Gore, Nats push through extracurriculars to rout Marlins (updated)

gore

Frustrations are bound to boil over during the long baseball season. Either with one’s self or with a teammate, it’s a part of the game for every team.

Despite a shortage of wins over the last couple of years, there haven’t been too many incidents with the Nationals. At least not in the public eye.

The Nats have had even fewer reasons for one this year, as they entered tonight’s opener with the Marlins only four games under .500 and winners of five of their last six games.

But that doesn’t mean players aren’t intense in the moment. Some guys get into certain mindsets when it comes to game time and are completely different people off the field.

MacKenzie Gore is one of those players. Much like former Nationals ace Max Scherzer, Gore is very friendly in the clubhouse on days he’s not pitching. On days he does take the bump, however, don’t get in his way.

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Gray's challenge while rehabbing with seven-pitch arsenal (plus other rehab updates)

josiah gray pitches grey

Josiah Gray is going to retake the mound for the second start of his rehab assignment tonight with Double-A Harrisburg. The Senators are home against the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) with the injured right-hander starting and scheduled to go about four innings and 60-65 pitches.

Gray landed on the 15-day injured list on April 9 (retroactive to April 6) and made his first rehab start on Sunday with Single-A Fredericksburg. He threw 43 pitches and allowed three runs on three extra-base hits, awarded one walk, hit a batter and struck out two. He told reporters this week in Detroit that he focused mostly on his fastball and cutter.

Tonight, he’ll look to incorporate more of his extensive arsenal.

“I want to see him today to really attack the strike zone,” manager Davey Martinez said before Friday’s opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park. “Get ahead, finish. We always talk about finishing hitters in three pitches or less. I want to see him do that. Plus too, we talked a little bit about how to utilize his breaking ball. I want to see him throw it early in counts for strikes and see if he can do that. But the biggest thing is his mechanics. We got to make sure he hones in on his mechanics. That he's not flying open. I want his misses to be around the plate. So hopefully, he gets there today.”

Gray throws a whopping seven pitches: four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, sweeper, changeup and sinker. While the Nats would like to see him focus on a couple of them, they’re fine with him trying out as many as he wants in his rehab starts. As long as he throws them for strikes.

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Game 69 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

rosario

The Nationals are back home after a quick 2-1 road trip to Detroit. They started the last homestand by getting swept in three games by the Mets and then losing the opener to the Braves. But they rebounded to win the next three against Atlanta before stretching the winning streak to five with two victories over the Tigers.

They’ll look to continue their winning ways and get this six-game homestand off to a strong start tonight against the Marlins.

MacKenzie Gore will be the first of three left-handers the Nats will start this Father’s Day Weekend. He was supposed to make his 14th start yesterday in Detroit, but the Nats pushed him back a day while he's dealing with a fingernail issue. Despite spending his entire major league career to date in the National League, he has never faced the Marlins.

The Nats outscored the Marlins 33-16 over a four-game sweep in Miami back in April, so the bats will try to continue to produce against a pitching staff that owns the second-worst ERA (4.67) and WHIP (1.372) and fifth-worst average against (.253) in the NL.

The Marlins are listing right-hander Shaun Anderson as tonight's starting pitcher as the opener to a bullpen game. Miami purchased Anderson from the Rangers a couple of weeks ago. He was originally drafted by the Nats in the 40th round in 2013, but did not sign. He is the only righty scheduled to start in this series.

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More on Thomas' ejection, Rainey's rebound and Lipscomb's playing time

Lane Thomas reacts after being ejected

DETROIT – Lane Thomas did say something when Emil Jimenez called a borderline pitch strike three on him in the top of the sixth Thursday afternoon. He said two words, which when combined, can make for quite the insult.

But Thomas insists he wasn’t directing those words at Jimenez and rather uttered them out of frustration at the strike three call. Which is why he couldn’t believe it when Jimenez immediately ejected him from the game.

