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Nationals win NL East, 1st MLB team to clinch playoff spot

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USA Today Sports

Nationals win NL East, 1st MLB team to clinch playoff spot

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals became the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot this season, winning the NL East on Sunday as Stephen Strasburg extended his scoreless streak to a franchise-record 34 innings in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

More than 90 minutes after Washington finished off the Phillies, Nationals Park erupted again when Lane Adams hit a two-run, 11th-inning homer to lead Atlanta over second-place Miami, sealing the division title for the fourth time in six years.

The Nationals also won the NL East in 2012, 2014 and last season, but have not advanced past the divisional round of the postseason.

Trea Turner homered and tripled for the Nationals, and Victor Robles got his first major league hit and RBI as Washington rested nearly all its regular starters.

The Nationals also moved within 4 games of the fading Dodgers for the best record in the major leagues.

Strasburg (13-4) threw two-hit ball for eight innings and struck out 10. He hasn't allowed a run since Aug. 19 at San Diego, which was his first start since coming off the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Since returning from the DL, he is 3-1 with an 0.51 ERA, 41 strikeouts and just four walks.

Strasburg had command of everything he threw, including a fastball topping out at 97 mph and a 90-mph changeup. He walked one, induced two double plays and faced one batter over the minimum.

"He had all his pitches working for him and he was tough to hit," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We have young guys who have never seen him before, which also added to his success, not that he needs that."

The Phillies threatened in the ninth off Ryan Madson, who allowed Nick Williams' bloop two-out, two-run single before retiring Hoskins on a grounder. It was his second save this season and first for the Nationals, who acquired him in a trade with Oakland on July 16.

Rookie Ben Lively (3-6) allowed six hits and struck out seven in his first career complete game, and the first for the Phillies this year.

Lively allowed one hit before Turner led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Adrian Sanchez's bloop double. Robles doubled with two outs.

Turner homered with one out in the eighth to extend Washington's lead.

"That's just baseball. Two bad pitches, and that was the ballgame," Lively said. "Otherwise, I felt great. I felt like our game plan was on point. Just two hangers."

SCOREBOARD WATCHING

The Nationals have an outside shot at catching the free-falling Dodgers, which would guarantee them home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Catcher Matt Wieters, who made the postseason three times in the past five seasons with the Orioles, isn't obsessing over the standings.

"Normally I do like watching scoreboards," Wieters said before the game. "We know with the lead that we have, that if we just go out there and win, we'll be fine, and with the postseason, and I've learned this from the past, anything can happen at any time, so trying to control situations of where you play or what you'll do is really reaching at things that may not be in your control."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Manager Dusty Baker rested 2B Daniel Murphy, 3B Anthony Rendon, OF Michael A. Taylor and 1B Ryan Zimmerman on Sunday, and Wieters and OF Jayson Werth sat out both Saturday and Sunday. Werth has a sore shoulder, and Wieters has dealt with intermittent back tightness.

Phillies: OF Aaron Altherr made his first start since Aug. 4. Altherr (right hamstring strain) was activated from the 10-day disabled list Monday but did not appear in a game until Saturday, when he played the ninth inning in left field. ... OF Odubel Herrera was out of the lineup one day after his 21-game hitting streak ended.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (14-6, 2.50 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game home series against the Braves on Tuesday. RHP Julio Teheran (10-11, 4.77 ERA) will pitch for Atlanta.

Phillies: After an off day Monday, Philadelphia begins a 10-game homestand Tuesday against Miami with RHP Nick Pivetta (5-10, 6.49 ERA) drawing the start.

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Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

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USA Today Sports

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and the Washington Nationals tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.

Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and drove in a pair of runs for the NL East champion Nationals.

Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters' leadoff double. Trea Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..

Scherzer retired the first 11 Atlanta hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta's first run.

Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.

Dansby Swanson's fifth-inning double provided Atlanta's other run.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched from the lineup shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo.

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It's been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departedt, while Jace Peterson took over leadoff spot in the order.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series Wednesday night. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.

Braves: RH Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to skip his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

ATLANTA -- In his last start, only his second in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara outpitched Washington Nationals ace and Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.

On Tuesday, he gets to try it again.

Gohara (1-1, 6.30 ERA) is queued up for a rematch with Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) and the Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at SunTrust Park.

Washington (90-59) has clinched the National League East title for the fourth time in six years. Atlanta (67-81) was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration after its Sunday loss to the New York Mets. The two teams have split 16 games this season, with the Braves winning two of three last week in Washington.

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Gohara showed why he is in contention to join the Atlanta rotation on a full-time basis in 2018. The big left-hander from Brazil, who went from Class A to the majors in one season, beat the Nationals 8-2 on Wednesday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings, striking out six. He didn't issue a walk.

In that start, Gohara located his four-seam fastball -- something he couldn't do in his major league debut against Texas.

"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."

Scherzer endured his worst start of the season against the Braves last week. He gave up a season-high seven runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks in six innings. He threw 116 pitches, part of the plan to stretch him out for the postseason.

"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to," Scherzer said. "Then, after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."

The big hiccup for Scherzer came when he allowed a grand slam to Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. However, on Tuesday, he isn't likely to face Kemp, who has missed the past two games after leaving the Friday contest with a strained hamstring.

In 16 career appearances, 14 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. In 2017, he has made four starts against the Braves, going 1-2 with a 4.91. He was 4-0 against Atlanta a year ago.

The hottest batter for the Braves has been center fielder Ender Inciarte, who is 10 hits shy of becoming only the seventh player in Atlanta franchise history to reach 200. The last Brave to get 200 hits was Marquis Grissom, who had 207 in 1996.

Washington's Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of a 30-homer/30-double season. Last week, he joined Adam Dunn as the only Nationals player to post two 30-homer seasons with the club.