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Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Braves

Instant Analysis: Strasburg shuts down Braves

Game in a nutshell: Who says the Nationals can't handle the pressure of a pennant-race series against their lone remaining competitors in the NL East. After pulling off last night's dramatic, 13-inning win over the Braves, they did it in more convincing fashion this time. There was, of course, a 51-minute rain delay in the top of the third, but that didn't faze anyone, least of all Stephen Strasburg. Allowed to retake the mound, the right-hander wound up tossing six innings and striking out 10. His batterymate, Jesus Flores, supplied a three-run homer, with Ian Desmond launching a solo shot of his own. Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard then finished it off out of the bullpen, leaving a crowd of 33,888 rocking and celebrating the home team's seven-game lead over Atlanta heading into tomorrow's series finale.

Hitting highlight: It's been a tough season for Flores, who was put into a tough spot after Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and has struggled both at and behind the plate. This, though, might have been his finest all-around performance of the year, and it came at a most opportune time. Flores clubbed a three-run homer into the flower bed beyond the left-field fence in the fifth (his fourth home run of the season, three of them coming against the Braves). Then he closed out the top of the sixth with a laser to nail Jason Heyward trying to take second on a ball in the dirt. In a season that has been frustrating on many levels for Flores, this had to feel especially gratifying.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg negatively affected by a rain delay? Pfft. So what if he had to keep himself warm during the 51-minute gap in action during the top of the third? He actually came back better and stronger. In fact, Strasburg might have displayed his best command of all three of his pitches the entire season. He painted corners with a 97 mph fastball. He dropped 83 mph curveballs off the table. And his 91 mph changeup was unhittable. Put it all together and you get six innings of one-run, 10-strikeout ball on 94 pitches (plus whatever he threw down in the batting tunnel during the delay). Remember Strasburg's inconsistent July, when he went 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA? Well, he's now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in August. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Key stat: Over the last three days, the Nationals have sat through 253 minutes of rain delays.

Up next: The Nationals will go for the sweep (and possibly a knockout punch of the Braves) Wednesday night. Ross Detwiler gets the ball against right-hander Kris Medlen.

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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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Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Nationals Roundup: Late Victor Robles magic not enough as Braves walk-off Nats

As you would expect a first-place NL East team to do, the Atlanta Braves bounced back to even the series with Washington Friday night inside SunTrust Park. Josh Donaldson erased Victor Robles' game-tying, two-run home run with his walk-off single in the ninth. Atlanta improved to 59-40 and increased its lead over the Nationals to 6.5 games with a 4-3 final. 

Consider these notes as Washington grinds through a pivotal series in Atlanta: 

Player Notes:

Washington's first-year lefty didn't have his best stuff going Friday night in Atlanta. Patrick Corbin tossed just five innings allowing eight hits, two runs, two walks on 100 pitches. He struck out five Braves on his 30th birthday. 

The Nationals' third baseman has brought new meaning to the word 'consistency' all year long in his first season as an All-Star. Two games into this four-game series in Atlanta, Anthony Rendon has five hits, a walk, and 2 RBI.  

Victor Robles brought the fireworks in the ninth at SunTrust Park. The 22-year-old delivered a game-tying, two-run home run off Luke Jackson. The long-ball traveled a whopping 446 feet. 

The Fernando Rodney experience was alive and well. Davey Martinez made the questionable decision to bring his 42-year-old back out in the ninth for a second consecutive inning. It backfired. Just 14 of his 32 pitches were thrown for strikes. 

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 25

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 26

Coming Up:

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Sunday 7/21: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

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

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