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Instant analysis: Nats 2, Mets 0

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Instant analysis: Nats 2, Mets 0

Game in a nutshell: While much of the baseball world questioned the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg over the weekend, the Nationals insisted all along they had a capable late-season replacement in John Lannan. And given what Lannan did tonight -- 5 23 scoreless innings -- it's hard to find fault with the Nationals' logic. The left-hander wasn't overpowering by any means, but he threw strikes, kept the ball down in the zone and most importantly kept the Mets off the scoreboard. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond then supplied the offense with a pair of solo homers. And five relievers (Christian Garcia, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen) finished off the shutout. Yes, Burnett pitched the ninth inning to record the save, despite missing the last 10 days with elbow inflammation. With Tyler Clippard having pitched the previous two nights and a couple of left-handed hitters due up for the Mets, Davey Johnson rolled the dice and turned to Burnett. It worked, though it still required Storen recording the final out of the game to give the Nats a series sweep. And with the Braves trailing by a touchdown late in Milwaukee, the Nationals could find themselves with an 8 12-game lead in the NL East by night's end.

Hitting highlight: They tried to produce offense via small ball -- Bryce Harper laid down a sacrifice bunt with two on and nobody out, which wound up failing miserably -- but in the end the Nationals stuck with what has become their forte in recent weeks: the long ball. Zimmerman launched a solo homer to left in the fourth, his 22nd of the season. Then Desmond launched a solo homer of his own to deep left-center in the eighth, his 23rd of the season. That gave the Nationals 35 homers over their last 14 games. And boy were these two needed tonight.

Pitching highlight: Facing added pressure and scrutiny since he was officially taking over Strasburg's start, Lannan remained calm, cool and collected as always. He didn't try to be something he's not and stayed true to what has allowed him to be successful in his career: He pitched to contact and kept the ball on the ground. Twelve of the 23 batters Lannan faced hit groundballs. He issued only one walk (to the last batter he faced). And he made some big pitches when he needed to with men on base. Johnson gave him kind of an early hook (after only 81 pitches) but nobody can complain about the job Lannan did, or has done for the Nationals this year. In three big-league starts, he's now 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA.

Key stat: With his fourth-inning homer, Zimmerman recorded an RBI in his ninth straight game. That's a new franchise (ExposNationals) record.

Up next: The Nationals will fly to Atlanta late tonight, enjoy a day off tomorrow and then open a big weekend series with the Braves. Ross Detwiler faces the red-hot Kris Medlen in Friday night's 7:35 p.m. opener.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.

RELATED: HOWIE KENDRICK RETURNING TO NATIONALS

Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."

RELATED: BEST OF NATS' RACING PRESIDENT TRYOUTS

If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.