“Looking back, what I said was nothing that I haven’t said in the past,” he said. “I just thought (the ejection) was a little quick. So I don’t know if he didn’t understand me, or what happened. But I definitely didn’t say anything towards him. That was the frustrating part for me, that it was that quick and not directed at him.”

The first ejection of Thomas’ career made for quite a scene, with Jesse Winker (who was on-deck) jumping in to defend his teammate, and then manager Davey Martinez pleading his case to Jimenez as bench coach Miguel Cairo and third base coach Ricky Gutierrez tried to make sure Thomas and Winker didn’t say or do anything else that could get them into even more trouble.

“I think it was a tough pitch, and I was just frustrated,” Thomas said. “I say stuff all the time, but it’s not directed at anyone. That’s what I told (crew chief Larry Vanover): ‘I don’t talk to you guys like that. I didn’t say anything out of my norm.’”

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Depleted bullpen wilts as Nats' winning streak ends (updated)

garcia in dugout gray

DETROIT – If they wanted to pull off their first six-game winning streak since the final week of the 2019 regular season, the Nationals were going to need not only quality work from Patrick Corbin in an unexpected start. They were going to need not only run production from their lineup. They were also going to need a set of relievers not accustomed to closing out close games to finish the job on a day when the usual suspects weren’t available.

So even though they got quality work for Corbin, and even though they got just enough offense to leave the game tied in the seventh inning, the Nationals did not get the critical last part of today’s required winning formula and emerged with a 7-2 loss to the Tigers.

Seeking a series sweep and the team’s first six-game winning streak in nearly five years, the Nats watched as relievers Derek Law and Robert Garcia combined to allow six runs in 1 1/3 innings, turning a tight game into a lopsided one.

In winning five straight games for the first time since June 2021, the Nationals leaned heavily on their top three late-inning relievers: Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey and Dylan Floro. The domino effect of all that: None figured to be available for today’s series finale, leaving the fate of the game in the hands of others.

"Look, we rely on these guys throughout the whole year, and they've done really well," manager Davey Martinez said. "It just didn't happen today. ... It's just one game. We won the series. We get to home now and start a fresh one."

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Meneses understands need to make most of latest opportunity

meneses swinging gray

DETROIT – Since the moment he burst onto the scene in August 2022, Joey Meneses has been a mainstay in the Nationals lineup. Whatever days off he had, they were scattered, even as his production at the plate dipped.

And then 2 1/2 weeks ago, with Lane Thomas off the injured list and the team now having a bit of a glut of outfielders and first basemen, Meneses suddenly became a part-time player for the first time. He started only seven of the Nats’ 15 games from May 27-June 11, relegated to the bench and a couple of pinch-hitting opportunities.

“Obviously I would like to be on the field more often, but my numbers are not where we expect them to be,” said Meneses, whose OPS was down to .581 at the time, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I definitely respect the manager’s decision with that. I just have to be ready whenever he calls upon me to play, be ready to help the team out.”

All of a sudden, Davey Martinez is calling upon Meneses to play again. When Joey Gallo strained his left hamstring running out a ground ball Tuesday night, Meneses was thrust back into the daily lineup, back to playing first base regularly.

And in his first start since the Gallo injury, he delivered. Meneses went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and a key double that led to another run during the Nationals’ 7-5 victory over the Tigers.

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Game 68 lineups: Nats at Tigers

corbin pitching gray

DETROIT – The Nationals, as you know by now, have won five in a row for the first time since June 2021. They haven’t won six in a row since September 2019, when they closed out the final week of the regular season with eight straight wins, all of that a precursor to what happened in October. So that’s what's at stake this afternoon at Comerica Park.

Only two members of that 2019 team remain, and one of them starts today’s game. Patrick Corbin wasn’t supposed to pitch in this series, the Nats choosing to skip over the struggling left-hander’s turn in the rotation and bump him to Saturday against the Marlins. But with MacKenzie Gore dealing with a fingernail issue that will push him back to Friday night, the team decided to go ahead and have Corbin pitch today on seven days’ rest.

