With a shot to extend division lead, Nats jump on Hefner (Nats win 5-2)

The Braves lost to the Dodgers earlier today in a game which was not disrupted by rain. Those lucky bums.

That loss means if the Nationals are able to take the rubber game against the Mets today, they’ll enter their big three-game series with Atlanta with a five-game division lead.

So far, so good.

The Nats have a 4-0 lead over the Mets and starter Jeremy Hefner through just three innings this afternoon. They’ve put the leadoff man on in each inning (twice, that leadoff man has been Jayson Werth) and have notched six hits.

Danny Espinosa’s opposite-field two-run homer in the second got the Nats on the board. It was Espinosa’s 14th home run of the season.

The Nats got two more the following frame when Bryce Harper’s triple to right-center brought in Werth and Ryan Zimmerman plated Harper with an RBI single.

Harper has looked much more aggressive at the plate this series. The triple, his sixth of the season, came on a hanging curve from Hefner that Harper turned on and scorched into the gap. His two-run homer Friday night also came on a pitch that he attacked and pulled over the right field wall.

Gio Gonzalez has put up three zeros, but he hasn’t been his sharpest. The lefty has worked into a lot of deep counts, fallen behind hitters and needed 57 pitches to get through three innings.

Going into the Atlanta series, it’d be nice if Gonzalez could battle his way through at least six innings and save the bullpen from having to put in much work today.

Update: Harper has the two hardest parts of the cycle complete through five innings. He added to his triple by crushing a solo home run off the facade of the second deck in right-center in the fifth, making it a 5-0 Nats lead.

That gives Harper 12 home runs on the season, making him just the fifth player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 12 homers in their age-19 season.

Joining him in that club: Tony Conigliaro, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mickey Mantle. Not bad company, I guess.

Update II: Gonzalez was pulled after 5 2/3 innings, long enough to have the lefty in line for his 16th win of the season. He worked out of a bunch of jams today, allowing just one run despite giving up seven hits and two walks.

Craig Stammen came on to relieve Gonzalez and delivered 1 1/3 scoreless innings, leaving the Nats six outs from yet another series win.

Update III: The Nationals have played five series with the Mets this season. They’ve won all five of them.

The Nats secured another series win today with a 5-2 victory over their division rivals. Gonzalez gets his 16th win, Tyler Clippard gets his 27th save and the Nats now have a five-game lead in the National League East with the Braves coming to town tomorrow.

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