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Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker on wrapping up tough stretch of 20 games in 20 days

Last night’s win guaranteed at least a .500 record for the Washington Nationals in a rough stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Good as Mark Melancon had been, with a 0.71 ERA, one walk, 13 Ks and a .196/.244/.440 line against in 12 ⅔ innings since the Nationals acquired him in a pre-deadline deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, surely Washington’s skipper Dusty Baker was relaxed even after the veteran closer issued a leadoff walk to Cesar Hernandez in the bottom of the ninth of a 3-2 game last night in Philadelphia... right?

“Not really,” Baker told reporters after Melancon worked around the walk and earned his seventh save of the season for the Nationals and his 37th overall on the year.

“That leadoff walk has been dangerous,” Baker said, and especially in Citizens Bank Park.

“I’ve probably lost the toughest games here, late, so you’re trying not to think it and trying to think positive, plus the guy that he walked, he has speed and he can steal.”

Hernandez didn’t try to steal second, in spite of the fact that it was a one-run game at that point, and Melancon struck Odubel Herrera out in the next at bat before getting a 6-4-3 DP out of Maikel Franco to end the second of three for the Nationals and Phillies in South Philadelphia.

“I thought they were going to try to steal it,” Baker admitted, “but probably they had second thoughts because [Wilson Ramos] is so good at throwing them out. And so, I’m glad that he didn’t run, I’m glad that [Melancon] enticed them into that double play.”

The win was the Nationals’ eighth straight over their divisional rivals and their fifth straight in the Phillies’ home.

It was also their 10th win in nineteen games during a tough stretch of twenty games in twenty days which ends with tonight’s series finale in Philadelphia.

It got interesting at the end, after right-hander Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter and gave up two runs late, but the Nationals held on.

“We’ll take it,” Baker said. “We’ve got one more game to go now in this twenty in a row and we’re assured of a .500 [record] during this time. I really wanted this one tonight cause now we’re 10-9 and hopefully tomorrow we’ll be 11-9 and then take a break in New York.”

First it’s one more with the Phillies tonight at 7:05 PM EDT.