This is the only current major league park Corbin has never pitched in, so he’ll finally get to cross that off the list. More importantly, after using up his top relievers the last two nights to secure two wins, Davey Martinez is going to be working with a depleted bullpen this afternoon. In other words, this feels like a “give us six innings no matter what” kind of start for Corbin.

The Nationals lineup has done a very nice job supplying their pitching staff with run support so far in this season, so they’ll try to keep that up today against Casey Mize. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft, Mize just hasn’t realized his potential yet, in large part because he missed nearly two years following both Tommy John and back surgery. He’s made 12 starts this year, and the results have been middling (1-4, 4.73 ERA, 11 hits per nine innings, only 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings).

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at DETROIT TIGERS
Where:
Comerica Park
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 88 degrees, wind 16 mph in from right field

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Nats top Tigers for first five-game winning streak since 2021 (updated)

CJ Abrams

DETROIT – There are many ways to measure progress in a franchise’s efforts to rebuild itself back into the kind of consistent contender it was years ago. But ultimately, it does come down to wins and losses, right? And, ideally, the ability to string together a bunch of wins over a sustained period of time.

The Nationals haven’t done much of that in the last three years. They’ve had their moments, sure, but rarely have those moments come in succession.

So consider the events of the last week, capped off by tonight’s 7-5 victory over the Tigers, significant in both the little picture and the big picture. In the little picture, the Nats have won five in a row, inching themselves ever closer to the .500 mark. In the big picture, they’ve won five in a row for the first time since June 19-24, 2021, the last time they were truly competitive and prioritizing short-term success over long-term plans.

"Good things will happen when you keep good vibes and play together and have fun," said shortstop CJ Abrams, who arrived in August 2022. "It's starting to show."

Win No. 5 should have come easier than it did. The Nationals put 15 runners on base through their first eight offensive innings, yet only five of them crossed the plate. There were countless opportunities to add more, but they were done in by poor situational hitting (2-for-11 with runners in scoring position) and poor baserunning (three outs made).

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Lipscomb recalled with Gallo on IL, Corbin to start Thursday with Gore pushed back

Trey Lipscomb

DETROIT – Trey Lipscomb knows the deal at this point. This isn’t the first time the Nationals have called him up to replace an injured player. It’s not the second time they’ve called him up to replace an injured player.

When Nick Senzel fractured his finger on Opening Day, Lipscomb was brought up from Triple-A Rochester. When Lane Thomas sprained his knee in late April, Lipscomb was brought up. And now with Joey Gallo landing on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain, Lipscomb was recalled and is back in a Nationals uniform tonight.

The versatile rookie isn’t in tonight’s lineup, but he’s prepared to play at any of a number of positions if called upon.

“Wherever you’re in the lineup, just go out and play,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been doing my whole career.”

For now, it appears Lipscomb will be used everywhere in the field. He can start games at third base, giving Senzel a chance to serve as the designated hitter. He can start games at second base when Luis García Jr. needs a day off. He can start games at first base along with Joey Meneses, who suddenly finds himself back in the field regularly with Gallo injured. He can even play left field if needed, something he did once during his most recent stint in Rochester.

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Game 67 lineups: Nats at Tigers

irvin @ MIA

DETROIT – The Nationals have a chance tonight to do something they haven’t done in three years, something they haven’t done at any point since embarking on their rebuild: Win five games in a row.

Not since June 2021 has this team enjoyed a five-game winning streak. That month, of course, marked the beginning of the end for the previous iteration of the franchise. A terrible July convinced the front office to tear down the roster and start over, and only now are they starting to see the hard work come to fruition on the field. A five-game winning streak would sure go a long way toward making it feel like they’re making real progress, even if the outcome of one game in June doesn’t really make that much difference.

It'll be Jake Irvin on the mound for the Nats, and he’s been on quite a roll. Over his last four starts, the right-hander sports a 1.48 ERA. 0.863 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. He’s also completed at least six innings in each outing, which might come in handy tonight given how much was asked of the bullpen during Tuesday’s 10-inning win.

Right-hander Reese Olson starts for the Tigers. He’s been hit hard his last two outing, allowing 13 runs in 9 1/3 innings against the Red Sox and Brewers. He’ll be facing a Nationals lineup that is now without Joey Gallo, who was officially placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain. Infielder Trey Lipscomb was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Gallo’s spot, but he’ll be coming off the bench tonight.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at DETROIT TIGERS
Where:
Comerica Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, wind 11 mph in from center field

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What are Nationals' options if Gallo goes on IL?

Joey Gallo

DETROIT – The Nationals won’t know for sure until later today when they get test results on Joey Gallo’s left hamstring, but the image from the top of the seventh Tuesday night kind of said it all.

Running down the line on a grounder to second, Gallo grabbed his upper left leg as he approached first base. He walked gingerly back to the dugout afterward. And he was subsequently replaced in the field by Joey Meneses for the bottom of the inning.

Barring an unexpected quick healing process, Gallo probably isn’t going to be able to play tonight. And unless they can be sure he’ll be ready to return within the next 24-48 hours, the Nats probably are going to have to place him on the 10-day injured list.

Which is why they were already contemplating late Tuesday night their options for calling a player up from Triple-A Rochester to take his spot on the roster.

“We’re probably going to get somebody on the move,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I don’t know yet. We’ll just see what happens. But we’ll definitely have someone on the move.”

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Nats take advantage of Tigers' miscues to win in 10 (updated)

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DETROIT – The Nationals and Tigers swapped errors tonight, each team helping the other with two rapid-fire misplays in the field, all of them helping the other score key runs. Which ultimately left this game knotted up after nine innings and headed to extras, just waiting for someone to deliver – or fail – in the clutch.

In the end, the Nats did just enough to take advantage of Detroit’s miscues and walk away with a 5-4, 10-inning victory at Comerica Park, extending their winning streak to four games.

Thanks to a wild pitch on strike three, CJ Abrams managed to reach first and advance Jacob Young to third in the top of the 10th. And thanks to Lane Thomas’ sacrifice fly to right, Young was able to scamper home with the go-ahead run that made the victory possible.

"You've got to capitalize on everything," Abrams said.

The Nationals have now won four straight, improving to 31-35 on the season. They haven't enjoyed a five-game winning streak since June 2021.

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Gray to pitch Friday for Harrisburg, Cavalli taking break from rehab

Josiah Gray

DETROIT – Josiah Gray will make his next rehab start Friday, but Cade Cavalli is taking a break in his rehab assignment to work in the bullpen with the Nationals coaching staff.

Gray, who threw 43 pitches over three innings Sunday for Single-A Fredericksburg in his rehab debut, is scheduled to take the mound again Friday, moving up to Double-A Harrisburg and increasing his workload. The right-hander, who went on the 15-day injured list after two rough starts to his season with a flexor strain in his elbow, said he was pleased with the physical state of his arm after his first competitive game in nearly two months.

“It was good,” he said. “Definitely a little rusty, working out the kinks. But I felt prepared. I felt good for each inning that I threw and worked on some things. Looking forward to the next one.”

Gray allowed three runs on three hits (all for extra bases), with one walk, two strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch in Sunday’s outing. He said he focused mostly on his fastball and cutter and will look to incorporate his full arsenal as he proceeds.

Manager Davey Martinez suggested Gray could make as many as five rehab starts in total before coming off the IL. That timeline wouldn’t have him rejoining the Nationals until the end of the month or perhaps even early July.

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Game 66 lineups: Nats at Tigers

garcia

DETROIT – Hello from Comerica Park, a place the Nationals have not visited often in their history. This is only their fourth trip to Detroit, the previous ones coming in 2010, 2013 and 2019. They’ve gone 2-6 in the previous series here, so it’s not exactly a history of success.

The Nats, though, are feeling good about themselves again after winning three of four from the Braves over the weekend, then finally getting to enjoy their first day off in 2 1/2 weeks. So they’ll be refreshed and ready to go tonight when they open this three-game series.

This would’ve been Patrick Corbin’s turn in the rotation, but the Nationals decided to skip over the struggling left-hander and put him on the mound Saturday against the Marlins instead. So it’s Mitchell Parker, pitching on full rest anyway, taking the ball for the opener. It’s another opportunity for the rookie to show what he can do against a lineup that’s never seen him before.

The Nats lineup will try to keep hitting the way it did over the weekend against Atlanta, this time against veteran right-hander Kenta Maeda. The 36-year-old is struggling himself in his first season in Detroit, entering tonight’s game with a 6.25 ERA in 10 starts.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at DETROIT TIGERS
Where:
Comerica Park

Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 71 degrees, wind 8 mph in from center field

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Weems' struggles force Finnegan into emergency save situation

Finnegan and Ruiz celebrate win

Davey Martinez found himself in a most unusual, and most comforting, scenario Sunday afternoon. His Nationals entered the ninth inning leading the Braves by six runs, one day after they had beaten the Braves by four runs.

Here was a second straight opportunity to win a ballgame without needing to summon either of the team’s top two relievers: Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan. That hasn’t happened much this season for a team that typically plays low-scoring, tight contests.

“I really wanted to give (Finnegan) and Harvey another day,” Martinez said, realizing with an off-day prior to the Nats’ series opener in Detroit tonight, this was a chance to let those two right-handers enjoy some real rest for a change.

So with his team leading 8-2, Martinez sent Jordan Weems to the mound for the top of the ninth. He sent word to let Finnegan know to be ready to spring into action if need be, but the hope was that it would never come to that.

Two batters later, the bullpen phone was ringing after Weems allowed a leadoff single to Michael Harris II followed by a walk of Orlando Arcia. And before Finnegan could even throw his first warmup toss, Weems had allowed a three-run homer to Jarred Kelenic. Suddenly, this was an 8-5 game with nobody out, the top of the Atlanta lineup coming up and an emergency brewing.

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Avoiding blowup inning, Herz impresses Nationals in second start

DJ Herz

There was a moment in the top of the second inning Sunday when it felt like DJ Herz was about to crumble.

The rookie left-hander, in only his second career start, had cruised through the top of the first but then during a four-batter span the following inning had given up two runs after issuing two walks, allowing two singles and uncorking two wild pitches, the last of which came after back-to-back, high-and-tight fastballs to Jarred Kelenic that left the Braves left fielder contemplating whether he needed to charge the mound.

And then Herz, who had been known in the minors to let a game get away from him from time to time, battled back and struck out Kelenic on his next pitch before getting Ozzie Albies to fly out on the pitch after that. The inning was over, and Herz had thrown 33 pitches, but only the two runs had crossed the plate.

“I’m proud of him,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “Because a situation like that, and a good team like that, he was able to get composed and throw strikes when he needed to, get out of a big jam there and keep us in the ballgame.”

Herz wasn’t credited with his first big league win at the end of the day. Because he didn’t complete the requisite five innings, he couldn’t get the W, which instead went to reliever Jacob Barnes at the official scorer’s discretion. But he impressed nonetheless during his 4 1/3 innings, the majority of which featured plenty of outs and few baserunners.

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With seven-run splurge, Nats win another series over Braves (updated)

Jacob Young

To swing or not to swing at the first pitch? That is the question the Nationals have confronted too regularly this season with a lineup that preaches an aggressive approach but often takes things too far and makes way too many quick outs that make life way too easy on opposing starters.

And for three innings today, it looked like that approach was once again going to be their undoing, with a rapid flurry of outs made against a rookie in his major league debut.

Here’s the thing, though: Across the sport, hitters have better numbers on the first pitch than almost any potential count. And as much as it feels like they struggle in this department, the Nats actually hit .332 on the first pitch, slightly better than the leaguewide average of .330.

