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The Nationals then saw their first five batters in the ninth inning reach base safely and two important insurance runs added to their tally, capped by Harper’s career-high fourth hit of the night to drive in run No. 5.

And as they retreated to the clubhouse, some sitting in their uniforms to watch the end of the Braves game, they got one step closer to the moment when they’ll head there to pop champagne.

“We all want to clinch as soon as we can,” Harper said. “You can’t sleep on some teams. We’re playing well, but we’ve still got to win some ballgames.”

“It seems,” Werth added, “having been in this situation a bunch of times now, it’s like the anxiety only continues to grow on a daily basis. … This is what it’s all about. This is why you work out for three months in the winter and go to spring training early everyday to play. Losing (stinks). I really enjoy winning.”