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Instant analysis: Nats 9, Cubs 1

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Instant analysis: Nats 9, Cubs 1

Game in a nutshell: Wait, did someone hit the pause button at the end of last night's game and just pick things up right there tonight? This sure felt like what we saw only 24 hours ago, with the Nationals ransacking the Cubs' suspect pitching staff in record fashion. They once again clubbed six home runs, two of them via Bryce Harper, one apiece from Roger Bernadina, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. That provided more than enough run support for Gio Gonzalez, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth and wound up with seven more scoreless innings to his name. Thus the Nationals won for the seventh time in their last eight games, improving to a season-best 32 games over .500 and maintaining their 7 12-game lead over the Braves in the NL East.

Hitting highlight: Look out, the 19-year-old is starting to heat up again. Harper started looking good at the plate about three weeks ago, and he's only looking better with each passing day. Tonight, he twice pounced on the first pitch he saw (once from Chris Volstad, once from Michael Bowden) and drove the ball over the fence (once into the left field bullpen, once over the right field bullpen). Over his last 18 games, Harper is now hitting .333 (22-for-66) with four doubles, a triple and seven homers. And his 17 home runs are now the third-most ever hit by a teenager, trailing only Tony Conigliaro (24) and Mel Ott (19).

Pitching highlight: The offensive explosion might have been the story at the end of the night, but for five innings, Gonzalez was front and center. The left-hander allowed only one batter to reach safely during that time: Josh Vitters, who benefited from Desmond's throwing error in the third. Gio's shot at history, though, ended when Darwin Barney lined the first pitch of the sixth inning past a diving Ryan Zimmerman for the Cubs' first hit of the game. He wound up allowing three hits over seven innings but didn't allow a run, extending his scoreless innings streak to 16. Over that span, he's got 17 strikeouts. And he's now got 18 wins, tied with R.A. Dickey for the MLB lead. He's the first Washington pitcher to record 18 wins since the Senators' Bob Porterfield won 22 games in 1953.

Key stat: The Nationals are only the third team since 1918 to hit six home runs in back-to-back games. The others: the 1996 Dodgers and 2003 Angels.

Up next: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Thursday when Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound in search of his 10th win. He'll face Cubs right-hander Justin Germano (2-5, 6.30 ERA).

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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC