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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.

Video: Pete Alonso hits home run no. 50

Pete Alonso
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Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso has launched what appears to be the beginning of an auspicious career, made all the more notable by the 50 home runs he’s produced for the Mets so far this season. The All-Star slugger pushed his home run streak to four straight games on Friday, collecting no. 50 on an eighth-inning fastball from the Reds’ Sal Romano.

It’s just the latest of a long line of accomplishments for the 24-year-old infielder. Entering Friday’s series opener against Cincinnati, the first-time All-Star carried a .266/.366/.590 batting line with a league-leading 49 homers, 113 RBI, a .956 OPS and 4.9 fWAR through 648 plate appearances. Among those who are still rounding out their rookie seasons in 2019, he ranks first in home runs and fWAR by a long shot: the White Sox’ Eloy Jiménez is second in home runs with 28 dingers, while the Astros’ Yordan Álvarez plays second fiddle in fWAR with 3.7 Wins Above Replacement.

Even more remarkable: Alonso is the second rookie in MLB history to deliver at least 50 home runs in a single season. The first? Aaron Judge, who clubbed a jaw-dropping 52 homers for the Yankees in 2017.