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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

Remember that blown 9-0 lead to the Braves exactly one week ago? That debacle of a ballgame that left some wondering whether the Nationals' charmed season was about to go down the toilet?

Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

In the week since, the Nationals have gone 6-1, losing only the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. They've seen their pitching staff produce seven consecutive quality starts, none of those member of the rotation having allowed more than two earned runs. They've scored an average of 5.7 runs per game. They've increased their lead in the NL East to five games. They sit 20 games above .500 for the first time since the franchise arrived in Washington. And, at 59-39, they own the best record in baseball along with the New York Yankees.

We've moved past the point where anyone should consider this a fluke. Guess what, folks: These guys are for real, and they aren't done yet.

Last night's 8-2 thumping of the Brewers certainly lifted the Nationals to a nice, new plateau. They've won six in a row, matching their longest winning streak of the season. And they earned their 59th win in Game No. 98. Three years ago, it took 162 games for this franchise to achieve its 59th win.

The Nationals also ascended to 20 games over .500, a mark not before seen during the franchise's eight seasons in town. In fact, to find the last Washington baseball club that sat 20 games over .500, you've got to go all the way back to Sept. 23, 1945, when manager Ossie Bluege's Senators beat the Philadelphia A's 4-3 on the season's final day to finish 87-67.

All of that is nice. For a town that hasn't experienced anything like this in 67 years, it's obviously reason to rejoice.

But this is just the beginning. There isn't one player inside the Nationals' clubhouse satisfied with what they've accomplished to date. The manager feels the same way. Once his team got to 15 games over .500, Davey Johnson said the goal was to get to 20 games over. And now that the Nats have done that, Johnson surely is looking to make it 25 games over.

The season is still only 60 percent complete, with a whole lot of baseball left to be played. And the pressure only grows as each passing day's game carries more and more significance.

The Nationals have done a remarkable job climbing to heights not seen in these parts in three generations.

But they know better than anyone how much more climbing there still is to be done.

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2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

2017 ballpark foods that are way better than peanuts and Cracker Jack

Back in the olden days, cotton candy or a plate of nachos were considered bold ballpark snacks. Thankfully, the olden days are over, and a new era of ballpark food has begun.

And in this era, a menu item isn't considered complete until it's fried, sandwiched between something else and then finally drizzled with some sort of sauce. 

So, what's on the menu for 2017? Well, peanuts, hot dogs and apple pie nachos, of course.

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

With a new season about to begin, CSNmidatlantic.com has identified 10 of the most eye-popping and artery-clogging foods available around Major League Baseball in 2017. To see them, simply click on the link above or below to open our gallery (no fork and knife necessary).

After all, while peanuts and Cracker Jack are cute, they simply can't match up with a hot dog topped with bacon and a fried egg. 

CLICK HERE TO FEAST YOUR EYES ON THE CRAZIEST BALLPARK FOODS YOU'LL FIND AROUND MLB THIS YEAR

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

RELATED: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC