Game in a nutshell: Who says the Nationals can't handle the pressure of a pennant-race series against their lone remaining competitors in the NL East. After pulling off last night's dramatic, 13-inning win over the Braves, they did it in more convincing fashion this time. There was, of course, a 51-minute rain delay in the top of the third, but that didn't faze anyone, least of all Stephen Strasburg. Allowed to retake the mound, the right-hander wound up tossing six innings and striking out 10. His batterymate, Jesus Flores, supplied a three-run homer, with Ian Desmond launching a solo shot of his own. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard then finished it off out of the bullpen, leaving a crowd of 33,888 rocking and celebrating the home team's seven-game lead over Atlanta heading into tomorrow's series finale.
Hitting highlight: It's been a tough season for Flores, who was put into a tough spot after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and has struggled both at and behind the plate. This, though, might have been his finest all-around performance of the year, and it came at a most opportune time. Flores clubbed a three-run homer into the flower bed beyond the left-field fence in the fifth (his fourth home run of the season, three of them coming against the Braves). Then he closed out the top of the sixth with a laser to nail Jason Heyward trying to take second on a ball in the dirt. In a season that has been frustrating on many levels for Flores, this had to feel especially gratifying.
Pitching highlight: Strasburg negatively affected by a rain delay? Pfft. So what if he had to keep himself warm during the 51-minute gap in action during the top of the third? He actually came back better and stronger. In fact, Strasburg might have displayed his best command of all three of his pitches the entire season. He painted corners with a 97 mph fastball. He dropped 83 mph curveballs off the table. And his 91 mph changeup was unhittable. Put it all together and you get six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball on 94 pitches (plus whatever he threw down in the batting tunnel during the delay). Remember Strasburg's inconsistent July, when he went 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA? Well, he's now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in August. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Key stat: Over the last three days, the Nationals have sat through 253 minutes of rain delays.
Up next: The Nationals will go for the sweep (and possibly a knockout punch of the Braves) Wednesday night. Ross Detwiler gets the ball against right-hander Kris Medlen.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the first former Nationals player (2005-present) to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He was inducted in his first year of eligibility, marking the 52nd first-ballot hall of famer in history.
Rodriguez, who was the first free agent signed by current Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, played the final two seasons of his career with Washington in 2010-11. During his time in D.C. he hit .254 six homers and 68 RBI. Pudge's greatest contribution to the Nationals came from his leadership and work ethic. He guided Stephen Strasburg through his rookie season and also helped develop Wilson Ramos so he could pass the torch to him.
During his 21-year career, Pudge made 14 all-star teams, won 13 gold gloves, won seven silver slugger awards, led his league in caught-steeling percentage nine times, and was named American League MVP in 1999 with the Texas Rangers. He became a World Series champion in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pudge's 13 gold gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and his 2,844 career hits are the most ever by a player who appeared in 50 percent or more of their career games as a catcher.
In addition to Rodriguez, former Montreal Expos great Tim Raines was inducted to the Hall of Fame. Raines is the franchise leader (Expos/Nationals) in walks (793), runs (947), stolen bases (635) and triples (82). Raines was an all-star seven times and he won a silver slugger in 1986 with the Expos. He is the only player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 150 homers and 600 RBI in a career, and the only player to steal at least 70 bases in six consecutive seasons.
Related: Bryce Harper wants Nationals to spend money on players, not team store
Bryce Harper isn't one to keep his opinions to himself. The Nationals slugger is outspoken about what he wants, whether that's to "Make Baseball Fun Again" or to make at least $400 million on his next contract.
On Wednesday, he gave his take on how the Nats should be investing their money this summer. Here's Harper responding to a tweet from ESPN's Jim Bowden.
Harper's message: Players over everything else. Sorry, gift shop.
It's plain to see where the 2015 NL MVP is going with this. Obviously, he wants as much talent around him as possible for a chance to win the World Series.
Matt Wieters, a four-time All-Star catcher, and Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer, could be significant additions to Washington's roster.
Harper is set to become a free agent in 2018, at which point an organization like the New York Yankees will be prepared to offer him both a massive salary and a massive investment in the players around him.
The slugger probably hopes his current team will try to surround him with winning pieces in an effort to keep him. But if a report about the Nationals' reaction to his contract demands proves accurate, they may have another agenda.
There's Harper drama around the Nationals? Just a regular Wednesday here in Washington.
MORE NATIONALS: Nationals avoid arbitration with Harper, three others