Nats bounce right back in first, cruise to win over Mets

Aaron Sanchez throw white

If you turned off tonight’s game after four batters, disgusted by what you saw from the Nationals from a pitching and defense perspective, well, you certainly were justified in being disgusted.

You also wound up missing quite the turnaround by the home club, which managed to come all the way back (and then some) before the first inning even ended.

Yep, after surrendering three runs to the Mets in the top of the first, the Nationals stormed back to score five in the bottom of the inning, then three more in the bottom of the second to take an 8-3 lead that would hold up for the rest of the night.

It was an unexpected, but welcome, comeback in rapid fashion for the Nats, who in the process snapped a nine-game home losing streak that stretched all the way back to April 19, when they eked out a 1-0 win over the Diamondbacks.

"We kept everybody together, we kept the energy," right fielder Juan Soto said. "It always feels good winning games like that and coming from behind. We showed what we have, and it feels great."

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Strasburg, Ross throw simulated games; Escobar out again

Stephen Strasburg throwing blue home

Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross each made it through the first simulated games of their rehab programs strong and are prepared to go through that drill again this weekend.

Strasburg and Ross pitched in those game situations Monday at the Nationals’ spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla. Davey Martinez didn’t have details on the number of innings or pitches each threw, but the manager had previously said they were scheduled for two innings a piece.

“What I got was: They both felt good,” Martinez said, relaying information he received from the organization’s medical staff. “So that’s good.”

This was a key step for both right-handers in their return from injury-plagued 2021 seasons. Strasburg, who had thoracic outlet surgery last July, and Ross, who was shut down last summer with a partially torn elbow ligament and then had surgery in March to remove a bone spur, had previously only thrown live batting practice.

The simulated game allowed both righties to pitch in a situation that more closely resembles a real game. Facing teammates who are also rehabbing in Florida, they would typically throw about 15 pitches per “inning,” then return to the dugout to rest for 10-15 minutes before taking the mound for their second “inning” of work.

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Game 32 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

Aaron Sanchez throw city connect

The Nationals have been playing better baseball, getting much better starting pitching. That hasn’t necessarily translated into a lot of wins, though. After going 3-1 to start their recent West Coast trip, they’ve gone 1-5 since entering tonight’s game against the Mets.

Aaron Sanchez gets the ball for his fourth start as a member of the rotation. All three previous outings have come against National League West opponents (the Giants twice, the Rockies once). Sanchez has his work cut for him in a Mets lineup that ranks first in the league in hits and on-base percentage and fourth in runs scored and OPS.

The Nats also have their work cut out facing right-hander Tylor Megill, who has been surprisingly dominant so far. Megill, you’ll remember, was the emergency opening day starter after both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer were unavailable, and he proceeded to shut them out over five innings.

Alcides Escobar remains out after being scratched from last night's lineup with an infection under his left pointer finger nail. Dee Strange-Gordon is back playing shortstop and batting eighth.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: The Team 980,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 66 degrees, wind 9 mph in from right field

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Nats hope Anaheim outing boosts Finnegan's confidence

Kyle Finnegan throw gray Mothers Day cap

If not for one ill-fated moment involving his bullpen mate in the bottom of the ninth Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Kyle Finnegan might well have been the biggest story to come out of what would’ve been an impressive Nationals victory over the Angels.

It got lost in the shuffle when Tanner Rainey gave up the game-tying double to Shohei Ohtani and game-winning single to Anthony Rendon moments later, but Finnegan’s performance two innings earlier was the most dominant for any member of the Nats pitching staff this season and arguably would stack up with any single inning thrown by any major leaguer in 2022.

Tasked with protecting a 4-2 lead against the top of the Angels lineup, Finnegan allowed a leadoff single to Taylor Ward but then struck out Mike Trout, Ohtani and Rendon in succession, each on fastballs registering 96-97 mph.

For Finnegan, who had been scored upon in each of his three previous outings during the club’s West Coast trip, this provided a major boost of confidence.

“To have success against those guys, it’s reassuring,” the right-hander said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Mets. “Your stuff plays. You get Mike Trout out and Shohei Ohtani out and Anthony Rendon out, you’re doing something right. That was big for me as a confidence boost.”

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Corbin's latest strong start wasted in 4-2 loss to Mets

Patrick Corbin throw white wide

Five scoreless innings by Patrick Corbin is nothing to scoff at these days. The Nationals are counting any encouraging results by the long-slumping lefty as major positives, and for the third straight start this evening Corbin was quite encouraging.

