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Instant analysis: Nats hold on to beat Braves, 5-4

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Instant analysis: Nats hold on to beat Braves, 5-4

Game in a nutshell: Apparently, the Nationals' scoring barrage this week wasn't entirely a product of Coors Field. Those bats were nearly as hot here in Atlanta, leading to a 15-hit night. Michael Morse led the charge with four hits, Ryan Zimmerman added two of his own, Ian Desmond chimed in with a two-run double and Jesus Flores clubbed a solo homer. That all put Ross Detwiler in position to earn the win, but the left-hander (after six dominant innings) crumbled in the seventh, giving all four runs back (the final two on Andrelton Simmons' homer). No worries, because Morse immediately responded with a homer off Chad Durbin in the top of the eighth, and Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard finished things off to seal a tense victory and give the Nationals a 4 12-game lead over the Braves.

Hitting highlight: What's been the key to the Nationals' sudden resurgence at the plate? How about the resurgence of Morse as a bonafide, middle-of-the-order threat? With a 4-for-4 showing tonight, Morse now has 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats. During that span, he's raised his batting average from .217 to .294. All along, the Nationals have insisted Morse just needed to see more pitches and get his timing down after missing three months with a torn lat muscle. Looks like he's got that timing down pat now, much to his team's delight.

Pitching highlightlowlight: For six innings, Detwiler was brilliant, perhaps as good as he's ever been. The left-hander was efficient (only 74 pitches to record 18 outs) and even showed some intestinal fortitude in pitching his way out of a fifth-inning jam. But then came a Stage 3 meltdown in the bottom of the seventh. Detwiler plunked Freddie Freeman. He couldn't field a comebacker from Jack Wilson. He was charged with a balk. He served up an RBI single to Martin Prado. He allowed a sacrifice fly to Michael Bourn. And then he made the biggest mistake of all: a fat, 1-2 curveball to Simmons that landed in the bleachers and tied the game 4-4. Detwiler, who has completed seven innings in only two of 56 career starts, hunched over and put his hands on knees in disgust.

Key stat: In 255 career games against the ExposNationals franchise, Chipper Jones has hit 40 homers with 60 doubles and 154 RBI.

Up next: The temperature might reach 105 degrees when Stephen Strasburg and Mike Minor take the mound at 4:05 p.m. Saturday for the second game of this series. When's the last time Strasburg pitched in anything resembling normal weather?

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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