The Washington Nationals (37-33 record) hangs tight to a one-game lead over the National League East division after sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game home series over the weekend. The sweep was a strong response from Washington after losing a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1.

June 15-18: Tampa Gets the Best of Nats’

Logan Forsythe, Denard Span

ampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe (11) goes to make the tag on Washington Nationals’ Denard Span (2), who was safe at second base on the steal after a review of the play, during the first inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Thursday, June 18, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Game One in Tampa saw starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez continue his puzzling season as he gave up five runs and eight hits over three-and-one-third innings in a 6-1 rout for Tampa.  Washington had eight hits offensively but couldn’t find its way to home plate. The only reason the Nationals weren’t shut out was a bases loaded RBI single in the ninth by Yunel Escobar.

In Game Two, in this “feast or famine” season for the Nationals’ offense, it was all feast this time around as Washington scored a season high in runs in a 16-4 victory. Wilson Ramos became the first player in MLB history to homer twice off positional players and Clint Robinson homered, as well. Bryce Harper also went the yard – his 22nd home run of the year – and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Starting pitcher Tanner Roark allowed one run and six hits over seven innings to notch the only victory of the series for Washington.

Games Three and Four of the series were back at home in the friendly confines of the District, but a former-National-turned-Ray stole the show in Game Three on June 17.  Steven Souza Jr., most notably known for making the defensive play of the year last season with a diving catch that secured Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 regular season, returned to Nationals Park for the first time since his departure this offseason. He received a loud ovation before his first at-bat, which then turned into boos as he singled and then homered in a 5-0 shutout win for the Rays.  Zimmermann took the loss as he allowed three runs in seven innings pitched.

In Game Four of the series, fans across the world collectively held their breath as Harper took an awkward fall in the wet outfield while making a routine throw.  As awful as the fall looked, Harper was spared any serious injury but the team fell to the Rays, 5-3, to lose the series. At the time of the tumble, Harper was hitting .344 with 22 home runs and 52 RBI. The scare overshadowed the return of pitcher Doug Fister, who returned to the starting rotation after a month out with forearm tightness. He allowed five runs in five-and-one-third innings in the loss.

June 19-21: Nationals Bounced Back to Sweep Pirates

Michael Taylor

Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor (3) jumps to catch a fly ball hit by Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jordy Mercer during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Coming into the three-game set against the Pirates, the Nats were floundering and the Pirates were riding high on a league-leading eight-game winning streak. But Pittsburgh’s success was all spoiled by a sudden hot streak for Washington over the weekend.

Just as he did last last week, rookie starting pitcher Joe Ross had another yeoman’s performance as he struck out 11 batters in just his third major league start to lead Washington to a 4-1 win in Game One on June 19. Ross (2-1) was dominant as he only allowed onerun, six hits and a walk in seven-and-one-third innings pitched.  Ramos had two hits and two RBI for the Nationals, who ended a four-game home losing streak.

The Nationals Game Two 6-0 win on Saturday was the first start of ace pitcher Max Scherzer since his last start against Milwaukee, where he was only a single away from a no-hitter.  But this time he would get the job done as he was only one strike away from the first perfect game in Nationals history.  Although he lost his perfect game in agonizing fashion with a hit by pitch on a 2-2 count with two outs in the ninth inning, Scherzer was still able to recover quickly enough to retire Josh Harrison on a deep fly ball to left for the final out to complete the Nationals’ second no-hitter in as many seasons.  Scherzer, 30, struck out 10 batters in his second straight dominant performance and was cheered by a crowd of 41,104 who cheered with every pitch from the seventh inning on, knowing they just might be witnessing history.  Scherzer is the fifth pitcher ever, and first since 1944, to allow one hit or fewer over two consecutive complete games, turning in perhaps the most magnificent consecutive starts in the majors since Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters for Cincinnati in 1938.  His earned run average is now a league leading 1.76.  Harper returned to the lineup after the injury scare and did what he’s done all season: hit homers. He crushed his 23rd homer of the season and also drove in two RBI.

In Game Three of the series on Sunday, the Nationals had the best start in team history with a nine-run first inning, highlighted Harper’s 24th homer run of the season, a two-run blast. Escobar also hit a three-run homer in a 9-2 victory for Washington. Gonzalez pitched seven shutout innings while scattering just four hits with strikeouts.

Next: Washington hosts the Atlanta Braves in a three-game series June 23-25. The Nationals then travel to Philadelphia to face the Phillies in a three-game road series, June 26-28.