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Nationals clinch NL East thanks to Braves walk off against Marlins

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The Nationals’ magic number entering Sunday afternoon’s action was two, meaning that any combination of two of their own wins and losses by the second-place Marlins would clinch the NL East for them. They took care of business against the Phillies behind a stellar outing from Stephen Strasburg, so once they cleared the field on Nationals Park, they went into the clubhouse to watch the remainder of the Marlins-Braves game.

The Nationals didn’t like what they saw initially. With the game tied 5-5, the Marlins took a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth inning when Dee Gordon hit a solo homer. The Fish tacked on two more in the ninth on an RBI double from Christian Yelich and a Justin Bour sacrifice fly, making it 8-5. But the Braves rallied in the bottom of the ninth, scoring once on a Tyler Flowers ground out and twice on a Rio Ruiz single that was misplayed by third baseman Brian Anderson but not scored an error.

Neither team scored in the 10th, but the Marlins’ bullpen faltered once again as Lane Adams hit a walk-off two-run home run in the 11th off of Vance Worley. That marked the Braves’ second consecutive walk-off win against the Marlins and clinched the division on behalf of the Nationals, who are the first team to clinch in baseball this season. The Nationals have won the NL East in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. The club has earned first place in the division in four of the last six campaigns as well.

There’s still something left to play for as the Nationals are still within reach of the faltering Dodgers for the best record in the league. The Dodgers opened Sunday at 92-50 while the Nationals are 88-55.

Phillies option Hector Neris to Triple-A

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The Phillies announced that they’ve optioned right-hander Hector Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Nerris, who saved 26 games as the Phillies closer in 2017 and ten games in that role this year, has struggled this year, posting a 6.00 ERA in 30 appearances. While his strikeout and walk rates aren’t too far off what he was doing last year his hit rate has spiked and he’s currently allowing 10.3 safeties per nine. The wheels have come off of late, as he has allowed nine runs on 15 hits — five of them homers — over his last eight innings of work. Yesterday he allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a game the Phillies had led by five.

It was clear that Gabe Kapler had lost faith in Neris as a result, using him almost exclusively in low-leverage situations. That changed on Saturday, as Kapler used him in a save situation and said after the game that they were easing him back into his role. That plan obviously changed after yesterday’s meltdown.

Seranthony Dominguez had been getting the call in save situations. He’ll get them more now.