Jonathan Papelbon to begin rehab Monday at Potomac

Jonathan Papelbon to begin rehab Monday at Potomac
Jonathan Papelbon's return to the Nationals bullpen may only be a handful of days away. Papelbon will begin a rehab assignment with high Single-A Potomac on Monday night, the minor league affiliate announced, suggesting the injured closer is nearly ready to come back from a strained ribcage muscle. Out since June 13 with what officially is considered a strained right intercostal muscle, Papelbon traveled with the Nationals throughout their just-completed road trip and had been playing catch...
Continue reading

Nats struggling to cobble together bullpen with Papelbon out

Nats struggling to cobble together bullpen with Papelbon out
When Jonathan Papelbon landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career 10 days ago, it was viewed in some corners as a potential addition by subtraction, given the veteran closer's oft-shaky outings that seemed to feature more hard-hit balls than swings and misses. Dusty Baker knew better. Whatever heart palpitations Papelbon may cause his manager at times, he more than makes up for with experience and the domino effect he has on the rest of the Nationals bullpen. "I think the...
Continue reading

After disastrous West Coast trip, Nationals try to refocus

After disastrous West Coast trip, Nationals try to refocus
LOS ANGELES - Michael A. Taylor's game-ending error late last night would have been tough enough for the Nationals to cope with had it come during a long winning streak. That it instead extended their current losing streak to a season-long five games only added to the disconsolation that was felt throughout the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium at the end of a brutal West Coast trip. "Every loss on this road trip has been devastating," manager Dusty Baker said. "We had the lead in...
Continue reading

Taylor's game-ending error hands Nats another crushing loss

Taylor's game-ending error hands Nats another crushing loss
LOS ANGELES - For a split-second when the ball came off the bat, there was a fleeting thought it could be a double-play ball, one that would wrap up a much-needed victory for the Nationals. But then Yasiel Puig's hard grounder up the middle got past a diving Danny Espinosa, and so everyone inside Dodger Stadium immediately assumed it would be a simple single to center field, extending the bottom of the ninth. But then as he came charging in, Michael A. Taylor's eyes gazed slightly upward,...
Continue reading

Young arms dueling at Dodger Stadium (Nats lose 4-3)

Young arms dueling at Dodger Stadium (Nats lose 4-3)
LOS ANGELES - After a frustrating few nights trying (and mostly failing) to come up with clutch hits, the Nationals managed to record a couple of them in succession in the top of the second tonight, giving themselves an early lead over the Dodgers. Danny Espinosa and Joe Ross hit back-to-back RBI doubles off 19-year-old phenom Julio Urias, a pair of desperately needed two-out hits with men in scoring position for a Nationals lineup that has struggled mightily to deliver in those situations. The...
Continue reading

Strasburg throws off flat ground, Ramos moves up to fifth

Strasburg throws off flat ground, Ramos moves up to fifth
LOS ANGELES - Stephen Strasburg played catch in the Dodger Stadium outfield this afternoon, the first time he had thrown a ball since an upper back strain left him unable to start Monday night's game. It's still too soon for the Nationals to know if Strasburg will be able to make his next scheduled start Sunday in Milwaukee, and he'll likely need to throw off a bullpen mound one of the next two days to do that. But today's step was an encouraging one. "Yeah, it's an encouraging sign,"...
Continue reading

Game 73 lineups: Nats at Dodgers

Game 73 lineups: Nats at Dodgers
LOS ANGELES - The Nationals need a win tonight, plain and simple. They certainly don't want to leave the West Coast on a five-game losing streak before heading to Milwaukee for the weekend. So they'll need a strong offensive performance against 19-year-old phenom Julio Urias, still seeking his first big league victory in his sixth try. The left-hander has electric stuff and hasn't been giving away free passes (he has 22 strikeouts and only three walks in his last three starts), but he also...
Continue reading

Wednesday Q&A from Los Angeles

Wednesday Q&A from Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES - This has turned into a more eventful trip - certainly more negative events - than the Nationals would have liked when they first arrived on the West Coast six days ago. After two well-played victories in San Diego to get the road trip started, they have now dropped four straight, two of them in games they led by multiple runs in the eighth inning. Stephen Strasburg was scratched with an upper back strain. The bullpen is in a bad place right now with Jonathan Papelbon on the...
Continue reading

Nats waste opportunities, watch Dodgers seize theirs

Nats waste opportunities, watch Dodgers seize theirs
LOS ANGELES - The fateful bottom of the eighth - specifically Yasmani Grandal's towering, game-changing, three-run homer off Tanner Roark - will show up in every highlight reel late tonight and into tomorrow. And certainly it deserves that treatment, because it was the obvious difference in the Dodgers' 3-2 victory over the Nationals. But the less obvious difference in this game, the overriding factor that left Roark in position to lose the game on one swing, came during the previous 7 1/2...
Continue reading

Harper homers to the opposite field again (Nats lose 3-2)

Harper homers to the opposite field again (Nats lose 3-2)
LOS ANGELES - It took Bryce Harper 2 1/2 months to hit his first opposite-field homer of the season. It took him only five days to hit his second. Harper took Scott Kazmir deep to left field in the top of the first inning tonight at Dodger Stadium, giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead with yet another encouraging sign the once-slumping MVP is getting his stroke back. Harper went the other way on Kazmir's 2-1 pitch, sending it beyond left fielder Howie Kendrick's leap and beyond the fence....
Continue reading

Nats won't wait until last minute to make decision on Strasburg

Nats won't wait until last minute to make decision on Strasburg
LOS ANGELES - The Nationals don't know yet if Stephen Strasburg will be able to make his next scheduled start, but they don't intend to wait til the last minute to make a decision the way they did Monday night when they scratched the right-hander about 90 minutes before first pitch with an upper back strain. For now, the Nationals are hoping Strasburg will be able to go Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, slotting back into his original spot in the rotation. But for that to happen, they'll likely...
Continue reading

Game 72 lineups: Nats at Dodgers

Game 72 lineups: Nats at Dodgers
LOS ANGELES - It is a full 20 degrees cooler this afternoon at Dodger Stadium than it was yesterday at this time. Which means it's only in the mid-80s. Still remarkably more comfortable for the second game of this series, which finds the Nationals trying to snap a three-game losing streak. They'll be facing their third straight left-handed starter tonight, this time in the form of Scott Kazmir, who is no Clayton Kershaw, as evidenced by the fact he hasn't lasted more than five innings in any...
Continue reading

Nats find out the hard way how tough it is to beat Kershaw

Nats find out the hard way how tough it is to beat Kershaw
LOS ANGELES - Against Clayton Kershaw, you can't expect to score runs. You can only hope to give yourself as many opportunities to score runs as possible. So Dusty Baker couldn't find fault with the approach his Nationals lineup had last night against the Dodgers ace. He just wished his guys had found some way to make the most of one of the opportunities they had, which might well have altered the course of what became a 4-1 loss at Dodger Stadium. "All you can get are opportunities," Baker...
Continue reading

Strasburg hopeful of making next start after L.A. scratch

Strasburg hopeful of making next start after L.A. scratch
LOS ANGELES - Stephen Strasburg first felt what he described as "a little pinch" in his upper back Saturday while lifting weights in San Diego, but over the course of the next 48 hours, the Nationals right-hander and his club held out hope he'd still be able to make his scheduled start tonight against the Dodgers. It wasn't until sometime after 5 p.m. PDT, less than two hours until first pitch, when Strasburg realized the treatment he had been receiving wasn't going to be enough to allow...
Continue reading

Petit trying to hold his own vs. Kershaw (Nats lose 4-1)

Petit trying to hold his own vs. Kershaw (Nats lose 4-1)
LOS ANGELES - The highly anticipated Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup didn't happen, but Yusmeiro Petit is doing what he can to at least keep this thing interesting. Forced into emergency duty when Strasburg was scratched with a strained upper back, Petit faced the daunting challenge of matching up with perhaps the best pitcher on the planet and holding the Dodgers lineup in check along the way. Three innings in, Petit has made just one mistake. That mistake, though, sailed over...
Continue reading

Strasburg scratched with upper back strain, Petit to start

Strasburg scratched with upper back strain, Petit to start
LOS ANGELES - One of the season's most anticipated pitching matchups won't happen after all. The Nationals were forced to scratch Stephen Strasburg from tonight's outing against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers with an upper back strain. Reliever Yusmeiro Petit will now start in his place, facing a stiff challenge on short notice. The change was announced less than 90 minutes before first pitch at Dodger Stadium. Strasburg had arrived at the ballpark earlier in the afternoon, walking into the...
Continue reading

Game 71 lineups: Nats at Dodgers (Strasburg scratched)

Game 71 lineups: Nats at Dodgers (Strasburg scratched)
LOS ANGELES - Hello from the one and only Dodger Stadium, still beautiful after all these years, even when it's 107 degrees. Yes, you read that right. It's 107 degrees as I sit here in the open-air press box preparing tonight's lineups thread. I've been to L.A. in the summer countless times in my life - we used to come here almost every summer when I was a kid - and I cannot ever remember it being anywhere close to this hot. The good news, if there is any: It'll be dropping back down into...
Continue reading

Marquee pitching matchup tonight at Dodger Stadium

Marquee pitching matchup tonight at Dodger Stadium
Some thoughts before I board my flight to Los Angeles, where the Nationals and Dodgers open a three-game series late tonight... * If you like marquee pitching matchups, they don't get a whole lot better than tonight's showdown at Dodger Stadium. Yes, it's Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw. How good are these two guys? Let us count the ways. Strasburg is 10-0 this season, Kershaw is 10-1. Strasburg has 118 strikeouts and only 24 walks this season. Kershaw has 133 strikeouts and - good...
Continue reading

Nats settle for series split after another shaky Gonzalez start

Nats settle for series split after another shaky Gonzalez start
What was shaping up to be an impressive weekend to start the Nationals' first West Coast trip of the season instead ended on a sour note, with back-to-back losses in San Diego resulting in a four-game split at Petco Park. Another shaky start by Gio Gonzalez this afternoon turned into a 6-3 loss to the Padres, the Nationals' second straight after two strong wins to begin the long weekend series. Gonzalez gave up six runs (five earned) over 5 1/3 innings that got progressively laborious as his...
Continue reading

Four-game stretch vs. lefties begins today (Nats lose 6-3)

Four-game stretch vs. lefties begins today (Nats lose 6-3)
The Nationals are about to get a serious helping of southpaws, including one of the best baseball has seen in decades. Beginning with today's series finale in San Diego, the Nationals are scheduled to face four consecutive left-handed starters: the Padres' Drew Pomeranz, then the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir and Julio Urias. Kershaw, owner of a mere 1.87 ERA over the last four seasons and a 133-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season, looms large Monday night at Dodger Stadium....
Continue reading