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Shortstop Ian Desmond continued his tear despite playing with a sore oblique, connecting for a titanic two-run blast in the fourth inning to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead, his sixth homer in his past 11 games. Steve Lombardozzi appeared to put the game on ice in the seventh with an RBI single to make it 3-1.

But the bullpen didn’t answer the call on this occasion, and Clippard said that might have been a good thing in a strange sort of way.

“I look at it as good timing,” he said. “You don’t ever want to get too comfortable or too confident out there. So this is a little check for ourselves, and we can kind of regroup and move forward with a new beginning in the second half.”

But first the Nationals will enjoy some rest and relaxation after accumulating a National League-best 49 wins and holding a four-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.

“Everybody feels good, and they’re looking for the break,” he said. “They’ve battled hard. We’ve had a lot of close games and everybody on the ballclub, from the offense to the pitching to the bullpen, has been outstanding. It’s a good time for a break and then come back looking forward to the second half.”