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Daniel Murphy lifts Nationals to walk off win over Braves

Daniel Murphy lifts Nationals to walk off win over Braves

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's one-out RBI single in the 10th inning capped the Washington Nationals' 5-4 comeback victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Adrian Sanchez led off the 10th against Ian Krol (1-2) with his first major league hit and two batters later moved to third on Ryan Zimmerman's single. Murphy then lofted an opposite-field single over left fielder Matt Kemp's head to win it for Washington.

Matt Albers (5-1) induced Kemp's double play grounder to end the 10th to help the Nationals escape a two-on jam.

Washington extended its lead in the NL East to 9 1/2 games over Atlanta.

Trailing 4-1 and facing Braves closer Jim Johnson, the Nationals opened the ninth with a single by Bryce Harper and a walk to Zimmerman. Murphy's single to right scored a run, and Anthony Rendon then lofted an RBI single to right.

An out later and with Matt Wieters at bat, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker was ejected for arguing a checked swing. It was his third ejection of the season.

Wieters hit a sacrifice fly to score Zimmerman, and shortstop Wilmer Difo then singled in Murphy to tie it. It was Johnson's seventh blown save of the season.

Atlanta starter R.A. Dickey retired his first 10 hitters and took a no-hitter into the sixth before shortstop Stephen Drew broke it up with a leadoff double. The knuckleballer gave up a run and three hits while striking out seven in seven innings. In four starts since yielding eight runs in five innings on June 13 during a loss at Washington, he is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings.

Washington's Max Scherzer set down the first nine batters he faced and struck out 10 over 7 2/3 innings while allowing four runs. It was the eighth time in nine starts and the 11th time this season Scherzer recorded 10 or more strikeouts, and he leads the NL with 173 strikeouts.

Freddie Freeman homered and drove in three runs for Atlanta. The solo shot in the seventh was the first homer since May 16 for Freeman, who returned from the disabled list Tuesday after missing 44 games with a fractured wrist.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: IF/OF Danny Santana (bacterial infection) was placed on the 10-day DL and the team recalled IF/OF Jace Peterson from Triple-A Gwinnett. Santana was hitting .230 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 42 games with the Braves. Peterson returns to Atlanta three days after being optioned to Gwinnett.

Nationals: Washington activated OF Chris Heisey (ruptured right biceps) from the DL after missing 40 games. He is hitting .128 with a homer and three RBIs this season. He replaces OF Michael A. Taylor, who went on the 10-day DL with a right oblique strain. . The Nationals signed LHP Seth Romero, their first-round draft pick. The former University of Houston pitcher's deal includes a signing bonus of $2.8 million.

UP NEXT

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (6-6, 5.14 ERA) seeks his first victory since allowing two runs in seven innings at Washington on June 14. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts since that win.

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (9-2, 3.28 ERA) makes his final start before the All-Star break for Washington.

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

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Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

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Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

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In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone.