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Nats beat Braves in wild game

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Nats beat Braves in wild game

Game in a nutshell: The biggest series yet for the Nationals opened with a classic, tense game worthy of a pennant race. Despite jumping out to 4-1 lead after one inning, the Nationals couldn't get anything else going against Tim Hudson. Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, labored through five innings and let the Braves come back to tie the game. Then it turned into a battle of bullpens, with both teams having golden opportunities to push across the go-ahead run but neither able to pull it off. Into the night the game went, with only the hearty souls among the original crowd of 21,298 sticking around until the very end. And then finally, a crazy finish to reward them: Danny Espinosa went from first to third on Kurt Suzuki's infield single, then scored when Dan Uggla couldn't get the ball out of his glove on Chad Tracy's grounder to second. With that, the Nats pulled off a stunning, 5-4, win and took a six-game lead in the NL East.

Hitting highlightlowlight: After getting shut down by Hudson for years, the Nationals have suddenly found the right-hander's number this season. And they looked poised to do it again tonight when they exploded for four runs in the bottom of the first. Bryce Harper continued his recent hot streak with an RBI single. Adam LaRoche battled his way through a tough at-bat to record an RBI groundout. And then Ian Desmond jumped all over the first pitch he saw from Hudson, sending it flying over the left-field bullpen to snap an 0-for-11 slump since he came off the DL. But then they couldn't deliver the knockout punch to Hudson, who wound up reaching the seventh without giving up another run.

Pitching lowlight: In arguably the biggest start of his career, Zimmermann was uncharacteristically out of sync. He labored through a 24-pitch first inning and because of it was behind the 8-ball all night. Zimmermann had to battle just to get through five innings on a whopping 102 pitches. His biggest mistake: a low-and-inside fastball to Jason Heyward, who turned on that meatball and drilled it into the right-field bullpen for the two-run homer that tied this game 4-4. The Nationals are going to ask a lot of Zimmermann down the stretch, as their de facto ace once Stephen Strasburg is shut down. They're going to need better performances than they got tonight.

Key stat: In his first 14 starts this season, the Nationals gave Zimmermann an average of 3.3 runs of support. Over his last 11 starts, they've given him an average of 5.8 runs of support.

Up next: Get ready for plenty more Stephen Strasburg Shutdown talk when the right-hander takes the mound for the second game of this crucial series. He'll be opposed by lefty Paul Maholm, one of the Braves' key trade deadline acquisitions. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m., and the game will be on MLB Network for those who live outside the D.C. market.

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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