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Nationals roll to earn series split with D-backs

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- With the Mets idle on Thursday, the Nationals picked up some ground on the first-place team from New York by defeating the D-backs 8-3 at Nationals Park. The Nationals are now 1 1/2 games out of the lead in the National League East.

Nationals right-hander Joe Ross was solid, lasting six innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out seven. The one run was scored on a homer by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- With the Mets idle on Thursday, the Nationals picked up some ground on the first-place team from New York by defeating the D-backs 8-3 at Nationals Park. The Nationals are now 1 1/2 games out of the lead in the National League East.

Nationals right-hander Joe Ross was solid, lasting six innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out seven. The one run was scored on a homer by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Full Game Coverage

After the game, manager Matt Williams announced that Ross is staying in the rotation, while Doug Fister will be a long man out of the bullpen.

"With the five great starters that we have and Strasburg coming back. For me to stay, I'm going to try to continue to help the team," Ross said. "I need to thank [Doug]. I'm sure he could have just said no and stayed [in the rotation]. For me to get the opportunity to keep starting, … that's great. Anything we could do to win games and make the playoff run."

Video: ARI@WSH: Ross strikes out seven over six frames

D-Backs right-hander Jeremy Hellickson started for Arizona and he lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits. Hellickson was in trouble starting in the second inning when he allowed a solo homer to Ian Desmond. By the fifth inning, Hellickson left the game behind, 4-1.

"I'm just working way too hard out there right now," Hellickson said. "I felt like the bases were loaded every inning. I can't rely on making a big pitch every inning to get out of it. I've got to have some easy outs and get some easy innings. That starts with getting ahead. I'm throwing way too many balls right now."

Clint Robinson added to Washington's scoring in the eighth inning by hitting a three-run homer off reliever Brad Ziegler.

Video: ARI@WSH: Robinson hits a three-run shot to right

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Desmond and Ramos' bats come alive: After being benched on Wednesday, Desmond had one of his best games of the season, going 2-for-4 including his 12th home run of the season. Ramos went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs.

"That was a really big moment for me and the team," Ramos said. "I feel more confident at the plate. After I got that single, I felt excited because I waiting for that moment. It feels better right now. I feel happy right now because I helped my team. I'm working for that." More >

Video: ARI@WSH: Desmond hits solo shot to open the scoring

Too good of a pitch: With a runner on second and two outs, Hellickson uncorked a breaking ball in the dirt that Jayson Werth swung at and missed. The ball, though, bounced away from catcher Oscar Hernandez allowing Werth to reach first and prolong the inning during which the Nats ended up scoring two runs.

"If we were able to block that ball we had a strikeout," D-backs manager Chip Hale said.

Ross has quality start, but bullpen nearly blows it: Ross left the game with 5-1 lead after six innings, but Casey Janssen allowed two runs in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game. Matt Thornton came in and stopped the bleeding by getting Cliff Pennington to fly out to Werth and David Peralta to ground out to Desmond at short.

"It's not a fun situation to come into," Thornton said. "It's about making pitches in that situation. I fell behind Pennington, 2-0. I didn't feel great right there. He hooked a fastball that I missed with. I had an idea what he was trying to do. What he was looking for from me. I made a couple of good pitches after that and got a weak popup. Peralta had an idea what I was doing against him. He is an aggressive hitter and I made a pitch there [to get him out]."

Video: ARI@WSH: Thornton induces a groundout to end threat

Resting regulars: Having already clinched a winning road trip and in preparation for having just one off day this month, D-backs manager Chip Hale gave regulars Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings the day off. Hale is hoping the rest will freshen up his players for a six-game homestand which begins Friday.

"They'll be fresher for it and then they'll get next Thursday off with the off day and then we'll have to figure out a couple more days to get them off," Hale said. More >

Video: ARI@WSH: Saltalamacchia hits a solo shot to center

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

Ross has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his seven starts. He ties Micah Bowie for the second longest streak in Nationals history. The record is nine straight held by Mike O'Connor and Stephen Strasburg. More >

Video: ARI@WSH: Ross goes after soft grounder, gets the out

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, Werth hit a grounder to third that Jake Lamb backhanded and threw across the diamond. First-base umpire Brian Gorman ruled that Werth, who slid headfirst into first base, was safe. The D-backs challenged the call and after a review of 36 seconds the call was overturned, taking a run off the board for the Nationals and ending their threat.

Video: ARI@WSH: Lamb stops grounder, fires across diamond

With runners on first and third, Michael Taylor hit into a force play which allowed Desmond to score. But manager Matt Williams claimed that all hands were safe because infielder Aaron Hill never touched second base to get the first out of the inning. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official determined that the Hill's foot was in contact with second base, when the ball touched the interior of his glove and the Nationals lost their challenge.

Video: ARI@WSH: Taylor grounds into force as a run scores

In the seventh inning, Taylor tried to bunt his way on base, but he thought he was hit by the pitch. Home-plate umpire Tripp Gibson ruled that the ball hit Taylor's bat. After a crew chief review, the replay revealed that Taylor was hit on the hand and was awarded first base.

Video: ARI@WSH: Umpires review Taylor possible HBP

With two outs in the seventh Taylor attempted to steal second and was called safe by second-base umpire Mark Carlson. The D-backs challenged the call and upon review the call stood.

Video: ARI@WSH: Taylor slides to steal second base

WHAT'S NEXT

D-backs: The D-backs return home after a 10-game road trip and open a three-game series with Reds on Friday at 6:40 p.m. MST at Chase Field. Chase Anderson will be activated off the disabled list to start for the D-backs. The right-hander was placed on the DL on July 19 with triceps inflammation.

Nationals: The Nationals return to Nationals Park to play a three-game series against the Rockies starting at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will get the start for Washington. In his last start, Zimmermann was solid in five of the six innings he pitched in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Mets. However, the third inning sent Zimmermann on his way to his seventh loss. After allowing a two-run homer to Curtis Granderson with two outs, Zimmermann allowed three more runs on four pitches. Daniel Murphy followed with a back-to-back homer, and Lucas Duda capped the scoring with a two-run blast.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats and on his podcast. Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jeremy Hellickson, Joe Ross