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Their pitching staff bent, allowing four runs from the sixth inning on and keeping it close enough that Johnson sat down at his postgame news conference acknowledging that it “didn’t feel like a laugher.” But it did not break.

When it was over, the Nationals were on their way to Philadelphia to begin a weeklong road trip before the All-Star break feeling as positive about things as they have all season.

“We feel good,” said right-hander Tyler Clippard, who pitched a scoreless ninth. “We feel like we’re playing [well] right now. I think that’s the most important thing. The standings are the standings. We can’t really control what the other teams are doing. Yeah, it’s nice to be four back with really not have played tremendously well up to this point. … I think we feel confident about where we’re at.”

“We can creep up a little bit,” Zimmerman added. “Atlanta is a good team. There’s a bunch of good teams in this division that we have to play. It’s not going to happen just like that. We have to continue to play the kind of baseball we have played for the past week, two weeks for the rest of the season to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”