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Nats' lineup deserves praise

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Nats' lineup deserves praise

The phrase "one of the best" has been used to describe various aspects of the Nationals all season. They've got one of the best rotations in baseball. They've got one of the best bullpens. They've got one of the best farm systems in the sport, helping them overcome a slew of injuries.

And, of course, they've got the best record in the majors at the moment.

Maybe it's time to start using that designation on another aspect of this organization: The Nationals have one of the best lineups in baseball.

That notion would have sounded ludicrous a few months ago, back when four runs was considered an offensive explosion and everyone accepted the idea this team would win on the strength of its pitching staff and only its pitching staff.

Not anymore. Just look at what the Nationals lineup has done lately, not only during last night's 14-2 shellacking of the Giants but over a longer stretch of games.

As a matter of fact, did you know the Nationals have scored 170 runs since the All-Star break, most in the majors? Yes, you read that correctly. The Nationals have scored more times than any other team over the last month, an average of 5.2 runs per game. They've hit a collective .278 during that span while slugging .421.

And what's most impressive is that the production has come from nearly everyone in that lineup.

Sure, Ryan Zimmerman has been on an absolute tear for the last seven weeks. And Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche have been consistent run producers during that time as well.

But there's also Danny Espinosa, hitting .301 with a .496 slugging percentage over his last 30 games. And there's Steve Lombardozzi, who has 11 hits in his last 22 at-bats. And there's Roger Bernadina, hitting a ridiculous .383 since July 21.

The contributions of all those players, plus many more, have allowed the Nationals to overcome Ian Desmond's oblique tear, Bryce Harper's prolonged slump and fairly tepid production from their catchers (that was, until Kurt Suzuki went 3-for-6 with four RBI last night).

Which also makes you wonder just how much more productive this lineup could actually become once Desmond returns from the DL and Harper gets back on track. It could be a frightening proposition for opposing pitchers.

Just consider the lineup the Nationals could field come October, with their current offensive splits (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) included...

1. Jayson Werth (.308.406.459)
2. Bryce Harper (.251.328.405)
3. Ryan Zimmerman (.282.350.468)
4. Michael Morse (.301.324.477)
5. Adam LaRoche (.264.339.500)
6. Ian Desmond (.286.322.503)
7. Danny Espinosa (.250.317.406)
8. Kurt Suzuki (.218.252.287)

Look at the depth of that lineup and the power capabilities 1 through 7. Only three other teams in baseball have seven regular position players with slugging percentages over .400: the Yankees, Rangers and Rockies. That's some select company.

Is this a perfect lineup? Not at all. The Nationals strike out too much, they're getting no significant production from their catchers and they don't boast anything resembling a true leadoff hitter.

But they've still got a lineup capable of exploding at any given moment (just ask the Giants). And they've got a lineup that -- as has been the case all season with their pitching staff -- deserves to be praised as one of baseball's best.

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

ATLANTA  -- R.A. Dickey frustrated Washington with his knuckleball for eight innings, Ozzie Albies had three hits and the Atlanta Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 on Thursday night.

After Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff homer in the second inning, the 42-year-old Dickey gave up only one hit -- a two-out single by Trea Turner in the third -- over the next five innings. Turner was picked off first base.

Dickey (10-10) gave up two runs, four hits and no walks. He made a strong case that the Braves should pick up his $8 million club option for 2018.

Zimmerman lined his homer into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1. He set a career high with his 34th homer, his fourth off Dickey this season.

Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances. It was a strong return to form after Vizcaino walked all three batters he faced in a blown save Wednesday night.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth off Tanner Roark (13-10). Albies singled, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' wild pickoff attempt and scored the go-ahead run on Freddie Freeman's fly ball to deep left field. Nick Markakis doubled past Zimmerman at first base and scored on Johan Camargo's single up the middle.

The Nationals trimmed the Braves' lead to one in the eighth. Anthony Rendon doubled to left field and scored on Wieters' two-out single.

Ender Inciarte continued his push for 200 hits when he led off the first with a triple to right field. It was his 191st hit, the third-highest total in the majors. Inciarte scored on Albies' single.

The game was delayed several minutes in the middle of the eighth. There was confusion as Nationals manager Dusty Baker attempted to make several defensive changes and had to go over the changes with home plate umpire Nic Lentz, who also took questions from Braves manager Brian Snitker.

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Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman's resurgent season continues to get more and more impressive. 

Zimmerman hit his 34th home run of the season on Thursday night, setting a new career high. 

His previous career high was set in 2009, when he hit 33 while slashing .292/.364/.525 with a .888 OPS. 

He didn't get cheated on it, either: 

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