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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Rays 2

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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Rays 2

Game in a nutshell: On a steamy night on South Capitol Street, the Nationals stayed hot against the Rays. A couple of runs in the bottom of the second put them ahead, and though Gio Gonzalez gave the run back, the left-hander battled his way through an effective outing and kept the game tied entering the bottom of the sixth. That's when Danny Espinosa delivered a clutch, two-out, two-run double off Joel Peralta to give the Nats a 4-2 lead and put Gonzalez in line for the win. They added an insurance run on Roger Bernadina's double in the seventh, then saw relievers Ryan Mattheus, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard slam the door on the Tampa Bay lineup, in the process giving the Nationals another series victory over a tough AL East opponent.

Hitting highlight: It looked like this would be another one of those nights when Espinosa looks unstoppable from the right side (and only the right side) of the plate, but the switch-hitting second baseman had even more in store for everyone. After drawing a walk in the third and then doubling as a right-handed hitter in the fourth, Espinosa was turned around for a key at-bat in the sixth against Peralta. How did the .188 hitter from the left side respond? By roping another double down the right-field line, this one bringing home both Jesus Flores and Adam LaRoche to give the Nationals the lead for good.
Pitching highlight: The evening got off to a bit of a ragged start for Gonzalez, who was falling behind just about every hitter he faced in his first two innings and saw his pitch count ratchet up to 50. But a mound conference with pitching coach Steve McCatty with two outs in a second seemed to get Gonzalez on track. He wound up retiring 10 of the next 11 batters he faced, then came up with a big strikeout of pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson to strand two men on base in the top of the sixth. It wasn't necessarily Gonzalez's best start of the year, but it was a gutty effort from the left-hander, who was rewarded for it with his ninth win of the season (matching Stephen Strasburg for the club lead).

Key stat: With a paid crowd of 29,551 tonight, the Nationals surpassed the 1 million mark for the season faster than any year since the inaugural 2005 season at RFK Stadium.

Up next: This year's interleague slate concludes with Round 2 of the Battle of the Beltways. The Nats will make the long trek north to Baltimore Friday night, sending Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against the Orioles' Wei-Yin Chen.

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

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Whoa. Dusty Baker not returning as Nationals' manager. What comes next?

The Washington Nationals announced Friday Dusty Baker will not return as manager of the club in 2018. 

Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history, and the Nationals were 192-132 under Baker, but they failed to make it to an NLCS.

Baker is 14th in MLB history with 1,863 career wins.

The next Nationals' manager will be their seventh since they arrived in DC.

Only the Marlins have had as many.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Baker told USA TODAY Sports. "They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me."

"I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It's hard to understand." 

The team also announced the contracts for the Major League coaching staff have also expired, and the search for a new manager will begin immediately.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER THANKS NATIONALS' FANS FOR SUPPORT

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy undergoes successful knee surgery

While Nats fans were still digesting the news that Dusty Baker will not return as manager next year, the team released some more surprising news. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy underwent knee surgery today, per an official team report. 

Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes reported that the surgery is considered significant and the team won't put a timeline on the recovery process:

"The procedure, according to the statement released by the team, repaired articular cartilage in Murphy’s right knee. For those interested in the details, it was a debridement and microfracture surgery, and orthopedic surgeon Timothy Kremchek performed it."

"For those concerned with the implications of the procedure, those are still unclear. The statement clarified that Murphy’s rehab “will progress throughout the offseason,” as one would hope, and did not include a timetable.

RELATED: HARPER THANKS FANS FOR SUPPORT