García moves up in order for opener in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE – As the Nationals start this five-game road trip up I-295 at Camden Yards, they’re hoping their offensive explosion from Sunday carries over to tonight’s game against the Orioles.

After averaging just three runs over their previous eight games, the offense jumped all over Phillies pitchers en route to a 9-3 win two days ago to end an 11-games-in-10-days homestand. 

One way manager Davey Martinez is trying to create more runs is moving one of his hottest hitters up in the lineup. For the first time this season, Luis García will bat fifth, his highest spot in the lineup this year.

“He's swinging the bat well, and we're monitoring his swings and his approach,” Martinez said of García during his pregame media session. “Looking for someone, one, to drive in some runs. Two to actually get on base with some of those other guys as well. And he's done that so far.”

That he has. Since joining the Nats on June 1, the left-handed-hitting shortstop has slashed .360/.372/.507 with five doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs, one walk, one hit by pitch and nine runs scored. He has recorded a hit in 15 of his 19 games with the Nationals this season and has reached safely in 16 of the 19. His 27 hits in June rank second in the National League and his .360 average ranks sixth.

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Not enough clutch hits for Nats in Ryan Zimmerman Day loss (updated)

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It was a glorious day to celebrate Ryan Zimmerman on South Capitol Street. It was unseasonably warm for mid-June at 76 degrees with low humidity, albeit 17 mph winds moving from left field to right.

Not a cloud in the sky as 42,730 fans packed Nationals Park to watch Zimmerman’s No. 11 become the first number ever retired by the club. But after all of the celebrations, tribute videos, speeches and the actual ceremony to honor the franchise’s past, the current Nationals team took the field in an attempt to give Zimmerman a victory on his special day.

“Today was good. The ceremony was unbelievable," said Davey Martinez, who was involved during the pregame ceremony himself. "I mean, it's amazing."

Unfortunately, the 2022 Nationals look more like the teams from Zimmerman’s early years, not like the winning teams he led for most of the past decade. This team was also trying to snap multiple losing streaks: They have lost seven straight games since Sunday. They have lost 12 straight to National League East rivals. And they have lost 11 in a row to these Phillies.

All of those streaks continued with today’s 2-1 extra-inning loss on Ryan Zimmerman Day in front of a sellout crowd, the largest attendance of the season. The deciding run came on Rhys Hoskins’ pinch-hit RBI single to score the automatic runner in the 10th off Reed Garrett.

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Controversial game ends with Nats’ seventh straight loss (updated)

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This weekend is about Ryan Zimmerman, no doubt. As the Nationals get ready to retire his No. 11 tomorrow, all eyes are on Mr. National, the first player in the team's history to be so honored.

Former teammates Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa lined the top of the visitor’s dugout for a pregame Q&A session hosted by MASN’s own Bob Carpenter in front of a gathering of season ticket holders before Zimmerman himself showed up for the later portion.

The real celebration is tomorrow, but it was a nice way to kick off the special weekend.

Then there was a baseball game to be played, with the Nationals looking to avoid the doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Phillies and snap a six-game losing streak in the process. They weren’t able to do so, losing 8-7 in 10 innings in front of 24,785 people in attendance for an unbelievably whacky nightcap.

Let’s fast-forward to the extra frame. Kyle Schwarber was the automatic runner at second base for the Phillies. Steve Cishek walked Rhys Hoskins to put a second runner on base. A 3-1 groundout by Nick Castellanos moved the runners into scoring position for J.T. Realmuto.

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Game 68 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

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If you thought this week was long already, Friday’s games aren’t even over yet. Let’s play two!

After this afternoon’s 5-3 loss to the Phillies, in which Joan Adon covered five innings on 97 pitches and Evan Lee covered one inning on 31 pitches, the Nationals will need a total team effort to snap this six-game losing streak. The pitching hasn’t been great and the offense came into today averaging 2.6 runs per game this week.

Paolo Espino gets the assignment for the nightcap, trying to provide the home team with as much length as possible as well as the Nats' first quality start since June 5. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.022 WHIP in 21 appearances this season. He’s making his second straight start after giving up just one run and four hits with two strikes over 3 ⅔ innings against the Brewers. He threw 53 pitches on Sunday, so he’ll be pushed beyond that tonight.

The Phillies are calling up 25-year-old Bailey Falter from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to start tonight. In six major league appearances this season, the left-hander is 0-2 with a 4.20 ERA and 1.467 WHIP. In his two starts, he is 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.565 WHIP. Falter has been fantastic at Triple-A, however, pitching to a 1.54 ERA and 0.686 WHIP in five starts with Lehigh Valley.

Tonight officially kicks off Ryan Zimmerman Weekend here at Nationals Park. Gates open for all fans around 6 p.m. There are on-field and social media Q&A sessions with former players at 6 p.m. and an on-field Q&A session with Zimmerman at 6:20 p.m. Plus, the first 25,000 fans age 21+ will receive a Ryan Zimmerman Employee No. 11 T-shirt.

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Nats need length ahead of long weekend

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As soon as it was placed on the schedule, this was always a possibility. You just have to hope that everything goes well leading up to it.

Once Major League Baseball released the updated 2022 schedule after the first week of the regular season was canceled due to the lockout, the Nationals must have circled this weekend on their calendar.

One of the two games against the Phillies that was originally scheduled for early April was rescheduled as part of a split doubleheader on Friday, the back end of an 11-game homestand over 10 days. Not to mention it’s Ryan Zimmerman Weekend at Nationals Park.

So yeah, a long weekend.

On the field, the Nationals need help for and from their pitching staff to get through these next five games.

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Nats strike out against Strider and suffer sweep

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This week hasn’t been pleasant to the Nationals. After starting this homestand with two big wins over the Brewers, it’s been all downhill since.

Looking to avoid their third sweep in as many weeks, the Nationals dropped another dud in the form of an 8-2 loss to the Braves in front of 21,153 fans at Nationals Park.

The Nats had nothing going against Braves starter Spencer Strider. The rookie brought his good stuff to his fourth straight start, putting away hitters with his triple-digit fastball and sharp slider.

Strider’s fastball averaged 98.8 mph and topped out at 100.9 mph, with the Nats swinging late on it all night. Then the slider was a great putaway pitch as it was thrown for strikes 43 percent of the time.

“He was good. He hit 100-101 (mph)," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "But more so his breaking ball was good and he threw it for strikes. When a guy's like that, he's tough locating his fastball. He was tough."

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Soto not in lineup for second straight game

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The Nationals have already had a rough start to the week with Stephen Strasburg’s injury news, a worn out bullpen and three straight losses at home, including the first two games of this three-game set against the Braves. The last thing they need is for their best player to miss time due to a freak injury in the dugout.

But that’s exactly what they have as Juan Soto is not in the starting lineup for the second straight game after slipping in the dugout and banging his right knee on the corner of a bench in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game.

Soto was seen in the Nationals clubhouse before batting practice walking around with a slight limp in his step. He was going to test it out in the cage before making a decision on whether or not he would play, even though he told manager Davey Martinez he’s feeling better.

“He says he feels better, but we'll see,” Martinez said during his pregame session with the media before a starting lineup was announced.

What do the Nationals want to see Soto do before putting him back in the field?

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Game 65 lineups: Nats vs. Braves

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Well, this week has not started off well for the Nationals. After starting this 11-games-in-10-days homestand with two impressive wins against the Brewers over the weekend, the Nats have dropped three straight by a combined score of 23-10, including the first two games of this series against the division rival Braves. Not to mention all of the injury and roster news from the past 48 hours …

As they look to avoid a three-game sweep, the Nats will turn to Erick Fedde to be the stopper, something he actually has done a handful of times this season. The Nationals have won seven of the 12 games Fedde has started this season, with the right-hander going 4-4 with a 4.87 ERA. Of those seven wins, five of them were the only victories the Nationals secured in those respective series (against the Mets, Pirates, Rockies, Astros and Dodgers). And his most recent start against the Brewers stopped a three-game losing streak after the Nationals were swept out of Miami last week.

He’ll try to do it again tonight.

