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Ready for more interleague play?

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Ready for more interleague play?

The Nationals probably won't face a more daunting stretch of games this season than what they're experiencing right now: 32 consecutive games against the NL East and AL East, with every team in each division cracking the .500 mark at some point during this period.

We've passed the midway point of that stretch now; yesterday's series finale against the Mets was Game No. 17 of 32 (Note: It would have been 33 consecutive games if not for a rainout against the Braves.)

So how have the Nationals fared against these tough opponents? With yesterday's loss, they're now 9-8. Not bad, though certainly as good as this first-place club would prefer.

The first three games of this gantlet came at home against the Orioles. Everything since has come against the NL East. Now, though, interleague play resumes again across baseball, which means the Nationals are about to play five straight series against American League opponents.

The home stretch begins tonight in Boston, where the Nats make their first appearance at Fenway Park since 2006. It continues next week in Toronto before the Nationals come home to face the Yankees and Rays, then head just up the road for a final series in Baltimore.

The 2012 Red Sox aren't nearly as imposing an opponent as they've been for much of the last decade, but they're no picnic, either. And nobody doesn't get a least a tad fazed the first time they set foot inside Fenway.

So it'll be interesting to see how the Nationals respond to this weekend's high-profile series, especially Stephen Strasburg (who starts tonight) and Bryce Harper (who should be in the lineup unless he's severely downplaying the state of his lower back).

This, of course, is the last time we'll see interleague play conducted in this manner. Beginning next season -- after the Astros switch to the AL, giving each league 15 teams for the first time -- there will be at least one interleague game every day of the season.

How exactly this will work, and whether it involves adding more interleague games or not remains to be seen. But it will be different.

So as the Nationals brush up on their New England accents in preparation for this weekend's series at Fenway Paaahhhhk, here's a morning topic of discussion: Do you like interleague play? And what (if anything) would you do to change it?

My personal opinion: I've never been a huge fan of it. I'd prefer to see teams play more games against opponents from the other divisions within their own leagues. But since that's not about to change at this point, I at least hope the new-look format in 2013 ensures that every team in a particular division plays the exact same interleague schedule. Have all the NL East teams play all the AL East teams, one series apiece. No extra games against made-up, geographic rivals.

That's my two cents. What do you think?

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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