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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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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

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USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

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NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Sean Doolittle seals the deal in victory over Atlanta Braves

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USA Today Sports Images

Washington Nationals Roundup: Sean Doolittle seals the deal in victory over Atlanta Braves

Check out the latest news and notes surrounding the Washington Nationals.

Player Notes: 

SS Trea Turner went 2-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI as the Nationals topped the Braves 5-3 on Saturday evening. Turner delivered a go-ahead RBI double off of Mike Soroka in the fifth inning, giving the Nationals a lead they wouldn't relinquish. He also swiped his 20th base of the season in the contest.

1B Matt Adams slugged his 15th home run of the season on Saturday, helping to propel the Nationals to victory over the Braves. For the season, Adams is hitting .235/.273/.519 with the aforementioned 15 homers and 40 RBI.

RP Sean Doolittle recorded the final five outs against the Braves on Saturday night, preserving a two-run advantage to earn his 21st save of the season. The left-hander came on with a man on and a man out in the eighth inning, with the Nationals clinging to a one-run lead. Doolittle retired Charlie Culberson and Ronald Acuna without issue, then stuck around to work a perfect ninth inning as well to seal the deal. 

SP Anibal Sanchez picked up his sixth victory of the season on Saturday night, limiting the Braves to three runs on six hits over his five-plus frames. The veteran right-hander struck out four and walked three on the night. Sanchez allowed an RBI single to Freddie Freeman in the opening inning, then kept the Braves off the board until Brian McCann tagged him for a two-run blast in the sixth, chasing him from the game. Sanchez is now 6-6 on the season. 

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, late July

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, out mid-July 

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely 

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

Coming Up:

Sunday 7/21:  Nationals at Braves, 7:08 p.m., SunTrust Park

Monday 7/22:  Nationals vs Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Tuesday 7/23:  Nationals vs Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Source: Rotoworld

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