The Braves will send one of the National League’s best rookies in Spencer Strider to the mound for just his fourth start in his 15th appearance this season. The 23-year-old right-hander is 2-2 with a 1.122 WHIP and 2.35 ERA, which is third-best among qualified major league rookies. Strider’s three starts have come in his last three outings, over which he allowed four earned runs in 14 innings while striking out 20 and issuing just eight walks. He gave up one run on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings of relief against the Nats on April 11 in Atlanta.

Juan Soto is not in the lineup for the second straight game. The star right fielder slipped in the dugout and banged his right knee on the corner of a bench in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game. Manager Davey Martinez told reporters yesterday Soto’s X-ray came back clean, but today said the knee is still sore. Martinez also said during his pregame media session that Soto could be available off the bench.

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Doolittle excited to increase rehab activities

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You’ll have to excuse Sean Doolittle if he seems a little amped over something as trivial as playing catch as a major league pitcher. For a guy who had to go on the 10-day injured list after a strong start to the season and then went months without picking up a baseball, the left-hander had a lot of energy and a lot to say about his ongoing rehab process.

“We're in my second week of playing catch. ... Up to 75 feet right now. And just building back up,” Doolittle said in front of his locker in the Nationals clubhouse Friday afternoon. “I can't remember the last time I took two months off from throwing. But the elbow and the forearm have been feeling really good. All of the strength work has gone really well and now is the fun part. Getting to throw and play catch again, knock that rust off. We don't have a timetable or anything. But it's been going really well.”

Doolittle landed on the 10-day IL with a left elbow sprain on April 20, the day after he recorded two outs in relief of Josiah Gray during the Nationals’ 6-1 win over the Diamondbacks in the matinee of a D.C. doubleheader. A little over two weeks later, he was moved to the 60-day IL after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection that would keep him out for a longer period of time.

He had to stop throwing for what turned out to be about two months. He wasn’t allowed to do what he’s literally paid to do.

After starting the season with 5 1/3 scoreless innings, a 0.188 WHIP and six strikeouts to no walks over six appearances, was that particularly frustrating for him?

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Nats start homestand by routing Brewers (updated)

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It’s always nice to be home. After a 10-game road trip in which they went 3-7, the Nationals were happy to return to D.C. to start this long homestand tonight against the Brewers.

You could feel it in the clubhouse before the game. Despite coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Marlins and getting into town late last night, players seemed to be in high spirits this afternoon. Even manager Davey Martinez was particularly chipper in his pregame press conference.

Did the late arrival time at Nationals Park allow them to catch up on sleep? Or were they over-caffeinated after not getting enough sleep? We don’t know for sure, but whatever it was it led to an 11-5 win over the Brewers in front of 26,111 in attendance on South Capitol Street.

“I am tired. … I got three hours of sleep," Martinez said immediately after tonight's game. "By the end of the game today, I looked at (bench coach Tim Bogar) and said, 'I'm beat.' ”

It was a picture-perfect Friday night in our nation’s capital. With a gametime temperature of 79 degrees and a per usual perfect national anthem from local favorite D.C. Washington, the Nationals settled right into a victory in which they received contributions from all aspects of the roster.

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Cruz returns to lineup, Sánchez throws light bullpen and more

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After a long 10-game road trip across three cities, the Nationals are finally home in D.C., ready to start an 11-game homestand over the next 10 days.

“Yeah, it's awesome,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame session in the press conference room at Nationals Park. “I mean, it was a long road trip. It really was. But glad to be home.”

Although the location has changed, the Nationals lineup for their series opener against the Brewers remains mostly the same, with Nelson Cruz starting again as the designated hitter after being a late scratch from last night’s finale in Miami with tightness in his back.

“Cruz is back in there,” Martinez said. “His back was stiff yesterday. So he called this morning, I talked to him this morning. He said he feels a lot better. ... Says he feels good. So he's back in there.”

The 41-year-old has dealt with a handful of nagging issues that have caused him to be scratched from lineups this season. He was also removed from the lineup before an April 12 game in Atlanta with groin tightness, and he was scratched from a May 16 game in Miami with an illness.

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Game 60 lineups: Nats vs. Brewers

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Home, sweet home! After going 3-7 over a three-city road trip, the Nationals have finally returned home to South Capitol Street. 

Tonight kicks off an 11-game homestand over the next 10 days (thanks to a doubleheader against the Phillies a week from today), starting with three games against the Brewers. The Nats will be looking for a little payback after dropping two out of three in Milwaukee last month.

Erick Fedde takes the mound for his sixth home start to open this series. He’s 3-4 with 4.88 ERA on the season and gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers in May.

Aaron Ashby gets the start for the Brew Crew tonight. In 12 games (six starts) this season, the young left-hander is 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA. He closed out the Brewers’ 7-0 win with a scoreless ninth inning on the same day Fedde started for the Nationals at American Family Field. As a starter, Ashby is 1-2 with a 3.45 ERA.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Cloudy, 78 degrees, wind 7 mph in from left field 

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Unsung heroes helped Nats over the weekend

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CINCINNATI – Wherever the Nationals go, the attention always focuses on their big-name players. Your Juan Sotos, Josh Bells, Nelson Cruzes, Josiah Grays, Patrick Corbins, etc.

While all of those stars contributed to the Nats’ three wins over the Reds this weekend, some unsung heroes played a significant role as well.

Not all of them got their fair share of praise over the last three days, partially my own fault for not incorporating them more. So let’s take some time to give them their time in the spotlight.

Lane Thomas is an obvious one, though he did get his fair share after hitting three home runs on Friday night. Those jump off the page, obviously, but he did a lot more this weekend.

Thomas went 7-for-14 with three home runs, a double, four RBIs, a walk and five runs scored in the three games he played in Cincinnati, once again showing his uncanny ability to produce in National League Central ballparks. All along the way, he played perfect defense in the outfield, including a nice sliding catch Saturday afternoon.

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Corbin, Nats hold off Reds for road series win (updated)

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CINCINNATI – It’s been over a month since the Nationals completed a road series win. They took two out of three in San Francisco on April 28-May 1. They have lost five straight since.

That streak ended today as the Nationals beat the Reds 5-4 in front of 16,380 at Great American Ball Park to win their third straight game and therefore this four-game series.

The first inning had a lot of action this Sunday afternoon. Facing right-hander Luis Castillo, who doesn’t have great career numbers against the Nats, the guys in navy blue were able to jump out to an early lead, something they haven’t done in about a week.

César Hernández walked and Lane Thomas singled to start the game, and Josh Bell drove in both with an RBI double to right field, putting the Nats on the board first for the first time since Monday in New York.

But Patrick Corbin ran into trouble of his own in the bottom of the inning. The Reds’ game plan against the southpaw was clear: Attack the fastball and run on the basepaths.

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Pregame notes before series finale in Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI – It’s a lovely Sunday in The Queen City as the Nationals look to win this four-game series against the hosting Reds.

With the early game today, a flight to catch tonight and an off-day tomorrow before a series against the Marlins in Miami gets underway Tuesday night, there wasn’t a whole lot of news coming out of the Nats clubhouse this morning. So let’s go through some notes before we get underway one last time in Cincinnati …

* Here’s your daily non-update Stephen Strasburg update: He did some work in the visitors' bullpen at Great American Ball Park this morning as part of his routine while recovering from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery and Friday’s rehab start with Triple-A Rochester, in which he pitched six shutout innings on 83 pitches. Pitching coach Jim Hickey and others were working with Strasburg.

Although things seem to be going well for the veteran right-hander and his season debut should be coming soon, manager Davey Martinez isn’t ready to commit to anything until Strasburg goes through his bullpen session tomorrow with the team in Miami.

“He's had a routine that he does in between starts, so he's just doing his routine,” Martinez said of Strasburg’s work this morning during his pregame media session. “And he's gonna throw a bullpen here in the next day. We'll see where he's at and we'll have a conversation after the bullpen. But so far, everything looks good. I don't want to make any decisions yet 'til he throws his bullpen and we go from there.”

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Game 56 lineups: Nats at Reds

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CINCINNATI – The Nationals have a chance today to do something they haven’t done since May 1: Win a road series.

That’s right, after Thursday’s 8-1 loss to the Reds in the series opener, the Nats have bounced back to win the last two games of this series to put themselves in position to win three out of four on Sunday. This would be their first road series win since they took two of three in San Francisco over a month ago.

Like Saturday’s starter, Erick Fedde, Patrick Corbin will attempt to shake off a rough outing in his last start. Corbin gave up seven runs while scattering 12 hits over 4 1/3 innings in Tuesday’s loss to the Mets.

Corbin comes in with a 1-8 record and 6.96 ERA on the season and 3-4 record and 4.04 ERA in 11 career appearances (10 starts) against the Reds.

Luis Castillo brings his 2-2 record and 3.38 ERA into today’s finale for the Reds. The right-hander was great in his last outing, pitching six scoreless innings of one-hit ball with 10 strikeouts against the Red Sox. 

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Edwards Jr. and Finnegan leading back end of bullpen

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CINCINNATI – For so long considered the weakness of a rotation-dominated pitching staff, the Nationals bullpen has been a point of strength two months into this season.

Leading the way for the relief corps have been Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan, two setup guys who have proven their worth in the back end of the bullpen.

Edwards, signed to a minor league contract in February, has been lights out since his first appearance as a National.

In his season debut, the veteran right-hander gave up three runs in one inning against the Mets. Afterward, he vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

It hasn’t. He’s almost been perfect in 12 outings since, posting 14 scoreless innings while giving up just two hits and six walks and recording 12 strikeouts. His ERA is 1.80 and his WHIP is 0.800. 

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Nats stay in the fight to win wild one over Reds (updated)

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CINCINNATI – The Nationals have made a bad habit of falling behind early in games this week. They have allowed their opponents to score first in six of their last seven games, including today’s matchup against the Reds.

To the Nats’ credit, they were able to claw their way back and win last night’s game. They had to claw their way not once but twice today in a wild 10-8 win over the Reds in front of 23,128 fans at Great American Ball Park.

“I tell the guys, 'Hey, we give up a run or two the first thing, there's still a lot of baseball left. We got a good enough offense that we can inch our way and come back and end up winning these games. So don't get down,” manager Davey Martinez said before today’s game.

Stay in the fight, or something like that.

That’s exactly what they did.

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Nats hoping for carryover from big win

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CINCINNATI – Baseball is a streaky sport. A single player or a whole team can go through long stretches of success or failure.

For an example of the latter, look at the Nationals through the first four games of this road trip, when they lost all four and were outscored 36-6. But after last night’s 8-5 win over the Reds, which was led by Josiah Gray’s dominant start and Lane Thomas’ three home runs, the Nationals are hoping their fortunes have made a 180-degree turn and a new streak will start.

They say hitting can be contagious. Can good pitching have the same effect on a staff?

“Absolutely,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame press conference. “You know, the thing is, when it comes to hitting in any team that's struggling, you start the game and all of a sudden you find yourself trying to come back again. We did that yesterday, we did come back. But it was the innings after that with Josiah, where he beared down and kept us in the game, gave the guys some motivation. They went out there and they scored some more runs (for) him when he went out and he pretty much shut the door down. So that's kind of what we need.”

In Erick Fedde’s case, he’s trying to carry over Gray’s strong start into his own outing today after allowing six runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Mets on Monday. Martinez said Fedde just needs to forget about that outing and return to form today against the Reds.

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Game 55 lineups: Nats at Reds

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CINCINNATI – Hey, would you look at that: The Nationals offense finally scored some runs last night! In fact, their eight runs Friday night outscored their collective six from the previous four games. Go figure.

As promised, Lane Thomas is back hitting second after his three-homer game last night. The Nats offense will hope to ride the Lane Train against Reds starter Tyler Mahle, who sports a 2-5 record and 5.53 ERA. But the right-hander had a lot of success against the Nats last year, holding them to just one unearned run in 11 1/3 innings over two starts.

Erick Fedde will make his second start of this road trip after having an abysmal start Monday in New York. He allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings on 52 pitches against the Mets to inflate his ERA from 3.55 to 4.60.

Fedde did not have the same sort of success against the Reds last year as Mahle did against the Nats. In a September start at Great American Ball Park, the right-hander gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 82 degrees, wind 3 mph out to right field 

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