Davey Martinez also doesn’t want to jeopardize those encouraging results going down the drain in one bad sequence. So when Corbin departed tonight’s game against the Mets at the end of the fifth, zeros on the scoreboard but four walks and 86 pitches on his register, the Nats manager decided not to press his luck.

"Man, he had a lot of high-leverage innings there. He got into a lot of jams," Martinez said. "And he threw the ball well. He just walked a lot of guys. I talked to him in the fifth inning, and he was honest: He got a little fatigued. Reason being, he threw (86) pitches in five innings. He worked through a lot of different situations."

So out came Corbin and in came Carl Edwards Jr. to make his first appearance for the Nationals. Summoned from Triple-A Rochester earlier in the afternoon after allowing only one run on three hits over 14 1/3 innings, the 30-year-old reliever was now being entrusted to protect a two-run lead in a big league game.

By the time Edwards departed, that two-run lead had morphed into a one-run deficit. The right-hander surrendered two singles, a walk and then a two-run double to Jeff McNeil that proved the difference in what wound up a 4-2 loss to New York.

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Edwards Jr. promoted, Machado optioned to Triple-A

Carl Edwards Jr. white

The Nationals had noticed how well Carl Edwards Jr. was pitching at Triple-A Rochester for several weeks now. Eventually, it got to the point where they felt there was no reason to wait any longer, so this afternoon they called up the 30-year-old and added his experience to their bullpen.

Edwards, owner of a 3.77 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 206 career big league appearances, had his contract purchased. Fellow right-hander Andres Machado was optioned to Rochester to open a spot on the 26-man roster, with Mason Thompson transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

In 13 games at Triple-A, Edwards was utterly dominant. His ERA was 0.63, with only one run allowed in 14 1/3 innings. He surrendered only three hits while walking four and striking out 17. There was nothing not to like about that performance.

“Carl was really throwing the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I spoke to (Rochester manager) Matt LeCroy, and we thought it was time to get him up here. He did everything we asked him to do. He checked all the boxes, and I think he can help us here.”

Martinez knows Edwards well, having both been employed by the Cubs before. From his debut in 2015 through 2018, Edwards posted a 3.06 ERA and 1.069 WHIP over 172 games. He also made 15 postseason appearances over the years, including eight during Chicago’s historic 2016 World Series run. (Though around here he’s perhaps best known for giving up a towering home run to Bryce Harper during the 2017 National League Division Series.)

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Game 31 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

Patrick Corbin throw white wide

The Nationals are finally back home after a long West Coast trip that included some legitimate highs and some awful lows, all of it coming together for a 4-5 record. Now they need to see if they can start playing better at home, which has been quite a challenge in 2022.

Last time we saw them in D.C., the Nats were closing out a 10-game homestand with an eight-game losing streak. Overall, they’re a wretched 3-11 at Nationals Park this season. And the challenge doesn’t get any easier this week when the Mets and Astros come to town.

This is already New York’s second trip here. The first one, if you’ll recall, didn’t go well. The Mets won the first three games of the season-opening series before the Nationals rallied late to win the finale. The opener saw Patrick Corbin take the first of his five losses, though the lefty did toss four scoreless innings before falling apart in the fifth and allowing two runs.

Corbin has looked much better of late, pitching well in three of his last four starts, including a complete-game loss to the Rockies at Coors Field six days ago. Perhaps not coincidentally, Riley Adams was behind the plate for all three of those strong starts. So even though he started Sunday in Anaheim, Adams will start tonight and work with Corbin again.

The lineup will try to produce some runs against Mets starter Carlos Carrasco, who held them to one run and two hits in 5 2/3 innings during that early April series here. (UPDATE: The Nats made a late lineup change, scratching Alcides Escobar for unspecified reasons. Dee Strange-Gordon will now start at shortstop and bat seventh.)

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Highs and lows from the Nationals' long trip west

Josh Bell Maikel Franco fives line gray

The Nationals’ just-completed West Coast trip simultaneously featured some of their best performances of the season and some of their worst.

There were back-to-back deep starts in Colorado by Erick Fedde and Patrick Corbin, the latter authoring the team’s first complete game of the year. There were offensive explosions in San Francisco, Colorado and Anaheim, with the team scoring seven or more runs in five of the nine games played. And there was at times dominant relief work from several members of a suddenly thinner bullpen.

On the flip side, there was a continued lack of power from a lineup that has totaled only 20 homers in 30 games this season. There were periods of atrocious defense. And, of course, there was Tanner Rainey’s blown save in the bottom of the ninth Sunday in Anaheim.

The end result of all that: a 4-5 trip that represented clear progress from where this team resided just before it, yet still felt short of what truly was possible.

“It would be a great road trip,” Davey Martinez said prior to Sunday’s finale against the Angels. “We’re playing a lot better than we have in the beginning. And we have an opportunity to win another series today.”

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While struggling to find his swing, Cruz helping others find theirs

Nelson Cruz Gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Many years ago, earlier in his career, Nelson Cruz learned a valuable lesson about dealing with a slump at the plate.

“I used to have a coach who said if you don’t hit, you better play defense,” Cruz said.

He immediately laughed, recognizing the folly of that philosophy for a full-time designated hitter.

“So, if I don’t hit,” Cruz continued, “I better do something good.”

These days, that means doing good for others on the roster. Cruz may not be producing much as the Nationals’ DH – he ended the weekend batting a paltry .157 with three homers, 14 RBIs and a .495 OPS – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still making a difference for others.

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Ohtani, Rendon take down Nats with ninth inning rally (updated)


ANAHEIM, Calif. – On paper, the heart of the Angels batting order looks as intimidating as any in baseball. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon are as accomplished a 2-3-4 trio as you’ll find in the sport, and even if they haven't been collectively performing up to their usual standards this season, there’s no denying the presence each has when he steps into the box.

For 26 innings this weekend, the Nationals pitching staff did just about everything it could to hold that fearsome trio in check.

They just couldn't do it in the 27th inning.

Needing one more out to complete a Sunday afternoon win and a series victory, Tanner Rainey gave up a game-tying double to Ohtani, then the game-winning single to Rendon that handed the Nats a gut-wrenching, 5-4 loss.

"I thought we did well pitching to those guys all series," manager Davey Martinez said inside a quiet visitors' clubhouse. "You’re playing with fire when those guys come up in the middle of that order, and you saw what they can do really quick.”

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Strasburg, Ross to throw simulated games this week


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross will take another key step in their return from injury this week when they pitch in a simulated game at the Nationals’ spring training complex, one of their final tune-ups before both right-handers are likely to be cleared to begin rehab assignments for minor league affiliates.

Strasburg and Ross each threw live batting practice twice last week, so this is the next step in their program. Each will now pitch two simulated innings to teammates in West Palm Beach, Fla., beginning the process of building up their arms.

“They’re both going to pitch two innings and we’re going to progress them,” manager Davey Martinez said prior to the Nats’ series finale against the Angels. “And if this goes well, they’ll get on a five-day rotation and we’ll start building them up.”

Strasburg, recovering from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery, has been tracking to make his season debut sometime in June, if there are no more setbacks along the way. Ross, who had arthroscopic surgery in early March to remove a bone spur from his elbow, has been on a rehab schedule similar to the one his fellow right-hander has been on, and thus could be about a month away from making his season debut as well.

The progression for both Strasburg and Ross now would include a build-up of their workloads in these simulated games while still in Florida. If all goes well, they would then prepare to join a minor league affiliate to begin a rehab assignment, the final step in the rehab process.

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Game 30 lineups: Nats at Angels

Nelson Cruz swinging gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – It’s been a long, strange trip for the Nationals. They headed west mired on an eight-game losing streak, then won two of three in San Francisco with a surprising offensive explosion, then lost two of three in Colorado, then split the first two games of this series with the Angels. What that means: Today is the rubber game, not only of the series but of the entire trip. Given what they’ve been through, a 5-4 record would be quite an achievement, no?

The Nats have put themselves in this position thanks in large part to a resurgent rotation that has performed far better of late than it did earlier in the season. Their starters have allowed three or fewer earned runs in six of the eight games to date on the trip. And they’ve averaged nearly 5 2/3 innings per start, a significant improvement from April.

Erick Fedde is among those most responsible for that change in directions, having tossed seven innings of one-run ball at Coors Field in his last start, arguably the best of his career. The Nats will be asking for more of that from Fedde today against a really good Angels lineup, though one that has mostly been held in check so far this weekend.

The Nats lineup also has enjoyed a strong trip, producing an average of 6.8 runs and 12.1 hits per game, batting a collective .330/.384/.497 out west. That group will try to do it one more time this afternoon against Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval, who has been outstanding early this season (1.29 ERA, zero homers allowed in 21 innings).

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there watching and reading, and especially to the most important moms in my life: Lois Zuckerman and Rachel Zuckerman!

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Nats turn to unlikely contributors in win over Angels


ANAHEIM, Calif. – To beat the Angels tonight, the Nationals simply needed to get home runs from Josh Bell, Yadiel Hernandez and Nelson Cruz, two clutch hits from Maikel Franco, 5 1/3 solid innings from Josiah Gray and effective work from a bullpen that turned to none other than Erasmo Ramirez for the most high-leverage situation of the game.

Hey, whatever works, right?

This 7-3 victory on a lovely Saturday evening in Orange County may not have gone by the book. But at this point, the Nationals can’t afford to stick to a book that at times during the season’s first month hasn’t worked.

Contributions can come in a variety of ways, from a variety of players. On this night, that included a much-needed power display from the slumping Cruz and two big innings of relief from a guy who spent the season’s first two weeks at Triple-A Rochester and until now had only pitched with the Nats trailing, except for one appearance with them leading by eight runs.

That would be Ramirez, the 32-year-old journeyman reliever who was entrusted with the seventh and eighth innings tonight, stared down the heart of the Angels’ imposing lineup and lived to tell about it. The right-hander got into a two-out jam in the seventh when he surrendered back-to-back singles to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but he proceeded to get Anthony Rendon to fly out to left on the next pitch, leaving the former Nationals star third baseman 0-for-8 in the series.

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Strange-Gordon gets first start at shortstop for Nats

Dee Strange-Gordon Red

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Dee Strange-Gordon made the Nationals’ opening day roster because of his ability to get on base, his ability to wreak havoc once he’s on base and his ability to play a multitude of positions.

Tonight, Strange-Gordon is needed most at a new position. With struggling starter Alcides Escobar sitting on the bench, he finds himself in the lineup and at shortstop for the first time this season.

“I wanted to get him in there,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s been a good matchup for him. He’s been taking a lot of ground balls. On his rehab assignment, we had him play shortstop and he looked good. So I wanted to get him out there today.”

Strange-Gordon hasn’t played shortstop yet for the Nationals, but as Martinez noted, he did make several appearances there during his rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester while recovering from the undisclosed illness that left him on the injury list for 2 1/2 weeks.

The 34-year-old does have considerable experience at shortstop during his career, having first come up with the Dodgers at that position before shifting to second base and more recently learning his trade in the outfield.

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Game 29 lineups: Nats at Angels

Josiah Gray gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – What happened to the Nationals’ lineup? A group that averaged 7.8 runs on 13.8 hits through the first six games of this road trip was shut out on four hits Friday night by Angels rookie Jhonathan Diaz and four relievers. They had a couple good scoring chances early, then practically nothing of consequence late.

They’ll need a more consistent approach and some results tonight against Angels right-hander Michael Lorenzen, who nearly tossed a complete game in his last start, holding the White Sox to three runs over 8 1/3 innings. There aren’t many Nationals hitters with consequential experience against Lorenzen. Josh Bell is 7-for-21 with a homer, and Dee Strange-Gordon is 5-for-10 in his career. Otherwise, nobody has more than five plate appearances against Lorenzen.

Josiah Gray faces one of the toughest tests of his young career tonight in the Angels’ formidable lineup. We saw Joan Adon shine at times Friday night, despite a couple of costly mistakes. Gray’s challenge tonight will be to get ahead in the count with his fastball, put away hitters with his breaking balls and avoid giving up the longball that has often been his Achilles heel in the big leagues.

Where: Angel Stadium
Gametime: 9:07 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Clear, 69 degrees, wind 10 mph out to left field


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Adon impresses, but Nats shut out by Angels (updated)

adon delivers gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – There are going to be nights during this Nationals season when the end result is going to cause immense frustration but the ultimate takeaway is going to be decidedly encouraging.

Such is life for a rebuilding ballclub, with individual performances at times carrying more weight than the final score. That may be a tough pill for some to swallow, but get used to it, because there were will more nights like this.

Nobody wants to get excited about a 3-0 loss to the Angels in which the lineup squandered some early scoring opportunities and then went mostly silent the rest of the evening. But take a deep breath and ask yourself what the most important development of the day was for the Nationals, and your answer will include the name Joan Adon.

"A lineup like they have, which is obviously a very great lineup, it gives me the excitement to try to prove myself," the 23-year-old said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "It's such a great lineup, and if I can hold my own out there and do what I need to do, I can show people that I belong up here."

Though he was charged with the loss, having allowed three runs over five innings, Adon went toe-to-toe with the Angels’ star-laden lineup and more than held his own. The rookie right-hander certainly won over a few more supporters in the visitors’ dugout. He might’ve even impressed a few guys on the home side.