So by sticking to the aggressive approach, and most importantly actually making hard contact, the second time around, the Nationals exploded for their biggest offensive inning of the year and went on to beat the Braves 8-5 to complete another series win over their division rivals, this one before an appreciative crowd of 34,282.

"Look, I don't mind being aggressive. We talk about it all the time," manager Davey Martinez said. "But you've got to get the ball in the zone. We can't just swing at everything. It's talked a lot in the dugout about it. And then when they finally do it, the results are a lot better."

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Nats skipping over Corbin's next turn in rotation

Patrick Corbin

The Nationals are using a long-awaited off-day to skip over Patrick Corbin’s next turn in the rotation.

Corbin, who last pitched Wednesday against the Mets, was lined up to make his next start Monday. With the Nats set to enjoy their first day off since May 23, he would normally be on the mound Tuesday for the team’s series opener in Detroit.

But the Nationals’ announced rotation for that series against the Tigers has Mitchell Parker on Tuesday, followed by Jake Irvin and MacKenzie Gore. They haven’t announced their rotation plans beyond that, but Davey Martinez suggested this morning Corbin will start Saturday against the Marlins, which means he would be pitching on nine days’ rest instead of the usual four.

“Just to give him a little bit of a breather,” Martinez said. “We take care of all our young guys, but we’ve got to take care of our veteran guys, too.”

The Nats have often used scheduled days off to adjust their rotation order, but that’s usually an attempt to give young starters extra rest, managing their workload over the course of a long season. In this case, the move likely has more to do with Corbin’s continued struggles than anything else.

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Game 65 lineups: Nats vs. Braves

DJ Herz

DJ Herz makes his second career start today. And he’ll be more experienced than the guy he’s going up against in the Nationals’ series finale against the Braves.

Yep, Atlanta’s starter is Hurston Waldrep, called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his major league debut less than one year after he was drafted out of the University of Florida. Waldrep is the organization’s top prospect, and he’s supposedly got a devastating splitter. But he made only one start at Triple-A, and the Braves decided to bring him up instead of pitching Max Fried today. Fried will be pushed back two days to face the Orioles.

So the Nats, who have already won two of the first three games of this series, now seemingly have a better chance of winning three of four against the Braves for the second time in two weeks. They’ll still need to figure out Waldrep at the plate. And they’ll need Herz to be better than he was in his debut last week.

The left-hander, who replaced the injured Trevor Williams in the rotation, held his own against the Mets. But he still wound up charged with four runs in four-plus innings, two of those runs scoring after he departed in the fifth. The nerves should be a little less severe today for Herz, so we’ll see how he handles this assignment.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ATLANTA BRAVES
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 16 mph left field to right field

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Nats beat Braves for fifth time in seven recent matchups (updated)

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The Nationals and Braves have played each other enough over the last two weeks – seven of their last 10 games, to be precise, with one more still to come Sunday – to have seen everyone the other side has to offer, oftentimes more than once. It’s as good as any way to judge the progress a young, rebuilding club has made against an established powerhouse.

And at this point, it’s impossible not to be encouraged by the Nats’ ability not only to hold their own against the Braves, but to at times look like the clearly superior team.

Today’s 7-3 victory was the latest in a string of examples to support that conclusion. Behind another strong (if inefficient) start from MacKenzie Gore and a much-appreciated display of sustained offense, the Nationals improved to 5-2 against Atlanta during this stretch. And three of those games have been won by four or more runs.

No, it’s not appropriate to say the Nats are the Braves’ equals at this point. Even with these losses, Atlanta is 35-27 and comfortably in the pennant race. Even with these wins, the Nationals are 29-35, part of a large pack of sub-.500 clubs that could climb into the race with a hot streak but aren’t there yet.

But the gap is undoubtedly closing after several years of head-to-head matchups that looked as lopsided as any in the sport. (The Nats went 5-8 last season, 5-14 the season before that, against the six-time division champ.) And that’s wholly encouraging for the local ballclub.

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