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Nationals Vs. Phillies: Nationals rally for 7-3 win, cut magic number to 3

Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals rallied after falling behind 3-1 early Thursday night.

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Nats take series in Philly, magic number at 3

The Washington Nationals fell into an early two-run hole against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night, but scored the final six runs of the game to clinch the three-game series in Philadelphia. The 7-3 victory tied the franchise record for wins in a season with 95, matching the 1979 Expos. The Nationals also became the first Washington-based team to win 95 games since the 1933 Senators, who won the American League pennant.

Starter Gio Gonzalez picked up his league-leading 21st win, pitching six innings and giving up just the three runs. Philly rookie Darin Ruf ripped a three-run double in bottom half of the first, but after that, Gonzalez settled in and let his offense carry him to the win. R.A. Dickey had clinched his 20th win earlier in the day for the Mets, but Gio is now back in front after matching him in his evening start.

On the offensive side, it was sluggers Bryce Harper and Michael Morse who did most of the damage against Tyler Cloyd. Harper opened the scoring with a solo shot in the first and drove in Danny Espinosa with a single in the fifth that gave Washington a 4-3 lead. Morse launched two homers, including a massive two-run shot that made the score 6-3, and finished the game with four RBI.

The win drops the Nationals magic number to three. They now wrap up their road schedule for the 2012 season with a weekend series in St. Louis, with Edwin Jackson taking the mound on Friday night.

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Espinosa returns to Nats lineup Thursday

After sitting out Wednesday's 8-4 win in favor of Steve Lombardozzi (and expressing his surprise and displeasure witt on the record), Washington Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozzi is back in Davey Johnson's lineup for Thursday's rubber game of the three game series. Espinosa will man his customary second base spot and bat seventh against Philadelphia starter Tyler Cloyd.

Thursday's full lineups are below.

Washington Nationals (94-61)

1. Jayson Werth, RF

2. Bryce Harper, CF

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Michael Morse, LF

6. Ian Desmond, SS

7. Danny Espinosa, 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki, C

9. Gio Gonzalez, P

Philadelphia Phillies (78-77)

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS

2. Kevin Frandsen, 3B

3. Chase Utley, 2B

4. Ryan Howard, 1B

5. John Mayberry, CF

6. Darin Ruf, LF

7. Domonic Brown, RF

8. Erik Kratz, C

9. Tyler Cloyd, P

First pitch of Thursday night's game is at 7:05. The game can be seen on MASN and heard on 106.7 The Fan, WFED-AM 1500 and WHFS-AM 1580.

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Three homers, timely pitching help Nats to 8-4 win

The Washington Nationals were able to dispatch the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4 on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Nationals jumped in front early against Kyle Kendrick, scoring five runs in the first two frames to give themselves a 5-0 lead. Kendrick lasted just two innings, throwing 47 pitches in doing so.

Washington was homer-happy early on, scoring all its runs off Kendrick via the long ball. Bryce Harper hit a two-run blast in the first, with Ian Desmond cracking a solo shot and Kurt Suzuki slamming a two-run bomb in the second.

Philadelphia was able to claw its way back to within one run of the Nats with single runs in the third, fourth, seventh and eighth innings. However, the Phillies could never get over the hump.

John Lannan certainly wasn't dominant but was able to mix and match his pitches. The hurler went 5.1 innings, only giving up two runs on five hits and a walk.

The top of the order was dominant for the Nats. Jayson Werth and Harper combined for five RBI, four hits and three runs.

The win kept Washington's lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East at four games, while the magic number to clinch the division title was reduced to four.

This story originally appeared on SB Nation Philly.

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Nationals NL East lead down to four games

The Washington Nationals lost to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, while the Atlanta Braves defeated the Marlins to narrow the gap in the NL East to four games with eight to play. Both Washington and Atlanta have clinched a spot in the playoffs, as at least one of the two NL Wild Card teams.

Also winning on Tuesday were the Cincinnati Reds, who are now tied with the Nationals at 93-61 for the best record in the National League (and all of baseball). The division winner with the best record will get to face the winner of the Wild Card game, while the other team will face off against the NL West champion San Francisco Giants.

The Nationals have two more games against the Phillies in Philadelphia before a three-game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis; they close the season with three-game series against the Phillies in D.C. The Braves finish off with the Marlins, Mets and Pirates. Cincinnati's remaining games are against the Brewers, Pirates and Cardinals.

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Danny Espinosa out of Wednesday's lineup

Regular Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa has been pulled out of the starting lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies and replaced with Steve Lombardozzi. According to baseball-reference.com, Espinosa has reached base 6 times in 19 plate appearances against Wednesday's scheduled Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, but only has 3 hits in 16 at-bats (.188 average) dating back to 2010.

The full lineups are below.

Washington Nationals (93-61)

1. Jayson Werth, RF

2. Bryce Harper, CF

3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B

4. Adam LaRoche, 1B

5. Michael Morse, LF

6. Ian Desmond, SS

7. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki, C

9. John Lannan, P

Philadelphia Phillies (78-76)

1.Jimmy Rollins, SS

2. John Mayberry, CF

3. Chase Utley, 2B

4. Ryan Howard, 1B

5. Carlos Ruiz, C

6. Domonic Brown, RF

7. Darin Ruf, LF

8. Kevin Frandsen, 3B

9. Kyle Kendrick, P

First pitch for tonight's game is at 7:05 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2 outside of D.C., while MASN will handle the local broadcast. The game can also be heard on 106.7 The Fan, WFED-AM 1500, and WHFS-AM 1580

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Washington drops opener to Phillies

Washington Nationals starter Ross Detwiler gave up five runs in five innings and the Washington offense could not catch up against Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies as the Phillies took the first of a three-game series Tuesday night, 6-3.

The Nationals got out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Kurt Suzuki's single scored Danny Espinosa, but Phillies left fielder Darin Ruf's first career home run knotted the score quickly in the bottom of the inning.

The Phillies piled on four runs in the third inning, as Ryan Howard hit an RBI single and Carlos Ruiz's homer scored Howard and Chase Utley to make the score 5-1.

Washington rallied in the fifth for two runs, as Bryce Harper's single scored Suzuki and Harper then scored on a Ryan Zimmerman RBI single of his own.

But the rally stopped there, as Domonic Brown's solo shot in the sixth inning put the game out of reach.

Washington's loss, coupled with Atlanta's 4-3 win over Miami, reduced the Nats' lead in the National League East to four games with eight still to play. The gap between Washington and Atlanta has not been so narrow since Aug. 28.

The Phillies and Nationals will play the second game in their three-game set tomorrow, as Washington sends John Lannan to the mound to take on the Phillies' Kyle Kendrick at 7 p.m.

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Nationals' Morse playing through pain

Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Morse is in the lineup Tuesday night, batting fifth despite injuries to his left wrist and right hand. Morse sat out Monday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers and received a cortisone shot. Nationals manager Davey Johnson expressed his desire for Morse to get healthy and is worried about his condition, but has given him the start anyways:

"I'm not real confident, but the doctors tell me he can't really hurt it worse, and he wants to play and I want him in there," Johnson said. "So we'll see how it goes."

Since injuring his wrist against the Giants on Aug. 13 Morse is batting just .257 with three HRs, 12 RBIs, and a .367 slugging percentage over 29 games. Johnson hopes Morse can get back to the form he displayed last year.

"He was our cleanup hitter last year," Johnson said. "We need him warming up and doing the things he's capable of doing ... We've got some tough games coming up."

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