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Talking about Tuesday's Nats win

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Talking about Tuesday's Nats win

Remember how daunting this 33-game stretch against only NL East and AL East teams was supposed to be for the Nationals? Well, with Tuesday night's 4-2 victory in Toronto, they're now two-thirds of the way through this gantlet and they've gone 14-8.

Not bad. Not bad at all. But wait, there's more...

With this latest win, the Nationals are now 37-23, 14 games over .500. That puts them on pace for 100 wins by season's end.

And thanks to the Braves' loss to the Yankees, the Nationals now hold a 4-game lead in the NL East. The last time they held a lead that large? July 6, 2005.

And thanks to the Phillies' loss to the Twins, the Nationals now hold a 9 12-game lead over the five-time division champs. Yes, 9 12 games.

Wednesday afternoon, they'll have a chance to complete a sweep of the Blue Jays, this coming on the heels of a sweep of the Red Sox. In their 7-plus year history, the Nationals have never gone 6-0 on a road trip. Not once. They'll look to pull that off at Rogers Centre, with none other than Stephen Strasburg on the mound.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday night's game...

-- Bryce Harper is starting to heat up at the plate. Wait, you're saying he hasn't been hot this whole time? Actually, no, he wasn't. Through his first 20 big-league games, Harper hit .230 with two homers, five RBI, a .318 on-base percentage and a .737 OPS. He's now played 20 more big-league games, during which time he's hit .361 with five homers, 13 RBI, a .439 on-base percentage and a 1.147 OPS.

-- Chien-Ming Wang really had to battle to complete five innings, preserve his team's lead and earn his first win in three starts. The way the fifth inning was unfolding -- especially after Jose Bautista tattooed a high sinker for a two-run homer -- it seemed obvious Wang had nothing left in the tank. It was telling that Davey Johnson let his starter stay in the game to try to complete the inning and qualify for the victory, but you have to wonder how many more opportunities the manager will give Wang. Yes, it's only three starts. But right now, Wang clearly is the weak link in an otherwise fabulous rotation. And Ross Detwiler, though he struggled in his final starts before getting bumped to the bullpen, appears to give the Nationals a better chance to win right now. Wang's turn next comes up Tuesday against the Rays. Stay tuned.

-- For a guy known more for his defensive abilities than his offensive skills, Jhonatan Solano sure seems to have some pop in his bat. Solano crushed a hanging slider from Henderson Alvarez in the top of the seventh for his first career home run. That blast (along with a fifth-inning single) makes Solano 4-for-10 as a big-league hitter. Can that last? Probably not. But it's got to at least be comforting to Johnson to know his rookie backup catcher can hold his own at the plate, perhaps earning a chance to start behind the plate more than once every five days.

-- With an 0-for-4, two-strikeout night, Ryan Zimmerman is now hitting .239 for the season. Even more alarming, his 6-4-3 groundout in the fifth was his ninth double play this season. The only NL players who have grounded into more double plays: Alfonso Soriano and Hanley Ramirez, who each have 10 but also have each played in more games than Zimmerman (who spent two weeks on the DL).

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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