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Rendon remembers 2019, hopes for same outcome with Angels


ANAHEIM, Calif. – The question was kind of a set-up. Anyone who knows Anthony Rendon knew how he’d answer when asked if he’d be sentimental at all playing against the Nationals this weekend.

“No,” the Angels third baseman said with a smirk. “I mean, maybe if it was back in D.C. Then it would probably be a little different, with the fans and whatnot and being familiar with that surrounding. But here, not so much.”

Two and a half years since he last wore a Nats uniform, you’ll be relieved to know Rendon hasn’t changed at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. Now a 31-year-old father of four, not to mention recipient of a seven-year, $245 million contract, he admits he’s a more mature person and recognizes he needs to be a clubhouse leader for the first time in his career.

But deep down, he’s still the same Tony Two Bags who was drafted by the Nationals in 2011, made his major league debut two years later and then over the course of seven seasons established himself as one of the best all-around players in baseball, not to mention one of the most important contributors to the franchise’s first World Series title.

Rendon, believe it not, is already in his third season in Anaheim, and 2019 can feel like a lifetime ago. Especially when he looks across the field tonight and sees Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Patrick Corbin, Tanner Rainey and … well, nobody else who played alongside him in the World Series.

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Game 28 lineups: Nats at Angels


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Hello from the Happiest Place on Earth. Or, more technically, right down the street from the Happiest Place on Earth. The Nationals are here facing the Angels for the first time since July 2017, a series that featured the club debuts of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson following their acquisitions from the Athletics.

During that series, a Nationals third baseman named Anthony Rendon hit a home run. Tonight, Rendon will be facing the organization that drafted him for the first time as a member of the Angels. It’s hard to believe this is already Rendon’s third year in Anaheim, and the Nats roster he’ll see across the way tonight doesn’t include a whole lot of faces he’ll be familiar with. Nonetheless, it’ll be strange to see him going up against them as a member of a very potent Angels lineup.

It’s a sizeable challenge for rookie Joan Adon, who struggled his last time out in San Francisco, giving up four runs on four hits, three walks and two hit batters in four-plus innings. Adon will have to find a way to keep the ball in the zone tonight and avoid the big innings that have plagued him over the last month.

Where: Angel Stadium
Gametime: 9:38 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 8 mph out to left field

2B César Hernández
RF Juan Soto
1B Josh Bell
DH Nelson Cruz
3B Maikel Franco
LF Lane Thomas
C Keibert Ruiz
CF Victor Robles
SS Alcides Escobar

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Right-handed hitters causing Rogers trouble in new role

rogers throws gray@COL

DENVER – Josh Rogers is the only left-hander in the Nationals bullpen right now, a product of Sean Doolittle’s elbow injury and the inconsistent performances of Sam Clay and Francisco Pérez, which resulted in the recent demotion of both relievers to Triple-A Rochester.

Rogers is pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, having been moved out of the rotation because of his struggles there. So all this is new for the 27-year-old.

If there’s one thing the Nats want from Rogers in this role, though, it’s for him to consistently get left-handed batters out. And in that regard, he’s been excellent. Lefties are a measly 1-for-21 against him this season, equating to a miniscule .048 batting average.

Rogers is not, however, the old-fashioned left-handed relief specialist from days of yore. With all relievers now required to face three batters (or finish an inning), he has no choice but to square off with some right-handed batters as well. And the results have not been pretty: Righties are batting a robust .327 (16-for-49) off him.

Three of those 16 hits have been home runs, including the killer, three-run shot Brendan Rodgers produced at a critical moment during Thursday’s 9-7 loss to the Rockies.

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Nats can't do enough right in loss to Rockies

Aaron Sanchez throws gray

DENVER – For 48 hours, the Nationals experienced Coors Field like they’d never experienced it before. Quality pitching. Quick games. No late-inning drama. Nothing about the first two games of their series against the Rockies felt typical for this unique baseball setting.

Ah, but you can’t leave the Mile High City without experiencing the true Coors Field at least once. And sure enough, today’s sun-splashed series finale provided a far more typical affair.

It took 3 hours, 25 minutes to play 8 1/2 innings. It featured five combined homers. And it ended in a 9-7 loss to the Rockies that was defined both by the Nationals’ inability to keep the ball in the yard and their inability to do the little things right.

"Two costly mistakes," manager Davey Martinez lamented.

Those two mistakes each resulted in a three-run homer, with Garrett Hampson taking starter Aaron Sanchez deep to left in the second and Brendan Rodgers taking reliever Josh Rogers deep to center in the fifth.

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