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Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2

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Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2

Game in a nutshell: Not a whole lot to say about this one, other than to point out how bad Edwin Jackson was during a miserable 1 13 innings on the mound. The right-hander was torched for nine runs (eight earned), putting his team in a 9-1 hole in the second inning. Not much else mattered after that, with Davey Johnson pulling seven of his eight regulars (everyone except Danny Espinosa), choosing to live to fight another day. And yet the night really wasn't a lost cause for the Nationals, because Lucas Duda's 3-run homer in Atlanta led the Mets to a 3-1 win and spoiled Chipper Jones Night for the Braves. Thus the Nationals somehow managed to get blown out yet still see their magic number drop to 2. Which means they can clinch the NL East title tomorrow night with a win plus another Braves loss. Kind of takes the sting out of this ugly performance, doesn't it?

Hitting lowlight: It's tough find much motivation when you step to the plate trailing by eight runs, so it's hard to find too much fault with the Nationals' hitting approach in this one. They did get a couple of nice at-bats in the top of the first out of Bryce Harper (who doubled) and Adam LaRoche (who battled through a 10-pitch encounter with Adam Wainwright to poke an RBI single). That was the 95th run Harper has scored this season, so he needs five more in the season's final five games to become only the second teenager ever to score 100 runs.

Pitching lowlight: In his defense, Jackson wasn't helped by his defense in the first inning, with Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman bobbling the ball. And he allowed a couple of soft singles. But that doesn't overshadow everything else the right-hander did wrong. He walked four batters. Uncorked two wild pitches. Threw only 25 of 56 pitches for strikes. Faced 15 batters and retired only three of them (one a 380-foot bomb to the warning track, another a double play hit by the pitcher). Thus continued Jackson's difficult September. He's now got a 7.92 ERA in five starts this month. His season ERA jumped from 3.77 to 4.13 in this outing alone. That's not easy to do this late in the year. The way things are trending, you certainly have to think Ross Detwiler will be Davey Johnson's No. 3 starter in the postseason, with Jackson bumped to the fourth slot.

Key stat: With his first-inning RBI single, LaRoche now has 99 for the season. That's one shy of his career high, set in 2010 with the Diamondbacks.

Up next: It's the moment you've been waiting 79 years to experience: Washington's baseball club has a chance to clinch a title tomorrow night. Jordan Zimmermann will face Kyle Lohse at 7:15 p.m. EDT, hoping to earn his 13th win, and hoping the Mets can beat the Braves again and secure the NL East crown for the Nationals.

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Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

ATLANTA (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out a season-high 11 and kept up his recent domination of the Atlanta Braves, leading Washington to a 3-2 win Sunday that stopped the Nationals' four-game losing streak.

Strasburg (5-1) allowed five hits in 7 2/3 innings, beating Atlanta for the second time this season and improving to 7-1 in his last nine starts against the Braves. He is 10-8 overall against Atlanta.

He reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time this season after fanning 10 Braves on April 20.

Strasburg faded in the eighth, when Dansby Swanson hit a two-run double. Koda Glover struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning and finished the six-hitter for his third save.

Daniel Murphy hit a second-inning homer off Jaime Garcia (1-3) and the Nationals added two unearned runs in the third.

Matt Adams was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and hit into a ninth-inning double play in his debut for Atlanta, a day after he was acquired from St. Louis. Matt Kemp led off the ninth, and Adams hit a line drive that was caught by Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on first base.

Garcia allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in eight innings with no walks.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the third following fielding errors by Markakis in right and Garcia. Bryce Harper had a run-scoring single.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon and C Matt Wieters were given days off from the starting lineup. Rendon entered at third base in the eighth.

Braves: RHP Kris Medlen allowed one hits in six scoreless innings Saturday in his first start for Class A Florida. He missed most of 2016 with shoulder problems after his second Tommy John surgery. "That would be a real nice piece to have," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. Medlen pitched for Kansas City in 2015-16 and his last season with Atlanta was in 2013, when he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Following an off day, RHP Jacob Turner (2-2) is expected to start when the Nationals will open a series against Seattle on Tuesday.

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2-4) will take a 0-3 career record in three starts against Pittsburgh into Monday night's series opener against the Pirates.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

A week ago, the Nationals were looking unstoppable. Bryce Harper was hitting walkoff dingers left and right, there were multiple winning streaks, and the bullpen was only sorta bad. 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

A week's worth of games later - against the Braves, Pirates and Phillies, no less - and the Nats don't look nearly as stainless. Harper's hitting under .200 since his Mother's Day walkoff, the team lost 5 of 6, and the bullpen turned back into a pumpkin. Because of that, there's a new team at the top of the Power Rankings this week. Who is it? To the rankings! 

30. MIAMI MARLINS

2017 Record: 15-28
Previous Ranking: 24
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Dee Gordon (.318/.400/.364 last week)

Stanton hasn't homered in over two weeks, a stretch of 12 games. After going 2-8 over the last 10, including that weird Dodgers game, the Marlins have seen better weeks.  

29. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 16-30
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance: Brad Hand (.300/.500/.600 last week)

Wil Myers' underwhelming season continues. The outfielder is hitting .150 over the last week, and only .219 over the last month. The Padres best position player is only worth .6 bWAR, and that's 5th-best on the team.

28. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 15-26
Previous Ranking: 23
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Daniel Nava (.429/.429/.571 last week)

They ran into Texas at exactly the wrong time. Getting starts that are consistently like Aaron Nola's last one will be huge for his development this season. 

27. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2017 Record: 18-25
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Lorenzo Cain (.087/.125/.087 last week)

They're starting to play better, but upcomming series with the Yankees and Indians aren't making life any easier for KC. Jason Vargas (?!) has been their most valuable player this year (2.0 bWAR). 

26. ATLANTA BRAVES

2017 Record: 18-23
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Notable Performance: Matt Kemp (.375/.423/.708 last week)

Losing Freeman for three months because of some dumb unspoken beef is just a testament to how stupid unwritten baseball rules are. The silver lining to this year, though, is that the Braves are going to fleece some team for Matt Kemp in July. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE