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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three At Atlanta And Winning The N.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:03pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 4-2 win on Monday night (Sept. 15)

Game 2: 3-0 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 16)

Game 3: 3-1 loss on Wednesday night (Sept. 17)

1. The beast of the National League East

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The win on Tuesday night clinched the Nats’ second NL East title in three seasons and just the third division title in the history of the franchise (1981, 2012 and 2014).

After a loss on June 27, the Nats were 41-38 and tied for first place in the NL East with the Braves.  From that point until clinching the division, the Nats went an NL-best 46-25.  

Plenty of credit should go to Matt Williams for winning a division title in his rookie season as a manager.  He has taken his share of criticism from the media (myself included), but at no point has the job appeared to be too big for him, and the results speak for themselves.  

But no one deserves more credit than general manager and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo.  He has made one good move after another since taking over the Nats’ front office (at first on an interim basis) in March 2009.  The Nats’ roster is one of the best in the majors.  The team has been positioned well for the future for several years now.  The Nats’ success over the last three seasons says as much about Rizzo as anyone.  

2. The Nats’ Game 3 lineup did not feature a single regular

Perhaps it was a reward for the division title.  Perhaps it was a necessity given the celebration after Game 2.  Whatever the case, not a single Nats regular played in Game 3.  The Nats’ starting lineup for the game: center fielder Michael Taylor, shortstop Danny Espinosa, third baseman Kevin Frandsen, first baseman Tyler Moore, right fielder Nate Schierholtz, left fielder Stephen Souza Jr., second baseman Jeff Kobernus, catcher Sandy Leon and starting pitcher Blake Treinen.

3. Not their daddies this month

The Nats, in taking two of three at the Braves, improved to 8-11 against them this season.  The Nats lost nine of their first 13 games against the Braves this season.

Nats killer and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went just 2-for-11 in the series, which he entered with incredible numbers against the Nats this season: .476 batting average, .521 on-base percentage, .778 slugging percentage.

The Nats batted just .185 (17-for-92) in the series, including going just 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

4. The starting pitching was excellent    

Stephen Strasburg tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts and also providing an RBI single and a walk.  He was pulled after just 90 pitches in part due to waking up with neck stiffness on Monday.  Strasburg, in this his career-high 32nd start of the season, surpassed 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career.  He now has 28 strikeouts versus zero walks over his last four starts.

Tanner Roark tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, allowing just five hits and no walks.  He exited the series first among all Nats pitchers with a 5.0 bWAR.

Treinen tossed five scoreless innings in Game 3.

5. Game 1 ended up being much closer than it should have

Nats relievers combined to allow five runs in seven innings in the series thanks to two rough outings.

Rafael Soriano officially was credited with two runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 1.  He went double, strikeout, RBI double, fly out, walk in the bottom of the ninth before being replaced by closer Drew Storen.  But he struggled too, giving up an RBI single and a wild pitch before inducing a game-ending groundout.  Storen did toss a perfect ninth for the save in Game 2.

Ross Detwiler allowed three runs in the bottom of the sixth of Game 3.

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Five Takeaways From The Orioles' Three-Game Sweep Of Toronto And Winning The A.L. East
by Al Galdi
Sep 18, 2014 -- 1:02pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 5-2 win on Monday night (Sept. 15)

Game 2: 8-2 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 16)

Game 3: 6-1 win on Wednesday night (Sept. 17)

1. Division champs for the first time since the Clinton Administration

The win on Tuesday night clinched the Orioles’ first American League East title since 1997 and just their second division championship since the start of the 1984 season.

The O’s are off to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and for just the fourth time since the start of the 1984 season.

The O’s are in the midst of their third consecutive winning season.  They hadn’t registered three straight winning seasons since 1992-94.

What manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette have done in just a few seasons is remarkable.  This franchise was a joke thanks to 14 consecutive losing seasons (1998-2011).  It is now the only team in the A.L. East to make the postseason in two of the last three years.  

2. The offense was great
The O’s batted .278 (27-for-97) in the series, including going 6-for-20 with runners in scoring position.

Steve Pearce started Games 1 and 2 at first base and Game 3 in right field and had a monster series: 5-for-9 with three walks.  He blasted a three-run homer in Game 2 and another three-run bomb and a solo shot in Game 3.  Pearce exited this series first on the O’s with a 5.9 bWAR.  

DH Nelson Cruz went 5-for-12 in the series.
Second baseman/third baseman Ryan Flaherty started Games 1 and 2, providing a two-run homer in Game 1 and two walks in Game 2.

Center fielder Adam Jones had three singles, an RBI and a run in Game 1 and provided the most memorable images of the division-clinching celebration after Game 2, smashing willing fans in their faces with pies.    

3. The starting pitching was good enough

Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 1, recording six strikeouts.  He did give up nine hits and a walk.

Ubaldo Jimenez made a spot start in Game 2 and pitched reasonably well: two runs in five innings with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed.  He did give up four walks.  The outing was Jimenez’s first of any kind since Aug. 31 and just his third outing since his previous last start on Aug. 16.

Bud Norris tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 3, though he did give up two hits, five walks and a wild pitch.

4. The bullpen was excellent for a second straight series

Orioles relievers combined to allow just one run in 11 innings in the series, recording 12 strikeouts.

5. Things got chippy in Game 1

It all started in the top of the fifth, when Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes got angry at catcher Caleb Joseph after Reyes’ hand made contact with Joseph’s cleat on an RBI single by first baseman/third baseman and former Oriole Danny Valencia.  Reyes appeared to feel that Joseph had illegally blocked the plate.

Then in the bottom of the sixth, Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman sailed a pitch behind Joseph’s head.  Plate umpire Ted Barrett warned both benches, and Joseph struck out to end the inning.  Stroman kept glaring at the Orioles’ dugout as he walked off the field, and several players actually started to hop over the railing, though no incident took place.  Manager Buck Showalter ultimately came out to talk to Barrett and was furious.

MLB suspended Stroman for six games and fined him an undisclosed amount on Wednesday.  Stroman is appealing, maintaining that the pitch was not intentional.


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Blowout of Jacksonville
by Al Galdi
Sep 17, 2014 -- 6:59pm

The Redskins improved to 1-1 with a 41-10 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated left ankle in the first quarter and is out indefinitely

Griffin looked good in his brief time in the game.  He had two read-option runs for 22 yards, including a 12-yard run on the first offensive play of the game.  He went 2-of-3 for 38 yards, including a second-and-eight 19-yard shotgun completion to tight end Niles Paul off read-option play-action and a second-and-nine I-formation incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson on a play that should have been ruled a completion (the Skins challenged but were unsuccessful).

Griffin got injured on second-and-four 19-yard completion to Jackson off a play-action boot out of the pistol.  Griffin had both Jackson and receiver Pierre Garcon open and should have thrown the ball earlier, but he instead kept running and, ultimately got injured when his left foot hit the turf awkwardly and bent in a gruesome fashion.  Griffin was trying to get away from linebacker Paul Posluszny on the play.  Griffin suffered no break in the ankle, but head coach Jay Gruden on Monday (Sept. 15) offered no timetable for a return other than saying, “We'll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he'll be out.”        

This was Griffin’s fourth injury over 31 regular-season and postseason games: concussion in the Week 5 loss to Atlanta in 2012, grade-one right LCL sprain in the Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, torn right ACL in the wild-card-round playoff loss to Seattle in Jan. 2013 and now this injury.

The other negative for Griffin was a third-and-nine sack for a nine-yard loss.  He was in the shotgun and was guilty of standing too still in the pocket.  Griffin now has been sacked 42 times over his last 15 regular-season games off getting sacked just 30 times in 15 regular-season games in 2012.  

2. Receiver DeSean Jackson, like Griffin, exited the game in the first quarter and was one of five Redskins injured

Jackson suffered an AC-joint sprain in his left shoulder on a first-and-10 deep incompletion.      

Fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain on a fourth-quarter second-and-nine seven-yard reception that also included a 10-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Winston Guy Jr.

Running back Roy Helu Jr. exited the game in the fourth quarter due to a left-knee strain.

Left guard Shaun Lauvao exited the game in the fourth quarter due to right-knee inflammation.

3. The Redskins had one of their best offensive games of the last few seasons despite the injuries, a key absence and a surprise underperformer

The Redskins scored 41 points, producing 32 first downs and 449 total net yards of offense and no turnovers.  

The Redskins won the time-of-possession battle by 18:02.  

The Redskins’ 31-point margin of victory was the team’s largest since Oct. 7, 2007 vs. Detroit (34-3).

What was most impressive was the Redskins’ offense in the first half: 21 points, 308 total net yards, 21 first downs.  The second quarter at Dallas in 2012, the first quarter against Baltimore in 2012, the first half at Minnesota in 2013 and the first half of this game stand as the Redskins’ best offensive quarters/halves since the start of the 2012 season.

The most impressive aspect of this offensive performance: the Redskins did it despite Griffin and Jackson exiting the game in the first quarter due to injury, tight end Jordan Reed being inactive due to a hamstring injury and receiver Pierre Garcon totaling just one reception on four targets.

And the offensive numbers could have been even better.  A second-and-nine Grffin I-formation deep incompletion intended for Jackson should have been a catch according to officiating experts Mike Pereira of FOX Sports and Mike Carey of CBS Sports.

4. Kirk Cousins relieved Griffin and was very good, especially in the first half

Cousins completed his first 12 passes, going 14-of-18 for 170 yards and a touchdown in the first half.  He went just 8-of-15 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the second half, but the performance still overall was terrific, especially considering that it was a relief performance.  

Cousins’ two touchdown passes were a first-quarter second-and-10 20-yard shotgun connection with Young on Cousins’ first throw of the game and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-goal two-yard I-formation toss to Paul.

Cousins’ pocket presence and decision making are better than Griffin’s right now without question.  Griffin, of course, is faster and has the stronger arm and overall higher ceiling.  I never liked the idea of trading Cousins last offseason given the bad year that Griffin had in 2013, to say nothing of Griffin’s injury history.  This game was exactly why you keep Cousins on your roster.

And this game also was why spending a fourth-round pick on Cousins in 2012 was a good idea.  He has at this point has proven at the very least to be a capable backup at a bargain price (four-year, $2.57 million deal).  And he may be a quality starter.  On what planet is that poor use of a fourth-round pick?  

5. The Redskins’ defense was dominant

The Redskins tied a team record with 10 sacks, set previously on Oct. 9, 1977. The 10 sacks were the most by the Redskins in a game since the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982.

The Redskins totaled a ridiculous 18 quarterback hits.

The Redskins held the Jaguars to 148 total net yards of offense, eight first downs and 3-of-13 on third downs.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan tied a team record with four sacks, matching Phillip Daniels (12/18/2005), Ken Harvey (11/23/1997), Dexter Manley (10/2/1988) and Brian Orakpo (12/13/2009).

Defensive end Jason Hatcher had two quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks, but the stats don’t tell the story of his game.  Hatcher was a major disruptive force, earning a perfect 10.0 grade from our own Chris Cooley.  

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. had three quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson had three quarterback hits, including half of a sack.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two quarterback hits, including a sack, and was again impressive with his run defense.

Corner David Amerson had two of the Redskins’ six pass defenses.

6. Safety Bacarri Rambo committed another major mistake and is gone

The Redskins waived Rambo on Tuesday (Sept. 16) off allowing tight end Marcedes Lewis to get behind him and taking a bad angle on Lewis’ second-quarter third-and-12 63-yard touchdown reception.  Rambo, of course, also was guilty of a terrible missed tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception in the Week 1 loss at Houston.

Rambo played on just 38 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps, as safety Trenton Robinson was in on 48 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.  He had an early-fourth-quarter interception but also was at least partly responsible for rookie receiver Allen Robinson’s fourth-quarter third-and-nine 54-yard reception.

Rambo getting waived means that just two of the Redskins’ seven 2013 draft picks are on the 53-man roster: Amerson and Reed.

Two other defensive negatives had to do with corner DeAngelo Hall.  He got beat badly on a first-quarter second-and-10 deep incompletion intended for rookie receiver Allen Hurns, who dropped the ball.  And Hall committed a second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard personal-foul penalty.  

7. Running back Alfred Morris had a very good first half

Morris had 14 carries for 63 yards in the first half, including two second-quarter one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown runs.

Morris did have eight carries for just 22 yards in the second half, but bad blocking by Lauvao and right tackle Tyler Polumbus had a lot to do with Morris’ bad second-half.    

Rookie Silas Redd had eight carries for 41 yards, including a late-fourth-quarter fourth-and-seven 14-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run.

Roy Helu Jr. had eight carries for just 25 yards but provided the play of the game from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint: second-quarter first-and-10 nine-yard I-formation run on which Helu accumulated much of the yardage while pushing off the turf with his right arm.

8. Tight end Niles Paul and receiver Ryan Grant took advantage of others’ absences

Tight end Logan Paulsen actually started in place of Reed, but it was Paul who played on 71 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps and finished with eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.  He did have a drop late in the third quarter on a first-and-10 incompletion.  But that drive resulted in Paul’s second-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception.

Grant played on 44 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps thanks to Jackson’s injury and finished with five receptions for 57 yards on eight targets.

9. Redskins special teams had a second straight uneven game

The good from Redskins special teams included:
     •    kicker Kai Forbath going 2-for-2 on field goals of 36 and 42 yards despite being questionable with a right groin injury

     •    receiver Andre Roberts’ third-quarter 37-yard punt return that helped to set-up Forbath’s third-quarter 36-yard field goal

     •    punter Tress Way blasting two first-quarter 61-yard punts and a 48-yard punt to the Jags’ 14 in the second quarter

But the bad from Redskins special teams included:    
     •    Roberts totaling just 22 yards on his six other punt returns

     •    Way producing a mere 29-yard punt in the third quarter

     •    Five of the Redskins’ 11 penalties being on special teams, including two by special-teams captain and linebacker Adam Hayward

10. Miscellaneous notes:

This victory snapped a nine-game regular-season losing streak for the Redskins.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    Reed due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a second straight game

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) for a second straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a second straight game

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long for a second straight game

     •    quarterback Colt McCoy for a second straight game

The Redskins also played this game without:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who is serving a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Three Of Four Against The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Sep 15, 2014 -- 11:56am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 11-inning win on Friday afternoon (Sept. 12)

Game 2: 5-0 win on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 3-2 loss on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-2 win on Sunday night (Sept. 14)

1. First baseman Chris Davis is done for the regular season

We learned on Friday that Davis had been suspended for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall.  The suspension was to cost Davis the Orioles’ remaining 17 regular-season games and eight postseason games should the O’s advance that far.

Under the terms of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program, a first offense for a stimulant violation results in follow-up testing.  A second violation brings a 25-game suspension, and a third offense results in an 80-game suspension.  So Davis, obviously, failed a test for a second time.

Davis released a statement of apology through the Major League Baseball Players Association: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans.  I made a mistake by taking Adderall.  I had permission to use it in the past but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption this year.  I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

One of two things happened here: 1) Davis legitimately needs Adderall, took it without an exemption, and got caught or 2) Davis took Adderall as a performance-enhancer in a frustrating season without an exemption and got caught.  Whatever the case, this was a foolish and completely avoidable misstep.

Davis has an OPS+ of just 97 (100 is average) this season off his incredible 2013: OPS+ of 168, MLB-leading 53 homers, MLB-leading 138 RBI, MLB-leading 370 total bases.  Two bright spots, though, for Davis this season: 1) he’s second on the O’s with 26 homers and 2) his advanced defensive numbers at first base are very good, and he has played some at third base in the absence of Manny Machado.

The O’s have been without Machado since he injured his right knee on Aug. 11.  He underwent season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in late August.  Additionally, catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t played since May 10 and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 17.

2. The starting pitching was terrific with the exception of one inning

Kevin Gausman tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts.

Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, recording 10 strikeouts.

Miguel Gonzalez allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3, though he gave up just three hits and three walks.  All three runs came in the top of the second, which featured a solo homer, a walk, a double, an RBI single and a steal of home.

Chris Tillman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, recording six strikeouts.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his 19 starts.  The Orioles’ record for such a streak is 25, which was set by Dave McNally in 1968.  

3. The bullpen was excellent

Orioles relivers combined to allow just two runs in 11 1/3 innings in the series, totaling 13 strikeouts.

4. The offense overall was bad…

The O’s totaled just one homer and batted just .230 (31-for-135) in the series, though they did total 11 walks over Games 1 and 2.

5. …but the theme of unlikely heroes continued for the O’s

Steve Pearce started all four games at first base and went 5-for-14 with two walks in the series.

Jimmy Paredes had a pinch walk-off two-run double in Game 1.

Left fielder Alejandro De Aza had two RBI triples in Game 2, which also included shortstop Ryan Flaherty providing an RBI double, a walk and a run and DH Delmon Young producing a two-run single.

Third baseman Kelly Johnson, a former Yankee whom the O's acquired from Boston on Aug. 30, hit a walk-off double in Game 4.

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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Three Of Four At The Mets
by Al Galdi
Sep 14, 2014 -- 8:20pm

Game 1: 6-2 win on Thursday night (Sept. 11)

Game 2: 4-3 loss on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 10-3 win on Saturday night (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14)

1. The offense was very good

The Nats batted .292 (42-for-144) in the series, despite going just 9-for-46 with runners in scoring position.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon went a ridiculous 11-for-19 in the series.

Center fielder Denard Span went 5-for-13 with walk and 2-for-2 on stolen bases in the series.

Shortstop Ian Desmond went 6-for-16 with two walks and 3-for-3 on stolen bases in the series.  Desmond exited this series with 22 homers and 21 stolen bases, giving him a 20-20 season for the third straight year.  He joined Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops in major-league history to go 20/20 at least three times.

Right fielder Jayson Werth did not play in Game 2 but went 4-for-12 with a walk in the series.

2. The starting pitching was uneven

Tanner Roark allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, during which he did commit a throwing error.  Roark was pulled despite throwing just 87 pitches, but he is at a career-high innings total, so the Nats may simply be looking not to overthrow him at this point.

Gio Gonzalez allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings in Game 2.  He allowed six hits and a hit-by-pitch on 110 pitches but did record seven strikeouts and did issue just one walk.  Gonzalez unwillingly exited the game in the bottom of the seventh, slamming the ball into manager Matt Williams’ hand and then having an animated discussion with him in the dugout.  Both men downplayed the emotion after the game.

Doug Fister allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 3, getting pulled after just 75 pitches.

Jordan Zimmermann tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4.  He wasn’t nearly his usual-efficient self (103 pitches), but the run prevention obviously was there.

3. The bullpen was excellent

Nats relievers combined for 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.

4. Things got chippy in Game 1

Mets starter Bartolo Colon got rocked, allowing six runs (five earned) in three innings.  The top of the first saw him give up a two-run homer to first baseman Adam LaRoche and then hit Desmond with a pitch.  The top of the fourth saw Colon give up a two-run homer to Rendon and then hit Werth with the next pitch, causing Colon and eventually manager Terry Collins to be ejected.  

Nats reliever Matt Thornton then hit third baseman Daniel Murphy with a pitch in the bottom of the eighth, causing Murphy to leave the game with an injured left wrist.  

The rest of the series featured four hit-by-pitches by Nats starters: one by Gonzalez in Game 2, one by Fister in Game 3 and two by Zimmermann in Game 4.

5. Defense bit the Nats at least a little for the second time in three series

Catcher Wilson Ramos committed a missed-catch error during the Mets’ three-run first in Game 2.

Desmond committed an error during the Mets’ one-run sixth in Game 3.

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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three Against Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Sep 11, 2014 -- 2:37pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 win on Monday night (Sept. 8)

Game 2: 6-4 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 9)

Game 3: 6-2 loss on Wednesday (Sept. 10)

1. Revenge against your biggest rival, despite one Nats killer continuing his tear

The Nats, in taking two of three against the Braves, improved to 6-10 against them this season and exited this series with a magic number of 10 to clinch the National League East.

Nats killer and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman did go 5-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He now has a .476 batting average, .521 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage against the Nats this season.

Next up for the Nats is an 11-game road trip, which comprises their final road games of the regular season: four games at the Mets, three games at the Braves and four games at Miami.

2. It certainly appears as if Drew Storen is back as the Nats’ closer

He struck out the side in a perfect ninth in Game 1 and then tossed another perfect ninth in Game 2, giving him three saves in three days despite manager Matt Williams continuing to insist that he’s going closer-by-committee.  Storen exited this series with a 1.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP this season.  

Former closer Rafael Soriano allowed a double and a single in a scoreless eighth in Game 3, which marked his first outing since giving up three runs on two homers on Sept. 5.

A negative for the bullpen was Jerry Blevins’ outing in Game 3: three runs in one-third of an inning, though two of the runs were plated on a two-run double given up by Ryan Mattheus.

3. The starting pitching was terrific in Game 1 and solid the rest of the series

Doug Fister, off struggling over his previous three starts (11 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings), was back to his usual stellar self in Game 1.  He tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and three walks.  The highlight of Fister’s outing came in the top of the seventh, when manager Matt Williams came to the mound but decided to leave Fister in the game with two outs, runners on first and second and shortstop Andrelton Simmons at the plate.  Williams after the game: "I asked him if he wanted this man, and he said, 'Yes,' so I turned around and went back to the dugout.”  Simmons ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice, one of 11 groundball outs recorded by Fister.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 2, recording seven strikeouts.  He now has a 2.40 ERA over his last nine starts.  

Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3.  He gave up seven hits, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch but also recorded eight strikeouts and issued no walks.  Strasburg and Zimmermann are tied for first on the Nats with 21 quality starts apiece this season.  

4. The offense had an off series

The Nats batted just .242 and totaled just eight walks in the series.

The Nats totaled just four runs in Games 1 and 3, during which the Nats went a combined 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

36-year-old Braves starter Aaron Harang allowed one run (unearned) in seven innings in Game 3, recording nine strikeouts.  He now has allowed just two unearned runs in 20 innings over three starts against the Nats this season.  

A bright spot remained first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He had two RBI singles in Game 2.

5. Two key absences in Game 3

Third baseman Anthony Rendon (illness) and shortstop Ian Desmond (back) did not play on Wednesday, but neither was expected to be out for long.

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