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Nats vs. Astros LIVE game thread - 8:05 p.m.

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Nats vs. Astros LIVE game thread - 8:05 p.m.

GO TO THE LIVE GAME THREAD AT NATSINSIDER.COM RIGHT HERE

They've won twice in a row in dramatic fashion in extra innings. Tonight, the Nationals will try to win a game against the Astros in regulation, and in the process improve to 25 games over .500 for the first time.

Jayson Werth returns to the lineup after sitting out last night's game with tired legs. He'll be in right field, which should provide a little less wear and tear. Bryce Harper will be responsible for covering the spacious, treacherous and hilly center field at Minute Maid Park.

Gio Gonzalez gets the start, looking to duplicate Ross Detwiler's seven-inning outing from last night and take some pressure off a Nationals bullpen that has been extended nearly to the limit in recent days.

As you know by now, I'm not in Houston for this series. Enjoy the game and the conversation. And like me, pray the final out is recorded before the stroke of midnight for a change...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at HOUSTON ASTROS
Where: Minute Maid Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS (67-43)
2B Steve Lombardozzi
CF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
LHP Gio Gonzalez

ASTROS (36-75)
2B Jose Altuve
3B Matt Downs
1B Steve Pearce
RF Justin Maxwell
LF J.D. Martinez
C Carlos Corporan
CF Brandon Barnes
SS Marwin Gonzalez
RHP Armando Galarraga

UMPIRES
HP Angel Hernandez
1B Ed Hickox
2B Chris Conroy
3B Mark Carlson

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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