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A must-win game for Nats tonight?

A must-win game for Nats tonight?

There really are no such thing as "must-win" games in baseball, at least not until a team is one loss from elimination. So a late-August date in Miami probably shouldn't be viewed as do-or-die for the Nationals.

Having said that, the Nationals face as close to a must-win situation tonight as you're likely to find in this sport. Losers of four straight, they head to rainy South Florida for a two-game series with the last-place Marlins desperately needing to get back on track before this slump really turns into something of consequence.

The Nationals' cause was helped somewhat by the Braves, who late last night were shut out 3-0 in the opener of their three-game series in San Diego. Thus, Washington's lead in the NL East is back to five games after it slipped to 4 12 over the weekend.

Still, the Nationals can't just count on maintaining a comfortable lead via losses by their lone remaining challenger for the division crown. They're going to need to win their share of games as well, and what better time to start than tonight against a reeling Miami club that has gone 14-25 since July 17.

And what better time to send a red-hot Stephen Strasburg to the mound for one of his final starts of the season. The right-hander, whose closely monitored innings count stands at 145 13, has pitched brilliantly this month (4-0, 1.50 ERA) after an erratic July (2-2, 4.13). Strasburg also has owned the Marlins this season, going 2-0 without allowing a run in three head-to-head starts.

Strasburg's chances to earn his 16th win of the year also will increase if the Nationals get two of their offensive stalwarts (Michael Morse and Ian Desmond) back from minor injuries. Morse has appeared since getting hit in the right wrist by a pitch during the first inning of Friday night's game in Philadelphia. Desmond hasn't played since hyperextending his knee and suffered a mild hamstring strain on Wednesday.

Both players hope to be back in the lineup tonight, though both will need to participate in pregame workouts without hindrance to convince manager Davey Johnson they're ready to return.

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Murphy, Scherzer slam Mets with 7th straight win

Murphy, Scherzer slam Mets with 7th straight win

NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy hit an early grand slam against his former team, Max Scherzer pitched eight fiery innings and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Sunday night for their seventh straight victory.

Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run homer for the Nationals, who completed a three-game sweep of the short-handed Mets in the first series this season between the NL East rivals.

Missing slugger Yoenis Cespedes and two other injured starters, New York (8-11) has lost four in a row and eight of nine to fall 5 1/2 games behind the Nationals, who own the best record in the majors at 13-5. The winning streak is their longest since a seven-game run last April.

Scherzer (3-1) struck out nine and walked one in his latest win over the Mets, a team he has often dominated -- especially since signing with Washington in January 2015. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, who fanned 17 in a no-hitter at Citi Field on Oct. 3, 2015, pumped his fist and slapped his glove after setting down the crucial hitters in this one.

Koda Glover got three outs for his second major league save, both in the past two days.

Michael Conforto hit his second leadoff homer of the series and had three hits for New York. Neil Walker's two-run homer pulled the Mets to 4-3 in the third, but that was all Scherzer allowed. He got a double-play grounder after Conforto's one-out single in the fifth and retired his final 10 batters.

Murphy connected in the first off Zack Wheeler (1-2), who had sharp stuff throughout his seven innings of four-hit ball. Zimmerman went deep in the eighth against reliever Josh Smoker to make it 6-3.

Murphy, booed by the Queens crowd, has eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 22 games against the Mets since they let him leave as a free agent before last season.

More Nationals: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMMITTEE?​

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Daniel Murphy strikes again vs. Mets with second career grand slam

Daniel Murphy strikes again vs. Mets with second career grand slam

If you can’t be with them — beat them.

That seems to be the slogan Daniel Murphy has lived by since leaving the Mets in 2015.

Tonight’s game started off with a bang… a grand slam by Murphy himself. This helped launch the Nationals to a 4-0 lead.

Just like these boys in the tweet, we “give a five” to Murphy as it was also the second grand slam of his career, both hit while playing under the Nationals. This follows his career night where he helped the Nats knock off the Cardinals

Muprhy has absolutely owned the Mets since joing the Nationals. he has recorded at least one base hit in all 19 head-to-head games.

RELATED: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMITTEE?