After shaky debut, Kelley quietly dominant out of Nats bullpen

After shaky debut, Kelley quietly dominant out of Nats bullpen
KANSAS CITY - The Nationals gave Shawn Kelley a three-year, $15 million contract over the winter because they believed he was a guy they could trust to pitch in big spots late in ballgames. And they couldn't have found a much bigger spot to throw Kelley into for his first assignment this season: a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game on opening day. So when Kelley proceeded to walk that batter (Atlanta's Adonis Garcia) on four pitches (all of them at...
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Game 25 lineups: Nats at Royals

Game 25 lineups: Nats at Royals
KANSAS CITY - Hello from beautiful Kauffman Stadium, maybe baseball's most underrated ballpark. This is only the Nationals' second trip here; they took two of three in 2013, but this is a far different Royals team they're facing now than they did back then. The defending World Series champs are off to a bit of a ragged start, but they remain an imposing foe, making this a marquee matchup for the next three days. The Nationals are flying high after their three-game sweep in St. Louis, their...
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Bryce Harper wins NL Player of the Month Award

Bryce Harper wins NL Player of the Month Award
KANSAS CITY - Bryce Harper was named National League Player of the Month for April this afternoon, further confirmation of the reigning league MVP's torrid start to the 2016 season. Harper hit .286 with nine homers, 24 RBIs, five stolen bases and a 1.120 OPS in 23 game for the month, which the 23-year-old actually ended in a 1-for-13 slump. He was hitting .328 with a 1.274 OPS as recently as April 26 before falling into his current skid (which included an 0-for-11 weekend in St....
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Ramos remembers his grandfather, ready to return to baseball

Ramos remembers his grandfather, ready to return to baseball
ST. LOUIS - Wilson Ramos ambled onto the field at Busch Stadium yesterday morning, his Nationals teammates having already been out there for a little while taking batting practice, and began the process of returning to his professional life after a five-day break to take care of his personal life. Ramos, who had gone home to Venezuela following the death of his grandfather, admittedly was still grieving but found solace in putting on his uniform again and preparing for yesterday's game against...
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Nationals rediscover their swagger during St. Louis sweep

Nationals rediscover their swagger during St. Louis sweep
ST. LOUIS - That the Nationals just swept the Cardinals at Busch Stadium for the first time ever was notable enough. That they did it despite Bryce Harper going hitless in all three games this weekend was downright scary. Scary for future competition. "That tells me that somebody's in trouble," manager Dusty Baker said. "Somebody's in trouble because Bryce ain't going hitless for too long a period of time. Whenever you can do that without your star having a good series ... we picked him...
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Nats cap off historic sweep of Cardinals with 6-1 win

Nats cap off historic sweep of Cardinals with 6-1 win
ST. LOUIS - With a big-time bounceback performance from Max Scherzer and back-to-back homers from a couple of previously slumping hitters, the Nationals beat the Cardinals yet again this afternoon, pulling off their first-ever series sweep in St. Louis. The Nationals' 6-1 victory at Busch Stadium, on the heels of 5-4 and 6-1 triumphs, capped off an impressive weekend and kicked off a daunting road trip in a manner few could have reasonably foreseen only three days ago. Scherzer set the tone,...
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Scherzer, Martinez dealing and dueling (Nats win 6-1)

Scherzer, Martinez dealing and dueling (Nats win 6-1)
ST. LOUIS - Max Scherzer looks like his old self so far today. And that must be bringing some semblance of relief to any Nationals fan who might have started worrying about their previously struggling ace. Scherzer mowed through the Cardinals lineup in his first crack this afternoon, striking out four and displaying much better command than he did in his last two troublesome starts. Pitching in his hometown, Scherzer took the mound sporting an uncharacteristic 4.35 ERA that was far and away the...
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Ramos returns from bereavement leave, Severino optioned

Ramos returns from bereavement leave, Severino optioned
ST. LOUIS - Wilson Ramos rejoined the Nationals this morning and was activated off the bereavement list, making the veteran catcher eligible to play in today's series finale against the Cardinals. Ramos had been away from the team five days following the death of his grandfather, Jesus Campos, missing the Nats' entire series against the Phillies and then this weekend's first two games in St. Louis. It wasn't immediately clear whether Ramos would be activated today or not, but he emerged...
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Game 24 lineups: Nats at Cardinals

Game 24 lineups: Nats at Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - In their 11-plus seasons of existence, the Nationals have never found themselves in this particular situation: a chance to sweep a series in St. Louis. Shoot, they had only taken two of three once before at either version of Busch Stadium, back in 2007 when Manny Acta's club pulled it off. Today, though, the Nats are in position to do it. They won Friday night's game 5-4. They won yesterday's game 6-1. Now they'll send St. Louis native Max Scherzer to the mound in an attempt to...
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After best April in club history, what does May have in store for Nats?

After best April in club history, what does May have in store for Nats?
ST. LOUIS - The calendar has shifted at last, the baseball season has entered its second month and the Nationals (unlike a year ago) are thrilled to have no reason to be shouting "Mayday!" right now. April could not have gone much better for the Nats, who at 16-7 are off to the best start in club history and the best start by any Washington ballclub since 1932. Sure, much of their success came against the likes of the Braves, Marlins and Twins. But they've kicked off one of the most daunting...
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Ross shows no rust after layoff, carves up Cardinals

Ross shows no rust after layoff, carves up Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - He had thrown a grand total of two innings in the last 15 days. He hadn't pitched at all in 10 days. And he was facing one of the toughest lineups in baseball. Potential recipe for disaster? Not for Joe Ross, who hadn't been fazed by any situation he'd faced so far in the major leagues and wasn't about to start now. "Hey, man, there's nothing finer than a young pitcher that gets confidence and knows that he belongs here," Dusty Baker said. "And he certainly has confidence....
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Nats clinch series with 6-1 win in St. Louis

Nats clinch series with 6-1 win in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS - The Nationals have been coming to this version of Busch Stadium for a decade now, and there may be no ballpark in America that has been less welcoming to the club from Washington than this one. That storyline may finally be changing. With a 6-1 win over the Cardinals this afternoon, the Nationals have now won two in a row and clinched their first series victory in St. Louis since 2007. And they've made it look relatively easy so far this weekend. Their 5-4 win Friday night was a...
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Lineup busts out early vs. Garcia (Nats win 6-1)

Lineup busts out early vs. Garcia (Nats win 6-1)
ST. LOUIS - Dusty Baker faced Jaime Garcia countless times while managing the Reds, offering him plenty of opportunity to figure out how best to beat the Cardinals left-hander. "This guy knows how to pitch," Baker said this morning before his Nationals faced Garcia at Busch Stadium. "You've got to get to him early." Is a four-run top of the first early enough for you, Dusty? The Nationals pounced on Garcia this afternoon, scoring four times before the Cardinals ever had a chance to bat....
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Baker on Ross, the bullpen and Murphy's defense

Baker on Ross, the bullpen and Murphy's defense
ST. LOUIS - The skies have cleared, the field has been prepped and the starting pitchers have made their way to the bullpens to begin warming up. So it looks like we'll have baseball on time this afternoon. They'll just have to hope they get the full game in before the next wave of rain strikes sometime later. Could be a close call. It's not an ideal scenario for Joe Ross to return to the mound after a 10-day layoff, but the Nationals don't have much choice in the matter. Ross, who was...
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Game 23 lineups: Nats at Cardinals

Game 23 lineups: Nats at Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - It's been raining steadily here since late last night, and more is expected later today. But there does appear to be a potential window of opportunity for the Nationals and Cardinals to play the second game of their weekend series, in between the two cycles of precipitation. We'll see. If and when they do play, Joe Ross will be on the mound for the first time in 10 days, his last start having been cut short after only two innings due to a blister on his right middle finger. Rather...
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Strasburg dominates late to improve to 4-0 for first time

Strasburg dominates late to improve to 4-0 for first time
ST. LOUIS - Take a snapshot of Stephen Strasburg's first trip through the Cardinals lineup last night and you find a whole lot of hard-hit balls, four of them landing for hits, leading to a pair of runs. Take a snapshot of Strasburg's second trip through that lineup and you find better results, though still a couple of hits including his third double surrendered in only three innings. Now take a snapshot of Strasburg's third trip through the very same lineup and you find utter domination:...
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Taylor, Espinosa lead Nationals out of scoring funk

Taylor, Espinosa lead Nationals out of scoring funk
ST. LOUIS - Michael A. Taylor insisted he had no idea how many innings the Nationals had gone without scoring, but he - like everyone else on the roster - knew it had been awhile. So when he was presented with an opportunity to do something about it, Taylor put an end to that streak and set the Nationals on their way to a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals in the opener of a 10-game trip through the Midwest that should serve as a test of this team's true talent level. "It's definitely nice,"...
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Nats open tough road trip with 5-4 victory in St. Louis

Nats open tough road trip with 5-4 victory in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS - The Nationals picked a good time to start hitting again. And Stephen Strasburg picked a good time to mow down one of baseball's tougher lineups. Behind a four-run explosion in the top of the fourth and seven strong innings from Strasburg, the Nats opened their toughest road trip of the season on a positive note. They pulled off a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals, though it included some tense moments late once they turned to their bullpen to finish what Strasburg started. Riding a...
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Taylor homers, Cards strike back vs. Strasburg (Nats win 5-4)

Taylor homers, Cards strike back vs. Strasburg (Nats win 5-4)
ST. LOUIS - What better way for a Nationals lineup struggling to score runs to open a 10-game road trip than with a home run from the very first batter to step to the plate on this daunting swing through the Midwest? If only the rest of the lineup was able to follow Michael A. Taylor's lead with some more production. Taylor's opposite-field homer on the third pitch of tonight's game set a positive tone for a Nationals club that sorely needed one. His solo shot into the right field bullpen...
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Harper disappointed in Gordon but doesn't want batting title

Harper disappointed in Gordon but doesn't want batting title
ST. LOUIS - Bryce Harper said Dee Gordon's 80-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs is "definitely a disappointment," but the Nationals star insisted he shouldn't now be considered the reining NL batting champ because of Gordon's actions. Harper lost the batting title to Gordon on the final day of the 2015 season, ultimately falling short by three percentage points. He blames his own struggles down the stretch - he hit .162 over his final 11 games, causing...
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