball along with the New York Yankees.

We've moved past the point where anyone should consider this a fluke. Guess what, folks: These guys are for real, and they aren't done yet.

Last night's 8-2 thumping of the Brewers certainly lifted the Nationals to a nice, new plateau. They've won six in a row, matching their longest winning streak of the season. And they earned their 59th win in Game No. 98. Three years ago, it took 162 games for this franchise to achieve its 59th win.

The Nationals also ascended to 20 games over .500, a mark not before seen during the franchise's eight seasons in town. In fact, to find the last Washington baseball club that sat 20 games over .500, you've got to go all the way back to Sept. 23, 1945, when manager Ossie Bluege's Senators beat the Philadelphia A's 4-3 on the season's final day to finish 87-67.

All of that is nice. For a town that hasn't experienced anything like this in 67 years, it's obviously reason to rejoice.

But this is just the beginning. There isn't one player inside the Nationals' clubhouse satisfied with what they've accomplished to date. The manager feels the same way. Once his team got to 15 games over .500, Davey Johnson said the goal was to get to 20 games over. And now that the Nats have done that, Johnson surely is looking to make it 25 games over.

The season is still only 60 percent complete, with a whole lot of baseball left to be played. And the pressure only grows as each passing day's game carries more and more significance.

The Nationals have done a remarkable job climbing to heights not seen in these parts in three generations.

But they know better than anyone how much more climbing there still is to be done.

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Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Bryce Harper sends 'Wow' tweet after Nationals trade for Adam Eaton

Nationals star Bryce Harper has had an eventful week, which included finding out that he might not be the Nationals star much longer. 

An anonymous club executive said that the Nationals won't meet Harper's demands for a 10-year, $400 million contract, and are prepared to let him walk when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. 

That happened on Monday, then on Tuesday Washington missed out on trading from White Sox ace Chris Sale, who ended up going to Boston. 

And then on Wednesday, the Nats ended up trading their pile of top pitching prospects to the White Sox anyway, but instead of getting Sale, they got centerfielder Adam Eaton

Eaton, 28, has never been an All-Star. But he finished last season with a .284 batting average, .362 slugging percentage, 59 RBIs and 14 home runs. He's also an asset defensively in the outfield. 

But the pitching prospects Washington gave up – Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning – amounted to a steep price for Eaton. So steep that the Nats reportedly offered almost the same package of prospects for Sale. 

Within minutes of the Eaton trade news breaking, Harper tweeted this. 

He followed it up with a message of welcome a few minutes later.

Obviously, the initial tweet is what grabbed peoples' attention. But who can really say if Harper meant it as a positive or negative reaction to the Eaton trade? Frankly, it might not have anything to do with the trade at all. 

Plenty of other "wow" things happened this week. 

MORE NATIONALS: Dusty Baker takes part in “Play Ball” clinics in D.C.

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Nationals deal top prospects Giolito, Lopez and Dunning to White Sox for Adam Eaton

Nationals deal top prospects Giolito, Lopez and Dunning to White Sox for Adam Eaton

The Washington Nationals were unable to trade the farm to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for former Cy Young winner Chris Sale. But still looking to make a splash, the Nationals went back to the White Sox, and have made a deal.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the Nationals will trade Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning to the White Sox for outfielder Adam Eaton, pending physicals.

Eaton, 28 years old, will be entering his sixth season, having played two seasons with the Diamondbacks and two season with the White Sox.

Eaton has never made an All-Star team, but has a solid OBP of .357 and has back-to-back seasons of 14 home runs and at least 50 RBIs. He also has a very friendly contract, having recently signed a five-year, $23.5 million contract.

In return, the White Sox get a treasure trove of prospects.

Giolito is the top prospect in the Nationals' organization and one of the top prospects in all of MLB. He appeared in six games for the nationals in 2016, finishing with a 6.75 ERA and 11 strikeouts. Lopez, the No. 4 prospect in the organization, appeared in 11 games in 2016, finishing with a 4.91 ERA and 42 strikeouts.

Dunning, one of the ace of the Florida Gators' staff, was selected by the Nationals with the 29th pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.

But considering the Nationals were willing to give up numerous top prospects for Chris Sale or Andrew McCutchen, it's puzzling that the Nationals would receive just Eaton in return.

Heading into the 2016 winter meetings, it was well known that the Nationals were interested in making a big splash and shaking things up.

It looks like they're doing just that.