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Nationals erase 2-0 deficit for 5-2 win over Miami

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Nationals erase 2-0 deficit for 5-2 win over Miami

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: For the third straight day, the Nationals dug themselves into a 2-0 hole against the Marlins after one inning. But for the second straight day, they managed to dig themselves back out of that hole and emerge victorious.

With a 3-run rally in the fifth that included a home run by Tyler Moore and clutch at-bats by Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond, the Nationals took the lead off Marlins starter Brad Hand. Then with a 2-run homer by Harper (his 41st of the season) in the seventh, they expanded that lead and gave their bullpen some cushion.

It looked like that relief corps might need the extra cushion after rookie Sammy Solis gave up two singles to open the eighth. But Blake Treinen bailed him out by inducing a double-play grounder and then striking out Derek Dietrich to quash that potential rally. Jonathan Papelbon gave up a couple of singles to open the ninth but bounced back from two straight blown saves to finish this one off.

And thanks to the Mets' loss earlier in the afternoon, the Nationals closed to within 7 games of the NL East leaders, with 14 to play.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Harper's seventh-inning homer will get the most attention, and it certainly deserves it. But his fifth-inning at-bat might've been more important. At the plate with the bases loaded, 1 out and the Nationals trailing by a run, he battled Hand through a 10-pitch showdown that included five foul balls with two strikes, multiple uses of the rosin bag and a new bat after the first one broke. Harper wound up sending a sacrifice fly to right, bringing home the tying run. No, it wasn't as glamorous as a home run into the second deck, but it was no less significant.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Things didn't look good for Zimmermann four batters in; he gave up three hits and found himself down 2-0 just like that. But the right-hander found his groove over the course of the afternoon and kept the Marlins from scoring again after that. He wound up retiring the last seven batters he faced, four of them via strikeout. With his pitch count at 95 after six innings, he probably could have remained in the game. But Matt Williams decided to send up pinch-hitter Matt den Dekker in his spot and turn to his bullpen the rest of the way.

KEY STAT: Over the last two seasons, Brad Hand is 0-6 with a 7.84 ERA in seven starts against the Nationals.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Stephen Strasburg (coming off a 14-strikeout start in Philadelphia) looks to stay hot against Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino.

RELATED: Scherzer's fiery exchange with Williams highlights extra-inning win

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.