The Juice: Nats open six-game lead on Braves in NL East, Bumgarner wins duel with Kershaw

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

The Juice is going strong in its fifth season of fun! Stop by each weekday for an ample serving of news from the action, plus great photos, stats and video highlights.

Washington walkoff: It's getting to a point where the most impressive thing about the Washington Nationals' presumptive march to their first NL East title isn't that they're doing it a year or two ahead of schedule. Rather, it's the methodical and drama-free route that they have been taking to the postseason. Seriously, if you didn't know any better, you'd say this is a veteran team on its fourth or fifth division title in an as many years. They've been unflappable.

That's not to say that Monday's 5-4 win in 13 innings over the  second-place Atlanta Braves was a cold and bloodless affair. It took an infield single from Chad Tracy — though the initial error ruling on Dan Uggla really should have stood — to score Jayson Werth from third and give the Nationals Park crowd a reason to go home happy.

Over the long view, though, the Nats have given their fans few reasons for palpitations. They own the most victories in baseball (76),  hold the second-biggest division lead in baseball at six games and haven't let the Braves get any closer to them than 2 1/2 games since the beginning of June. That's an impressive standing for any team, let alone one  that's enjoying the view from the top for the first time. 

Madison's masterpiece: On the other side of the postseason drama spectrum is the NL West race, which has seen the lead change three times in the last four days. The San Francisco Giants now occupy the top spot after Madison Bumgarner outdueled Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 2-1 victory at Dodger Stadium. Bumgarner pitched eight scoreless innings with four hits, no walks and 10 strikeouts while Pablo Sandoval contributed both of San Francisco's RBIs.

"It was one of those games where you knew coming in that it was probably going to be a pitcher's duel, and it was," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis told reporters.

South Side slog: The Chicago White Sox did their best Boston Red Sox impression in teaming with the New York Yankees to stage a 3-hour, 44-minute contest in regulation at U.S. Cellular Field. But the White Sox also proved to be a lot more resilient than their hombres in hosiery, staging two comebacks during  a 9-6 win over the Yankees. Alexei Ramirez's two-run homer off Boone Logan in the bottom of the seventh broke a six-all tie and allowed the Pale Hose to move on from the disappointment of being swept in Kansas City over the weekend.

Resilient Rays: Tampa Bay stayed hot in its post-King Felix world with Jeremy Hellickson pitching seven strong innings in a 5-1 victory at home against the Kansas City Royals. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Rays' five-game winning streak is the longest for a team coming off being on the wrong end of a perfect game.

Dempster does it: You can dial the panic alert over Ryan Dempster back a few notches as the exiled-from-Canada one allowed just one run over seven innings in a 5-1 win over Baltimore. Much better than the eight-run affairs that Texas Rangers fans were getting used to, eh?

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Quote of the day

"He plays the same position, so I guess we'll see what happens."

— Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington, reacting to the news that the A's had acquired Stephen Drew in a trade from Arizona

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Photo of the day: Little League no-no

How about the stones on this kid? With his team in an elimination game, Fairfield, Conn., starter Will Lucas threw a no-hitter against the team from Newcastle, Ind., on Monday night. The no-hitter gave Fairfield a 4-0 victory that allowed it to advance and was the 47th no-hitter in Little League World Series history.

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Three facts for the water cooler

A swing through San Diego may not be an easy one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Padres have won 16 of 19 games against the Pirates, a span that includes Monday's 3-1 victory by the Friars.

• Kevin Correia pitched in Pittsburgh's 19-inning win in St. Louis on Sunday, then got the start in San Diego on Monday. The last Pirate to pull relief and starter duty on consecutive days was Pascual Perez in 1981.

• The Mariners moved their second-half record to 23-13 with a 5-3 win over Cleveland. As Batting Stance Guy points out, the M's have the most victories of any last-place team with 59.

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