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Instant analysis: Nats 10, Brewers 4

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Instant analysis: Nats 10, Brewers 4

Game in a nutshell: Only one word, really, is needed to put this game in a nutshell: Domination. Gio Gonzalez dominated the Brewers lineup, allowing two unearned runs over seven standout innings to become the first 20-game winner in the majors this season. The Nationals' lineup dominated Milwaukee's pitching, busting out with three homers and 13 hits. And the bullpen closed the door on a lopsided victory, one that moves the Nats one step closer to the NL East title. For the moment, they lead the division by 6 games over the Braves (who just got underway in Philadelphia). Their magic number to clinch is also down to 6.

Hitting highlight: How impressive was the Nationals' offensive performance today? Consider this fact: Their 1-through-7 hitters successfully reached base in 20 of their first 26 plate appearances. Poor Kurt Suzuki, who went 0-for-4 as the No. 8 hitter and didn't get to join the party. Everyone else did plenty to make up for it. Adam LaRoche went 3-for-4 and came up a triple short of the cycle. Ian Desmond went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper each reached base three times. Michal Morse reached base four times. They gave old pal Livan Hernandez a beating in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six times via a pair of three-run homers. (Guess Livo will help the Nationals win a division title after all.)

Pitching highlight: Obviously, it's easy to pitch with a 9-run lead. But Gonzalez was superb from the moment he took the mound this afternoon. He needed only 48 pitches to complete four scoreless innings, throwing a whopping 34 strikes. He issued only one walk and struck out five. And the only two runs he ultimately surrendered were unearned because of Bryce Harper's misplays in center field. Ultimately, this start will be remembered for Gonzalez reaching two big milestones. He earned his 20th win, becoming the first Washington pitcher to do that since Bob Porterfield in 1953. And he recorded his 200th strikeout, becoming the first Washington pitcher to do that since ... Walter Johnson in 1916(?!). Gonzalez is still scheduled to make two more starts in the regular season. With a strong finish, he's certainly going to be a strong candidate for NL Cy Young Award honors.

Key stat: LaRoche now has 32 homers for the season (matching his career high) and 98 RBI (two shy of his career high).

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

With a win on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals come into the All-Star break at 48-48. 

That's not great! It's certainly an underperformance given all the expectations, but the season hasn't been without some stellar individual performances . 

Take, for starters, Max Scherzer. Scherzer's on pace to have an even better year than his 2017 Cy Young-winning effort, which is mind-boggling. 

An even-more-refined command is what's made him better this season, as his walk rate is down below seven percent again after creeping up to 7.1 last year. It hasn't affected his strikeout rate, either, which has stayed steady at 34 percent. If the season ended today, it'd be the 4th straight year where he set a career-best in that department. 

Of all starting pitchers, he ranks second in WHIP, and K/BB percent. He has the third-lowest average against (.178) and third-best strikeout percentage (34.5). He's got a top-10 ERA and FIP as well. He's been the best pitcher in baseball this season, and will probably be in the conversation for N.L. MVP as well. 

If only the Nats could just go from Scherzer to Doolittle. The closer stopped walking people, too, and already has 22 saves after ending last year with 24. Had he not been put on the D.L. with a toe injury about a week before the All-Star game, he more than likely would have set his career high in saves before the break. 

He's currently on pace to post the second-best year of his career when it comes to strikeouts, too. He's getting Ks 37.1 percent of the time, which would be the highest since he posted a 37.7 in 2014. Same goes for his K/9. He also has a top-10 ERA and FIP. He's been one of the few relief pitchers that have been consistently reliable through the first half, and the Nats will need his toe to get real healthy real quick. 

And lastly there's Bryce Harper, who you've surely heard is not having an All-Star caliber season. His batting average is hovering around .200, he's striking out more than he has in four years, and he's getting eaten alive by the shift. He's also on pace to have one of his best power-hitting seasons ever and finish with close to 40 home runs, so even his bad years still find a way to be impressive. 

Harper also benefits from being one of the faces of baseball playing in front of his home fans. He's one of the most popular players in the league, and All-Star games find a way to get those people in. An All-Star game in D.C. without him would be objectively less enjoyable, so it was in everyone's interest to have him there. Stars just get the calls sometimes. 

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