Entering the week, the Washington Nationals held a three and a half game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
After an off day on Monday, Washington took on the Mets in New York on Tuesday. The ball was flying out of the park for the Nationals on the night, with Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Michael Taylor all going deep. Taylor, who made his Major League debut on Tuesday, picked up two hits, including a two-run home run. Doug Fister picked up his twelfth win of the season, tossing seven shutout innings while lowering his ERA to 2.34.
The Nats clinched the series on Wednesday night behind a two-run seventh inning, tying the game on a sacrifice fly by Bryce Harper before Kevin Frandsen’s sacrifice fly gave them the lead. Jordan Zimmermann earned the win, his eighth, by tossing six and one-thirds innings of one-run baseball. After Asdrubal Cabrera launched his tenth home run of the season in the eighth, Rafael Soriano picked up his twenty-seventh save of the season, dropping his ERA to 1.94.
They picked up the sweep on Thursday, fueled by two-run home runs from both Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper. Stephen Strasburg picked up his ninth win of the season, allowing only an unearned run on three hits in seven innings. With the sweep of New York, Washington headed into the weekend with their division lead stretched to six games.
Friday night began a three-game series at home against Pittsburgh, with Tanner Roark toeing the rubber for the opener. Roark allowed three runs on five hits in five and two-thirds innings, picking up his twelfth win of the season. All five of the Nationals’ runs came in the first three innings, with Adam LaRoche delivering a RBI single in the first before Bryce Harper later knocked in two with a single of his own. LaRoche drove in another with a single in the third, followed later by a Wilson Ramos RBI single. Rafael Soriano ran into some trouble in the ninth, but locked down his twenty-ninth save for Washington’s fourth straight win.
Pittsburgh led Saturday night’s contest for most of the night, until the Nationals broke through in the eighth. Kevin Frandsen got Washington on the board with a RBI single before Adam LaRoche delivered a game-tying two-run home run with two outs, his eighteenth of the year. After Matt Thornton worked a scoreless ninth, Bryce Harper led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, before moving to second on a wild pitch. With Harper on second, Wilson Ramos launched a walk-off ground-rule double to clinch the series for the Nats.
Washington came from behind again on Sunday, coming back to take a 3-2 lead in the seventh after trailing 2-0 for much of the game. Though he entered the ninth with a 3-2 lead, Rafael Soriano struggled, giving up three runs to hand Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead. Asdrubal Cabrera delivered a game-tying RBI single in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. The Nationals finished off their sixth straight victory in the eleventh when Scott Hairston came through with a sacrifice fly, scoring Jayson Werth to finish off the sweep of the Pirates.
With Atlanta playing on Sunday Night Baseball, the Nationals still hold a six and a half game lead over the Braves for the division lead. With six weeks left in the season, the Nationals’ commanding lead is certainly promising as they look to clinch their second National League East title in the past three seasons. Washington will look to continue rolling this week as they host Arizona for four games before San Francisco comes in for three over the weekend.