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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1

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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1

Game in a nutshell: The Nationals opened the second half of their season with a bang, pouncing on Marlins ace Josh Johnson for five runs and handing the ball to Jordan Zimmermann to mow his way through the Miami lineup. Big hits came from Ryan Zimmerman (who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer), Adam LaRoche (3-for-4, two runs scored) and Ian Desmond (2-for-4, RBI). Zimmermann had a shutout going through six innings but was surprisingly pulled by manager Davey Johnson in favor of Henry Rodriguez, who struggled again to find the strike zone and was yanked after four batters. No worries, though, because the rest of the Nationals bullpen hung on to close this one out and start the pennant race off in style.
Hitting highlight: How nice was the four-day All-Star break for the ailing members of the Nationals' lineup? Apparently very nice, because they came out raking in the second-half opener, no one more so than Zimmerman. Zim launched a third-inning shot to deep left-center and clanked the home run sculpture for a two-run blast. He added a single in the fifth and another in the seventh. In 15 games now since receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder, he's hitting .359 (23-for-64) with six doubles, six homers and 20 RBI.
Pitching highlight: In what has to be considered one of his best outings of the season, Zimmermann sliced and diced the Marlins lineup, getting better and stronger as the night wore on. With a devastating slider, he struck out four batters in a row in the third and fourth innings, and when the sixth inning ended he had retired 14 of 16 batters and had yet to allow a run while throwing only 87 pitches. And then he never emerged from the dugout for the bottom of the seventh. It was a curious move, to say the least, one Johnson is going to have to explain. Regardless, it was another fine start for Zimmermann, who lowered his ERA to 2.48 and got his record back to .500 at 6-6.
Key stat: Only two major leaguers have made 18 starts this season and completed at least six innings in each of them: Zimmermann and Justin Verlander.
Up next: The Nats wanted to sign Mark Buehrle last winter, but after he signed with Miami, they instead traded for Gio Gonzalez. No complaints about that now, but we will get to see the two lefties go head-to-head Saturday night in Game 2 of this series. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

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Gio Gonzalez leads Nats to 6th straight win with 3-1 victory against Mets

Gio Gonzalez leads Nats to 6th straight win with 3-1 victory against Mets

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at Citi Field and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory.

Gonzalez (2-0) gave up two singles in 6 1/3 innings. The lefty improved to 9-1 lifetime on the Mets' home field.

Still missing injured slugger Yoenis Cespedes and other starters, New York has lost seven of eight.

Koda Glover, the fourth Washington pitcher, completed the combined two-hitter by getting the last out for his first big league save.

Jacob deGrom (0-1) struck out 10 and walked six in 5 2/3 innings -- he matched a career high by fanning 13 in his last start. He was supposed to pitch Friday night, but was scratched with a stiff neck after sleeping on it wrong. Mets pitchers fanned 15 in all.

Trea Turner returned to the Nationals' starting lineup from a strained right hamstring and hit an RBI double. A day after being activated from the disabled list, he hustled home on Ryan Zimmerman's single for a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Turner got two hits and reached on an error.

Gonzalez struck out six and walked three in the 10th straight quality start by Washington pitchers. He worked around a pair of walks in the first, then retired 13 batters in a row until walking pinch hitter Jose Reyes to begin the sixth.

Juan Lagares followed with a sharp single up the middle for the Mets' first hit. It was his 15th career hit off Gonzalez, more than anyone's gotten against the lefty.

Asdrubal Cabrera made it 3-1 with an RBI single, but Gonzalez escaped further trouble by striking out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker.

Matt Wieters put Washington ahead with a single in the fourth that scored Bryce Harper. Daniel Murphy also tried to scoot home, but the throw beat him by a lot and he did a brief tango on the dirt around the plate before catcher Rene Rivera tagged him.

Murphy singled twice and ended his 0-for-14 skid. Harper, who began the day with a major league-leading .407 average, walked three times and struck out twice.

Both teams made nifty catches.

Left fielder Adam Eaton rushed in for a sliding grab on Rivera's liner in the fifth. The next inning, Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson angled into the alley for a diving, backhand stab on Michael Taylor's drive.

More Nationals: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMMITTEE?​

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Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

NEW YORK -- Bryce Harper got off to a loud start, tagging a longtime nemesis. Way later, he enjoyed another trot home.

Harper homered early, then doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the 11th inning on a bases-loaded walk by Jeurys Familia, sending the Washington Nationals over the ailing New York Mets 4-3 Friday night for their fifth straight win.

"I think every game against them means a lot," Harper said.

This was the first of 19 meetings this season between the teams that have traded the NL East title the last three years.

"That would've been a big win for them," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It didn't take you long to see they were banged up and in trouble.

On a foggy night, Familia again had trouble finding the strike zone. He forced home a run with a walk to Trea Turner as the Mets lost for the sixth time in seven games. New York fell to 1-3 in extra innings early this season.

Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Travis d'Arnaud didn't start for the Mets because of injuries, on the same day they put first baseman Lucas Duda and infielder Wilmer Flores on the disabled list.

Plus, Matt Harvey wound up pitching when scheduled starter Jacob deGrom was scratched with a stiff neck. The Mets employed pitcher Zack Wheeler to pinch hit -- he doubled -- and another starter, Robert Gsellman, to pinch run.

"You've got to play with what you have, and I think we're doing the best we can right now," Harvey said.

Harper hit his seventh homer, lining a two-run drive in the first. He was 1 for 26 in his career against Harvey before connecting.

Did Harper think the law of averages was on his side?

"Never know," he said. "Might get dominated your whole life by one guy."

Harper is doing the dominating now. Bouncing back from a down year, the 2015 NL MVP is 12 for 19 (.632) with five home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs in his last five games.

Harper used his legs to set up the tiebreaking tally.

The Nationals, the top-hitting team in the major leagues, hadn't gotten a hit since Jose Lobaton's leadoff homer in the fifth when Harper sliced a one-out double in the 11th.

After Daniel Murphy was intentionally walked by Josh Smoker (0-1), Familia relieved. On Thursday night, Familia -- who led the majors with 51 saves last year -- made his season debut after a 15-game domestic violence suspension and labored through 30 pitches, walking two.

This time, he bounced a wild pitch to Anthony Rendon and Harper hustled into third, the safe call standing up on replay. Rendon wound up walking on a full-count pitch and Turner, activated from the disabled list before the game, walked on four pitches.

"This isn't a perfect world where you can pick the perfect spot," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He just didn't throw the ball over the plate, which is very uncharacteristic for him."

Enny Romero (1-0) got the win, and Shawn Kelley earned his third save.

Mets leadoff man Michael Conforto homered on Tanner Roark's first pitch of the game. Slumping Curtis Granderson hit an RBI single in the fourth and lined his first homer of the season in the sixth, tying it at 3.

Injured outfielder Jayson Werth sat out for Washington, catcher Matt Wieters got a day off and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman entered in the ninth. Murphy was back in the lineup after missing a game with tightness in his right leg.

Harvey pitched four-hit ball for seven innings. He hit Wilmer Difo, the second batter of the game, in the helmet with a 94 mph fastball. Difo stayed in, and Harper followed with his home run.