WASHINGTON -- Mathematicians will say the Washington Nationals cant clinch the NL East until next week. Practicality says they essentially wrapped it up Tuesday night when they sent nine hitters to the plate against Ervin Santana in the first inning of another win over the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals beat their division nemesis for the second time in two nights, winning 6-4 to push their lead to nine games with 19 to play. Atlanta had been a thorn in Washingtons plans for about a year and a half, but the Nationals have put the kibosh on that trend by winning five of the last seven meetings. "It feels like were just that much closer," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Not to take anything for granted until this thing is sewn up, but these are big. This time of year, playing the team chasing you, to be able to win a couple." LaRoche kept up his torrid stretch with two hits and two RBIs, and Jordan Zimmermann (11-5) allowed four runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts and no walks in six innings. Zimmermann hasnt lost a decision since July 11 and is 5-0 -- and the Nationals are 8-0 -- in his last eight starts. LaRoche is 9-for-19 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his last six games, a run that started when he overcame back and elbow injuries and a stomach virus to punch in five RBIs as a late sub against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He singled in a run off Santana (14-8) in the Nationals four-run first inning and added another RBI single in the second. Both were hitting works of art: He held back just enough to get the end of the bat on a high changeup and poke a soft line drive up the middle, and lifted a low two-strike changeup into a line-drive hit to right. Yet LaRoche says he isnt really in his best groove. "You know, it feels good; it doesnt feel great," he said. "I dont know how to explain that, other than just from experience. I know when it feels really good, but again, it feels good. I feel like Im slowing things down, going a little deeper in counts and getting some pitches to hit." Santana settled down somewhat after his long first inning and stuck around through five. He gave up five runs, eight hits and four walks to fall to 7-2 since the All-Star break for the Braves, who remain in a crowded race for a wild card berth. "You cant fully give up. We still have a chance," Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "Once were fully eliminated from the division race, then well worry about the wild card." DREW LOOKS LIKE THE GUY After struggling reliever Rafael Soriano lost the closers job on Friday, Washington manager Matt Williams initially indicated he would go to a closer-by-committee. Sure doesnt look that way. Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his third save in three days. Williams wouldnt declare outright that Storen is the new closer, and he has an excuse to stay mum for at least one more day: Even if Storen has the job, he almost certainly wouldnt pitch in four straight games. GONZALEZ ON KERSHAW Gonzalez offered a random thought on Clayton Kershaw, wondering if the Dodgers lefty has become too dominant for the usual set of stats: "I think you start counting how many hard foul balls he gives up instead of counting ERA. Six hard hit balls in foul territory." TRAINERS ROOM Braves: C Evan Gattis (strep throat) remained at the teams hotel for the second day in a row. Gonzalez said Gattis could return Friday for the opener of a three-game series in Texas. ... 2B Tommy La Stella was scratched from the starting lineup with a migraine, but he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. Nationals: SS Ian Desmonds back tightened up before the game, and he left after five innings. He said he has had a similar problem two or three times this year, but he should be able to play Wednesday. ... 3B Ryan Zimmerman took on-field batting practice for the first time since injuring his right hamstring on July 22. UP NEXT Atlantas Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.87 ERA) faces Washingtons Stephen Strasburg (11-10, 3.43) on Wednesday as the Nationals go for the sweep in the three-game series. Scott Mcgregor Jersey .B. -- Canadas Rachel Homan had ideal preparation for the playoffs at the Ford World Curling Championships with a pair of hard-fought wins over tenacious opponents Thursday. Asher Wojciechowski Jersey . It was well worth the wait. Manning and the Denver Broncos waited eight long months, then another 33 minutes to get the season started because of a lightning storm. https://www.cheaporioles.com/1328i-luis-...ey-orioles.html. "Win basketball games," Collins said. He will get at least a few more chances. Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with the Brooklyn Nets, who cooled off the Chicago Bulls with a 96-80 victory Monday night. Jim Palmer Jersey .com) - The San Antonio Spurs will try to even their series with the Dallas Mavericks Monday night when the two teams collide at American Airlines Arena for Game 4. Shawn Armstrong Jersey . It was my fifth straight year attending and, as always, there are many interesting matters discussed as it pertains to the use of statistics in sports.(SportsNetwork.com) - The Utah Jazz are mired in a seven-game losing streak and look to end a four-game homestand on a positive note Friday versus the Orlando Magic. The Jazz were last in action on Wednesday and sustained a 123-104 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry has taken over for the injured DeMar DeRozan and scored 39 points on 13-of-22 shooting. Im just going out there and doing my job. I know I need to score a little bit more and be a little more aggressive. I can do it with DeMar (DeRozan), said Lowry. But as a point guard, I like to get my teammates involved. Right now I need to be a little more assertive. Jazz coach Quin Snyder had a front row view of Lowry dicing up his team. Obviously, Lowry was very, very difficult to guard, said Snyder. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter scored 19 points apiece, Gordon Hayward had 16 points and Trey Burke posted 15 for Utah, which shot well at 48.3 percent and hit on only 8-of-28 3-pointers. The Jazz outscored Toronto, 54-46, in the paint and had a 22-15 advantage in second chance points. It still wasnt enough to stop the current slide. Burke is averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 assists in his last six games. Utah guard Alec Burks missed the game after sustaining a shoulder injury in Mondays loss to Denver. Burks toook a hard foul from Arron Afflalo, who was ejected for the flagrant foul type 2.dddddddddddd Burks is averaging 13.3 points and is listed as questionable versus the Magic. The Jazz have lost five in a row at home and are 3-7 in Salt Lake City. Orlando will resume a six-game road trip Friday and is 1-3 on the trek. In Wednesdays 114-86 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, Tobias Harris scored 16 points and both Victor Oladipo and Ben Gordon added 11. The Magic shot 41.8 percent and made only 7-of-20 3-pointers. They (the Clippers) played extremely well, said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn. Their ball movement was pretty good. Vaughn didnt have leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic to counter Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan inside because of back spasms. Griffin scored a game-high 21 points and Jordan pulled down 16 rebounds. Vucevic has missed two straight games and is averaging 18.6 points and 11.7 rebounds this season. He leads the NBA with 13 double-doubles and is questionable against the Jazz. The Magic, losers in six of seven games, will close the sojourn Saturday in Sacramento and lost both meetings with Utah last season. The Jazz have won seven in a row and 10 of the previous 13 contests against Orlando, which is winless in its last five games in Salt Lake City. ' ' '