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What's at stake for the Nationals today

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What's at stake for the Nationals today

Last night's rainout created an old-fashioned, single-admission doubleheader for the Nationals and Dodgers later today. It also created a scenario in which the Nats could end the night having clinched the city's first playoff berth since 1933.

With a magic number of 3 to secure the final NL Wild Card berth, the Nationals would clinch with any combination of three victories andor losses by the team currently in third place in the Wild Card race. That team happens to be the Dodgers.

Thus, a win in today's 4:05 p.m. opener would drop the magic number to 1 (and ensure at the very least the Nationals will get to play a 163rd game this season). A win in the nightcap (scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. or 30 minutes after conclusion of the first game, whichever comes later) would then seal the deal and guarantee the Nats a spot in the postseason.

If you're planning to attend the doubleheader -- here's the ticket exchange policy in case you missed it -- don't expect a major celebration should the Nationals pull off the sweep. There won't be a dog pile at the center of the mound, nor champagne flowing in the clubhouse.

"That's not a big moment," manager Davey Johnson said over the weekend in Atlanta. "It's a nice moment, but it's not a big moment. The additional Wild Card, to me, just really put more of a burden on the manager, because nobody wants that one. A one-game playoff to get in? The other format, if you were the Wild Card, you're in the playoffs. So clinching a one-game playoff doesn't have any appeal at all to me."

The Nationals, as always, remain focused on the NL East title. And they drew a step closer to that last night, even though they never set foot on the field. By virtue of the Braves' wild, 10-inning loss in Miami, the Nats' magic number to clinch the division dropped to 10. Their lead over Atlanta is now 5 12 games.

Keep in mind the Nationals still have 16 games to play, but the Braves only have 13 games to play. That's fewer opportunities for Atlanta to make up ground, a real disadvantage considering they're now 7 games back in the loss column.

We'll have a much clearer idea of how things stand by the end of the night, with the Nationals playing two games and the Braves playing one. By 10 p.m. or so, the Nationals' lead in the division could be as big as 7 games. Or it could be as small as 4 games.

That all makes for one long -- and potentially dramatic -- day of baseball.

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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