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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

Game in a nutshell: Looking to bounce back from a rough weekend against the Marlins, the Nationals didn't waste much time pouncing on Collin McHugh. They roughed up the Mets rookie right-hander for three homers during an eight-batter span in the third and fourth innings, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. They actually were held hit-less by the New York bullpen after that, but rode Gio Gonzalez's effective start and scoreless innings of relief from Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to secure a fairly easy victory. Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner, and the Nationals opened a six-game road trip in strong fashion. Their magic number for the NL East is down to 16; their magic number for the final wild card berth is 9.
Hitting highlight: The Nationals' scoring barrage took a break yesterday, but it was back in full force for the opener of this series. They blasted three homers -- Kurt Suzuki's solo shot in the third, Ryan Zimmerman's two-run shot a few batters later, Ian Desmond's two-run shot in the fourth -- and none was a cheapie. Desmond's was especially impressive, a real clout into one of the bullpens in right field. It was only the latest example of the shortstop's newfound stroke to the opposite field: Seven of his 22 homers this season have been hit to the right of straightaway center. Only one of Desmond' 22 career homers prior to 2012 was hit in that direction.
Pitching highlight: It looked like it might be a long night for Gonzalez when he walked his first batter of the night, then issued another free pass to David Wright moments later. And truth be told, the left-hander wasn't sharp at all. He wound up walking five and throwing only 58 of his 104 pitches for strikes. But he did come through with big pitches when he needed them and wound up with strong overall results: one run allowed on three hits over six innings. The only real blemish on his pitching line: Scott Hairston's solo homer in the fourth. Gonzalez's quality start proved more than enough to earn him win No. 19 on the season, making him the first MLB pitcher to reach that milepost in 2012.
Key stat: Desmond's 22 homers this season are the most ever by a Washington middle infielder, a span that includes the 1901-71 Senators and the 2005-present Nationals.
Up next: Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner tonight. New York's R.A. Dickey will try to join him tomorrow. The knuckleballer goes up against Jordan Zimmermann at 7:10 p.m. in a matchup of two of the best right-handers in the NL this season.

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

ATLANTA  -- R.A. Dickey frustrated Washington with his knuckleball for eight innings, Ozzie Albies had three hits and the Atlanta Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 on Thursday night.

After Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff homer in the second inning, the 42-year-old Dickey gave up only one hit -- a two-out single by Trea Turner in the third -- over the next five innings. Turner was picked off first base.

Dickey (10-10) gave up two runs, four hits and no walks. He made a strong case that the Braves should pick up his $8 million club option for 2018.

Zimmerman lined his homer into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1. He set a career high with his 34th homer, his fourth off Dickey this season.

Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances. It was a strong return to form after Vizcaino walked all three batters he faced in a blown save Wednesday night.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth off Tanner Roark (13-10). Albies singled, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' wild pickoff attempt and scored the go-ahead run on Freddie Freeman's fly ball to deep left field. Nick Markakis doubled past Zimmerman at first base and scored on Johan Camargo's single up the middle.

The Nationals trimmed the Braves' lead to one in the eighth. Anthony Rendon doubled to left field and scored on Wieters' two-out single.

Ender Inciarte continued his push for 200 hits when he led off the first with a triple to right field. It was his 191st hit, the third-highest total in the majors. Inciarte scored on Albies' single.

The game was delayed several minutes in the middle of the eighth. There was confusion as Nationals manager Dusty Baker attempted to make several defensive changes and had to go over the changes with home plate umpire Nic Lentz, who also took questions from Braves manager Brian Snitker.

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Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman's resurgent season continues to get more and more impressive. 

Zimmerman hit his 34th home run of the season on Thursday night, setting a new career high. 

His previous career high was set in 2009, when he hit 33 while slashing .292/.364/.525 with a .888 OPS. 

He didn't get cheated on it, either: 

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