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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 2

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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 2

Game in a nutshell: They've failed plenty of times this season to pull off a series sweep when given the opportunity, but today the Nationals seized the opportunity and stepped on the Mets' throats. For that, they can thank Stephen Strasburg, who churned out seven dominant innings, striking out 11 while allowing only one run (Ike Davis' solo homer in the second). Strasburg's teammates bolstered him with plenty of run support, with Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa clubbing back-to-back homers in the top of the second and Adam LaRoche adding a two-run bomb in the seventh. Nothing ever comes easy for the Nationals, though, so the bullpen gave everyone a scare in the eighth when Henry Rodriguez walked both batters he faced and then Craig Stammen walked another to load the bases. No worries, because Drew Storen recorded a huge out against David Wright to end the threat, and Tyler Clippard finished off the ninth to secure the sweep and put the Nats 19 games over .500, matching their best record in eight seasons in D.C.

Hitting highlight: How much has Espinosa turned the corner from the left side of the plate? He's gone all the way around the block. With a second-inning homer and a fourth-inning double today, he's now hitting .433 (23-for-53) with six doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBI this month against right-handed pitchers. Espinosa has managed to remove the loop from his left-handed swing and is now attacking pitchers with a compact, powerful stroke that has allowed him to become a potent threat from both sides of the plate. The Nats couldn't be more thrilled by that development.

Pitching highlight: For weeks, Steve McCatty has been pounding the idea into Strasburg's head he needed to be more aggressive with his fastball, using that pitch even when ahead in the count to retire batters. Message received. Entering today, Strasburg had thrown his fastball 62.4 percent of the time. Today, he threw it 71.3 percent of the time. And it worked. Not only did the right-hander dominate, striking out 11 in seven innings. He also kept the ball in the strike zone, not issuing a walk and needing only 94 pitches to complete his afternoon. If Strasburg is able to make this adjustment a permanent thing, watch out.

Key stat: Over the last six games, the Nationals rotation has posted a 1.32 ERA and allowed 27 total hits over 41 innings. That streak began with Saturday's doubleheader against the Braves, which saw Edwin Jackson allow one run over seven innings in the opener and John Lannan allow two runs over seven innings in the nightcap.

Up next: With this sweep under their belts, the Nationals now head to the Great Midwest for a four-game series in Milwaukee. Right-handers Edwin Jackson and Yovani Gallardo start things off Thursday at 8:10 p.m. from Miller Park.

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE