Nationals lower magic number to 2 with victory over Atlanta

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Sep 15, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) delivers a pitch to Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19) in the first inning of their game at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Nationals are a win and an Atlanta loss away from winning their second division title in three seasons. The franchise, which had been considered one of the worst, if not the worst team during its futility years from 2005-2010, is a win away from arguably having a dynasty in the Nation’s capital.  That win has to come against a Braves team that had muzzled the Nats for the last year and a half but have struggled since the All-Star break.

Stephen Strasburg, one of the main reasons why the Nationals had struggled against Atlanta, pitched one of his best games of the season Monday night.  Despite battling awful career numbers against the Braves (3-7, 4.61 ERA career vs. ATL) and a sore neck that bothered the former first overall pick all night, Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.  The big right-hander reached a personal milestone in the game, as he threw his 200th inning of the 2014 season.  Long considered a future ace, Strasburg hadn’t yet reached the milestone in his career due to either injuries or innings limits. Overall, it was a big night in Georgia for #37.

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The Nationals’ offense would also make sure that Strasburg’s effort would not go to waste.  In the third inning, Denard Span doubled down the right field line to score Wilson Ramos and give Washington a 1-0 lead. It was Span’s 38th double of the season, matching his career high. Two innings later, Ramos would score his second run of the night when his blast to left field off of an Ervin Santana slider reached the bleachers. Even Strasburg would get in on the act when he singled in the seventh off of Luis Avilan to score Asdrubal Cabrera.

If there is one negative to take away from this game, it is the continued struggles of Rafael Soriano.

Manager Matt Williams gave the recently-hittable right-hander a chance to finish off a 4-0 game, and the former closer allowed two runs before Williams replaced him with new stopper Drew Storen, who promptly shut down the Braves to end the game and ensure Strasburg his 12th victory of the season.

And with that, it was down to two.  The Nationals now have an eleven and a half game lead in the division, the largest division lead in Nationals history. They have a chance to get it done Tuesday behind Tanner Roark, who will face off against Aaron Harang.

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