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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

Game in a nutshell: A prime pitching matchup between Jordan Zimmermann and R.A. Dickey lived up to the billing; even though Zimmermann labored through much of his five innings, he managed to allow only two runs and keep the game close. Dickey, meanwhile, thoroughly dominated the Nationals through six innings, his only blemish to that point a manufactured first-inning run. But then Tyler Moore came up to pinch-hit in the top of the seventh and crushed a game-turning homer, giving the Nats the lead. Kurt Suzuki and Bryce Harper (career-high four hits) plated a couple of big insurance run in the top of the ninths, and a pieced-together bullpen of Tom Gorzelanny, Christian Garcia, Michael Gonzalez, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard finished off the Nationals' 88th win of the season (though Clippard allowed a solo homer to Scott Hairston in the bottom of the ninth). At this moment, the Nationals lead the NL East by 7 games, the NL wild card by 13 12 games, with 20 to play.

Hitting highlight: It's been tough for Davey Johnson to find at-bats for Moore since Jayson Werth and Michael Morse came back from early season injuries, but the rookie is somehow finding a way to keep his bat hot despite the lack of action. He stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh inning tonight to pinch-hit for Gorzelanny and wasted no time inflicting damage on Dickey, crushing the first knuckleball he saw into the left field stands. That's nine homers this season for Moore in only 138 at-bats. Do the math: Over a full season, that's quite impressive.

Pitching highlight: While Zimmermann labored through his five innings, Garcia absolutely dominated his one inning of relief. Despite this being only his fifth big-league appearance, the right-hander was entrusted with a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, a major vote of confidence from Johnson. Well, Garcia earned even more with his explosive performance. He struck out the side, showing both a high-90s fastball with a devastating changeup and slider. In only 4 23 innings, he's already got seven strikeouts and zero walks. Could a rookie September call-up force his way onto the October playoff roster? It's happened before (remember Francisco Rodriguez with the Angels in 2002?). If Garcia keeps this up, he's going to have a strong case for it.

Key stat: In 32 career plate appearances against Dickey, Werth now has 13 hits and five walks. That equates to a .563 on-base percentage.

Up next: The series wraps up at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, with New York native John Lannan officially taking over Stephen Strasburg's spot in the Nationals' rotation. Lannan will face Mets rookie Matt Harvey, their top pitching prospect.

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

MORE NATS: Can't miss Nationals promotional schedule