Jared Hughes

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Nationals clinch Wild Card berth with pair of wins, Cubs loss

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The Nationals dashed the Phillies’ playoff hopes in the first game of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader, winning 3-1. With a win in the nightcap plus a Cubs loss to the Pirates, the Nationals could clinch a Wild Card berth. That’s exactly what happened. The Nats beat the Phillies again 6-5 while the Cubs fell 9-2 to the Pirates. For the third time in four years, the Nationals are in the playoffs.

Max Scherzer pitched the night game but wasn’t his usual dominant self, yielding four runs on five hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts across six innings. Brad Miller accounted for all four runs against Scherzer with a three-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the fourth.

The Nationals, however, staged a comeback effort when Trea Turner hit a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning off of Jared Hughes, who had just entered the game with the bases loaded in relief of Aaron Nola.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Hunter Strickland entered the game in the seventh inning and served up a solo home run to Bryce Harper. Harper, wearing a Phillies uniform this time, cut the deficit to 6-5. But the Nats’ bullpen held it from there. Javy Guerra pitched a perfect eighth while Daniel Hudson did the same in the ninth.

As the players celebrated their victory at Nationals Park, they waited to celebrate clinching a Wild Card berth as the end of the Cubs-Pirates game was displayed on the jumbotron. Kyle Schwarber grounded out to end the game in Pittsburgh, making it official for the Nationals. The Cubs’ losing streak, by the way, is now at seven games while the Pirates halt their nine-game skid.

The Brewers beat the Reds 4-2 on Tuesday, remaining one game behind the Nationals and in charge of the second NL Wild Card. The Cubs’ elimination number is down to one. The Mets are currently tied 4-4 with the Marlins in extra innings. If the Mets lose, they are mathematically eliminated. [Update: The Mets walked off 5-4 winners in the 11th thanks to a bases loaded walk. They and the Cubs have elimination numbers of one.]