Yunel Escobar, A.J. Pierzynski

Washington Nationals’ Yunel Escobar (5) slides safely into home as Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski (15) can’t make the tag in time during the third inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Washington Nationals enjoyed a 2.5 game lead in the NL East after winning five of six games between June 23 and June 28. Washington claimed series wins over the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, and held a 42-34 record as of June 28.

June 23-25: Nationals Sweep Braves
In Game One of a three-game home set against the rival Atlanta Braves on June 23, pitcher Stephen Strasburg returned to make his first start after a stint on the disabled list that lasted 21 days. He pitched five shutout innings, and Anthony Rendon tied a career high of four hits in the 3-1 victory. Strasburg (4-5) was resilient in his return, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out six. He allowed base runners in four of five innings, but delivered his first scoreless start this season.

In Game Two on June 24, Ian Desmond’s 11th inning sacrifice fly scored Bryce Harper from third base to clinch a 2-1 victory. Reliever Drew Storen had a chance to seal the deal in the ninth inning but blew the save opportunity for only the second time this season.

Cameron Rupp, Denard Span

Washington Nationals’ Denard Span, left, scores past Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp on a sacrifice fly by Danny Espinosa during the fifth inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader, Sunday, June 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Washington won 3-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In Game Three on June 25, Doug Fister’s second start after his own disabled list stint helped make history. Fister’s seven innings of shutout ball allowed Nats starters to set a team record with 41-1/3 consecutive shutout innings. The 7-0 win completed the sweep over Atlanta; it marked Washington’s sixth consecutive win and eighth in a row over Atlanta.

June 26-28: Nationals Win Two of First Three in Philly
Ace Max Scherzer’s start in Game One of a three-game series in Philadelphia was highly anticipated.  After two of the greatest starts in Nationals history, including only the second no-hitter in the 10 years the franchise has called Washington home, the biggest question was whether he could somehow replicate that dominance. Unfortunately, his bid for history was denied by a double by the Phillies’ Freddy Galvis, a hit which ended 6-1/3 perfect innings and 16 retired batters.  Scherzer (9-5) allowed two runs and five hits over eight innings in a 5-2 win

Game Two on June 27 was rained out after two innings and a considerable rain delay. Because of the postponement, Nats’ starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez had to waste his turn in the rotation, to the chagrin of team manager Matt Williams. Instead, the rainout forced a doubleheader on June 28. In the first game of the double header, Stephen Strasburg struck out a season-high nine across seven strong innings to lead the Nats to their eighth straight victory, a 3-2 win to take the series. Strasburg (5-5) allowed two runs on four hits with one walk in his second quality outing since returning from the disabled list. Storen pitched the ninth inning for his 23rd save of the season.

Unfortunately, spot starter Tanner Roark was unable to keep the winning streak going in the nightcap. Roark surrendered eight earned runs and 12 hits in only 3-1/3 innings as the Nationals suffered an 8-5 defeat. Ian Desmond and Jose Lobaton both homered for Washington in the losing effort.

Next: The Nationals will head to Atlanta for a short two-game series with the Braves on July 1 and July 2, followed by a three-game home series with the San Francisco Giants from July 3 to July 5.