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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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John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

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USA TODAY Sports

John Gant homers, pitches Cardinals to 6-4 win over Nationals

ST. LOUIS -- Even John Gant cracked a smile.

Gant homered for his first major league hit and pitched one-run ball into the sixth inning, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high seventh consecutive victory.

Kolten Wong had three hits and three RBIs as St. Louis (65-55) pulled within four games of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs and moved within one game of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second NL wild card. The Cardinals also improved to 18-9 since Mike Shildt was named interim manager on July 13, the most wins for a manager through his first 27 games in franchise history.

"Things are starting to click for us," Wong said. "We're playing confident. We're out there playing aggressive and I think it's the kind of baseball Cardinals fans have been waiting for."

The Nationals (60-60) have dropped six of eight to fall eight games behind Atlanta in the NL East.

"We've just got to keep pulling the same rope, keep grinding it out, keep trying to win ballgames," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said.

Gant (5-4) permitted four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings. He has given up just two earned runs over 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts, both wins.

The 26-year-old Gant was 0 for 30 for his career when he drove a 1-1 pitch from Gio Gonzalez (7-9) over the wall in left in the second. The two-run shot gave Washington a 3-0 lead.

"I was jogging kind of my hands in the air," said Wong, who scored on Gant's homer. "I already knew it was going out. Looking back I think he almost caught me."

Added Gant, "I thought it was going to hit the wall maybe but when I finally looked up and (Wong) was looking back at me, that's when I knew it was going over the wall."

Gant, who has a reputation for being a stoic player, admitted to smiling "once or twice" once he got back to the dugout.

Wong's solo homer made it 6-1 in the sixth, but Washington responded with three in the eighth. Harper hit a two-run shot, and Daniel Murphy singled in Anthony Rendon.

Matt Adams then struck out looking against Dakota Hudson, ending the inning, and Jordan Hicks worked the ninth for his fourth save in eight chances.

Paul DeJong also doubled and scored for St. Louis one night after he connected for a game-ending homer in a 7-6 victory. Matt Carpenter walked in the sixth to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.

"We have a 25-man roster and we have confidence in all of them," Shildt said. "They're here for a reason and guys are looking to contribute every night and in different ways."

Gonzalez was charged with five runs and five hits in four innings. The veteran left-hander is just 1-4 in his last six starts.

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Gonzalez said. "Just not being as consistent in the strike zone as I should be. It's just one of those games you can't explain."

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Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals place Ryan Madson on 10-day DL

Ryan Madson is the latest Washington National headed to the DL, turning the team's relief pitching rotation upside down even more than it already is. 

According to MASN's Dan Kolko, the 37-year-old is nursing a "lumbar nerve root irritation" injury and will sit out for 10 days. 

In response, the team has named Koda Glover as the closer, who was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse Wednesday. 

Glover gave up a game-ending solo blast to the Cardinals' Kevin DeJong Monday night. 

The night before, Madson was on the other end of David Bote's walk-off grand slam in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs. 

As for Tuesday night, Glover's status remains unknown.

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