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Nats club Cubbies

Nats club Cubbies

All year they've seen their pitching staff lauded for dominant performances and lifting them to the best record in the sport. And all the while, members of the Nationals lineup have wanted to let everyone know they're perfectly capable of winning a game by themselves.

"This is something we were thinking about in spring training," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "We knew we were capable of doing it. Unfortunately, we had some injuries and some streakiness this year. But we haven't had a six, seven-game outburst like this where we go out and score 18 runs. It's nice. We owe the starting pitchers for what they did the first couple months."

Consider the favor returned after Tuesday night's offensive explosion against a beleaguered Cubs pitching staff. Behind 19 hits -- six of them homers -- the Nationals muscled their way to an 11-5 victory that felt even more lopsided.

They're 31 games over .500 again, matching their high-water mark of the year. They've scored at least eight runs in five of their last seven games. And coupled with the Braves' 6-0 loss to the Rockies, the Nationals found themselves at night's end owning a season-high, 7 12-game lead over Atlanta with 27 left on the schedule.

Is this really the same team that one week ago was stuck in a five-game losing streak, with doubts starting to creep in for the first time all summer?

"I think we laughed it off the day we won," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think teams run into stretches like that, and hopefully that's the last one that we have. The team that we have, we understand that we're capable of winning any ballgame. It's nice to see that we're playing up to our potential again."

They're playing up to their potential thanks to a potent offense that suddenly has more dangerous hitters than available slots on the lineup card.

Six different Nationals have now hit 12 or more homers this season (LaRoche, Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse). Leadoff man Jayson Werth is hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage. Four reserves are hitting .279 or better (Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy. Moore has eight homers in only 136 at-bats.

Thanks to Tuesday's explosion, the Nationals now rank third in the NL with 151 home runs and 254 doubles and fourth with a .261 team batting average.

"Everybody in our lineup's capable of going out of the ballpark," manager Davey Johnson said. "We're in a pretty good place right now offensively. We've been kind of building to it."

The beneficiary of all that support on Tuesday was Edwin Jackson, who wasn't his absolute sharpest (four runs allowed in 5 23 innings) but was good enough (eight strikeouts, including five in a row at one point) to earn his ninth victory.

"There's definitely nobody in the clubhouse that's going to complain about run support," the right-hander said. "It just shows you what this team is capable of doing."

That this all occurred as the Braves were getting shut out by Colorado's suspect pitching staff only added to the wacky tone of the entire evening. Though they've tried to avoid paying too much attention to their lone remaining challenger in the NL East, the Nationals can't help but notice the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.

"Lately, yes," LaRoche said. "When you start seeing the number of games you need to win and they need to lose, you start peeking up there. Again, it's not going to change what we do. But we've got a chance to do something, so of course you do."

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Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

Nationals beat Braves, snap losing skid behind Stephen Strasburg's strong start

ATLANTA (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out a season-high 11 and kept up his recent domination of the Atlanta Braves, leading Washington to a 3-2 win Sunday that stopped the Nationals' four-game losing streak.

Strasburg (5-1) allowed five hits in 7 2/3 innings, beating Atlanta for the second time this season and improving to 7-1 in his last nine starts against the Braves. He is 10-8 overall against Atlanta.

He reached double digits in strikeouts for the second time this season after fanning 10 Braves on April 20.

Strasburg faded in the eighth, when Dansby Swanson hit a two-run double. Koda Glover struck out Nick Markakis to end the inning and finished the six-hitter for his third save.

Daniel Murphy hit a second-inning homer off Jaime Garcia (1-3) and the Nationals added two unearned runs in the third.

Matt Adams was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and hit into a ninth-inning double play in his debut for Atlanta, a day after he was acquired from St. Louis. Matt Kemp led off the ninth, and Adams hit a line drive that was caught by Ryan Zimmerman, who stepped on first base.

Garcia allowed three runs -- one earned -- and seven hits in eight innings with no walks.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the third following fielding errors by Markakis in right and Garcia. Bryce Harper had a run-scoring single.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 3B Anthony Rendon and C Matt Wieters were given days off from the starting lineup. Rendon entered at third base in the eighth.

Braves: RHP Kris Medlen allowed one hits in six scoreless innings Saturday in his first start for Class A Florida. He missed most of 2016 with shoulder problems after his second Tommy John surgery. "That would be a real nice piece to have," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. Medlen pitched for Kansas City in 2015-16 and his last season with Atlanta was in 2013, when he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Following an off day, RHP Jacob Turner (2-2) is expected to start when the Nationals will open a series against Seattle on Tuesday.

Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (2-4) will take a 0-3 career record in three starts against Pittsburgh into Monday night's series opener against the Pirates.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

2017 MLB Power Rankings: As Bryce Harper goes, so do the Nationals

A week ago, the Nationals were looking unstoppable. Bryce Harper was hitting walkoff dingers left and right, there were multiple winning streaks, and the bullpen was only sorta bad. 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

A week's worth of games later - against the Braves, Pirates and Phillies, no less - and the Nats don't look nearly as stainless. Harper's hitting under .200 since his Mother's Day walkoff, the team lost 5 of 6, and the bullpen turned back into a pumpkin. Because of that, there's a new team at the top of the Power Rankings this week. Who is it? To the rankings! 

30. MIAMI MARLINS

2017 Record: 15-28
Previous Ranking: 24
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Dee Gordon (.318/.400/.364 last week)

Stanton hasn't homered in over two weeks, a stretch of 12 games. After going 2-8 over the last 10, including that weird Dodgers game, the Marlins have seen better weeks.  

29. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 16-30
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance: Brad Hand (.300/.500/.600 last week)

Wil Myers' underwhelming season continues. The outfielder is hitting .150 over the last week, and only .219 over the last month. The Padres best position player is only worth .6 bWAR, and that's 5th-best on the team.

28. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 15-26
Previous Ranking: 23
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Daniel Nava (.429/.429/.571 last week)

They ran into Texas at exactly the wrong time. Getting starts that are consistently like Aaron Nola's last one will be huge for his development this season. 

27. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2017 Record: 18-25
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Lorenzo Cain (.087/.125/.087 last week)

They're starting to play better, but upcomming series with the Yankees and Indians aren't making life any easier for KC. Jason Vargas (?!) has been their most valuable player this year (2.0 bWAR). 

26. ATLANTA BRAVES

2017 Record: 18-23
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Notable Performance: Matt Kemp (.375/.423/.708 last week)

Losing Freeman for three months because of some dumb unspoken beef is just a testament to how stupid unwritten baseball rules are. The silver lining to this year, though, is that the Braves are going to fleece some team for Matt Kemp in July. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE