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Postgame quotes from Detwiler, Espinosa and Desmond

ST. LOUIS - Toward the end of a lengthy session with reporters after today’s 10-4 loss to the Cardinals, Ross Detwiler, who was hit hard in his 2 1/3 innings of work, was able to inject a little humor to lighten the mood in a quiet Nationals clubhouse. “This was for all the fans back in D.C.,” Detwiler deadpanned. “(I) wanted them to see the

Johnson discusses Nats’ 10-4 loss

ST. LOUIS - The Champagne celebration won’t take place on this road trip. The Nationals came into today needing only a win or a Braves loss to pop open the bubbly as NL East champions, but they fell behind 5-0 after two innings and 7-0 after three, and then let the Cardinals put up two big tack-on runs in the bottom of the fourth to

A disastrous start for Detwiler (Nats blown out 10-4)

ST. LOUIS - Given a chance to clinch the division title in his hometown, Ross Detwiler did not bring his A-game to the table. Detwiler has allowed five runs through two innings, walked four hitters and served up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran. The Nationals trail the Cardinals 5-0 after two. Detwiler pitched a scoreless first inning, but fell apart in the second. He

Pitching in his hometown, Detilwer can notch the clinching win

ST. LOUIS - Ross Detwiler was pretty down on himself after his last start, calling his performance in the Nationals’ series-opening loss at Philadelphia “embarrassing.” Detwiler allowed five runs over five innings Tuesday against the Phillies, an outing which you could tell stayed with him in the days afterward. Today, Detwiler has a chance to atone for that outing by helping the Nationals clinch the

Lineups for series finale against Cards

ST. LOUIS - The Nationals just posted the lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals. With a win today, Washington will clinch the NL East. For the Nationals: Jayson Werth RF Bryce Harper CF Ryan Zimmerman 3B Adam LaRoche 1B Michael Morse LF Ian Desmond SS Danny Espinosa 2B Kurt Suzuki C Ross Detwiler P For the Cardinals: John Jay CF Carlos Beltran RF

The Suzuki trade keeps looking better and better

ST. LOUIS - When the Nationals acquired Kurt Suzuki from the Athletics back in early August, they expected him to provide some veteran experience behind the plate, manage the pitching staff and use his strong arm to stop teams from running all over them on the basepaths. In the minds of General Manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson, any offensive production they got from

Morse on his grand slam and fake swing: “It was just such a crazy moment”

ST. LOUIS - Michael Morse has been playing baseball for the bulk of his 30 years on this earth. I think it’s fair to say he’s never seen anything like what we saw in the first inning of tonight’s game, when Morse needed to run the bases backwards and then essentially hit a grand slam without a bat in his hands. “I think anybody (has),”

Johnson discusses Nats’ 6-4, 10-inning win

ST. LOUIS - Well this one sure didn’t lack excitement. The Nationals jumped on top of the Cardinals 4-0 in the first inning on the most bizarre grand slam you’ll ever see, punctuated by a Michael Morse fake swing. They then allowed three runs in the seventh inning and blew a save in the ninth, sending the game to extra innings. Kurt Suzuki followed that

Save the champagne for at least another day (Nats win 6-4 in 10 innings)

ST. LOUIS - The Nationals will not clinch the National League East title tonight, regardless of what happens here at Busch Stadium. The Braves have just put the finishing touches on a 2-0 win over the Mets down in Atlanta, meaning that even with a win over the Cardinals tonight, the Nationals’ magic number will only be cut to one. They’ll have to wait until

The most bizarre grand slam in the history of Major League Baseball (updated)

ST. LOUIS - The Nationals lead 4-0 after the top of the first thanks to what is easily one of the strangest scenes I’ve ever witnessed on a baseball field. Up with the bases loaded and none out, Michael Morse went with a Kyle Lohse, first-pitch, two-seam fastball and drove it to right. The ball bounced off an advertisement banner just above the right field

Get ready to scoreboard watch (plus more playoff rotation notes)

ST. LOUIS - It’s not difficult to keep tabs on the out-of-town scores at here Busch Stadium. They’ve got an entire big screen dedicated strictly to what’s going on around the rest of the majors, so the scores kind of jump out and smack you in the face. The Nationals will be glancing up at that scoreboard throughout the night tonight, keeping tabs on what’s

An intriguing pitching matchup tonight (with lineups)

ST. LOUIS - We should have a good one at Busch Stadium tonight. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Kyle Lohse, tonight’s starting pitchers, rank in the top seven in ERA in the National League going into tonight’s game, so we can expect quite the pitchers’ duel. Of course, I said pretty much the same exact thing back on Sept. 1, when these pitchers faced off at

The champagne will be in the house

ST. LOUIS - It’s not often that a 10-run loss in the heat of a playoff race can be brushed aside so quickly. Fortunately for the Nationals, they’re in a position that allowed last night’s 12-2 loss to the Cardinals to be put in the rear-view mirror as soon as they walked out of Busch Stadium. Yes, they got whooped up on to the point

Jackson takes the blame, ready to move on

ST. LOUIS - Edwin Jackson, much like Ross Detwiler a few nights ago, put full blame on himself for his sub-par outing in the Nationals’ 12-2 loss. “Today’s game was just very disappointing and embarrassing,” Jackson said after allowing nine runs in 1 1/3 innings. “When your club is in a pennant race and you have a game like that, it definitely leaves a bitter

Johnson discusses Nats’ 12-2 loss

ST. LOUIS - Edwin Jackson has been very, very good at times this season. Tonight was not one of those times. The Nationals’ righty went just 1 1/3 innings tonight, allowing nine runs (eight earned). He gave up six hits, walked four and got only one swing-and-miss all night, which is incredibly low for a power pitcher who usually has no problem missing bats. Manager

A silver lining (Nats lose 12-2)

ST. LOUIS - Davey Johnson has waved the white flag tonight, emptying his bench with the Nationals trailing 9-1 in the middle innings. But even with the blowout here in St. Louis, the Nats still can clinch the NL East title tomorrow night, thanks to the Mets. The Braves lost to the Mets 3-1 tonight, cutting the Nationals’ magic number to two. A Nats win

Jackson smacked around in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS - It’s safe to say this is not how Edwin Jackson envisioned his return to St. Louis going. Facing the team he helped to a World Series title last season, Jackson went just 1 1/3 innings tonight, allowing nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits. He walked four and struck out none, and leaves with the Nationals trailing 9-1. Those of you who

Taking a quick peek ahead to the playoff rotation alignment

ST. LOUIS - It’s hard to believe - from my perspective, at least - but tomorrow will mark the start of the last regular season turn through the Nationals’ rotation. Jordan Zimmermann will take the ball for the Nats tomorrow and then not pitch again until the postseason. As I mentioned earlier, the rotation alignment for the final four games of the regular season will

Various notes and lineups from St. Louis

ST. LOUIS - Hello from good old Missouri, and more specifically, the press box at Busch Stadium. The Gateway Arch is currently staring me right in the face as I look out on this field for the first time in person. It’s a nice park, and I’m looking forward to experiencing the St. Louis baseball atmosphere I’ve heard so much about. And I’m serious when

Perfect timing for a return to form

PHILADELPHIA - Three down, three to go. The Nationals are half-way through their final road trip of the season, and after a few days in Philly, it’s off to St. Louis for three games against a Cardinals team trying to lock up the NL’s final Wild Card spot. The earliest the Nationals can now clinch the division is Saturday. You won’t find anyone in the

A long homer, a nifty catch and an impressive turnaround

PHILADELPHIA - The play of tonight’s game, in the eyes of the Nationals’ relievers, at least, was not Danny Espinosa’s over-the-shoulder sliding catch of a John Mayberry pop up, Ryan Zimmerman’s running, off-balance throw to get Chase Utley in the fifth or Michael Morse’s laser beam home run in the sixth. It was actually Tom Gorzelanny’s catch of Morse’s second home run of the night,

Johnson discusses Nats’ 7-3 win

PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals aren’t getting any help from the Braves lately. Atlanta just keeps on rolling, winning 10 of their last 12. So the guys in the Nationals’ clubhouse are taking the mentality that they’ll just have to go ahead and clinch the NL East title without any help from the team nipping on their heels. “I know if we win three more, we’re

Michael Morse is putting on a show (magic number cut to three)

PHILADELPHIA - I’m guessing that Michael Morse’s injured hand and wrist are feeling just fine tonight. Morse already has two home runs and four RBIs through three at-bats, helping the Nationals to a 6-3 lead over the Phillies. The first Morse home run was in the air for about 78 years before finally coming down just barely over the left field fence. It was an

Porter talks about his new gig and his time in D.C.

PHILADELPHIA - Bo Porter was already a Houston resident. Now, after the Nationals’ season ends, he’ll skipper the city’s baseball team, as well. Porter was announced this morning as the next manager of the Houston Astros, which will be the 40-year-old’s first big league managerial gig. After a college football career at Iowa, a stint in the major leagues as a player, two years of

This, that and tonight’s lineups

PHILADELPHIA - In New York, R.A. Dickey is in line for his 20th win of the season, which would tie him with Gio Gonzalez for the most in the majors. Dickey notched 13 strikeouts through 7 2/3 innings of work, allowing three runs. The NL Cy Young race between Gonzalez, Dickey and Braves closer Craig Kimbrel looks like it’ll come down to the wire. Gonzalez

Harper eyeing one individual goal, Johnson talks postseason roster

PHILADELPHIA - Ian Desmond commented last night that Bryce Harper seems to find a way to impact every single game he’s a part of. Last night, Harper smacked a two-run homer, stole a base and drove in an insurance run with a triple in the ninth inning. In the process, he became just the second teenager in major league history to hit 20 home runs,

How Bo Porter’s new gig will impact the Nationals (updated with Rizzo statement)

PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals’ players and the bulk of their coaching staff will spend the morning and early afternoon resting up from last night’s exciting 8-4 win over the Phillies and gearing up for tonight’s series finale. One guy will have a slightly busier day on his hands. Nats third base coach Bo Porter will be named the new Astros manager in a press conference

Big-game Lannan comes through again (Porter reportedly named Astros manager)

PHILADELPHIA - In the vast majority of John Lannan’s seven career starts at Citizens Bank Park prior to tonight, he’d gotten into trouble and had a hard time working his way clear of it. That wasn’t the case tonight. Lannan went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, and improved to 4-0 on the season in the process. “I’ve always come in and

Werth discusses his big hit and his fake-out ball toss

PHILADELPHIA - The momentum had completely swung in the Phillies’ favor. They had cut the Nationals’ lead from five all the way down to one after eight innings. Despite only being about half-full by the time the top of the ninth rolled around, Citizens Bank Park was starting to rock again. Then, as Jayson Werth stepped to the plate to a chorus of boos, he

The Phillies keep chipping away (Nats win a thriller 8-4)

PHILADELPHIA - What was a 5-0 lead after the top of the second inning has become a tight ballgame as we go to the eighth. Nothing’s been easy for the Nationals this season, has it? The Nats’ lead is down to two, as the Phillies have chipped into the Washington advantage with single runs in the third, fourth and seventh innings. Jimmy Rollins’ solo homer

Skipper pegged Lombardozzi over Espinosa as starter at second base

PHILADELPHIA - Recently, Davey Johnson has seen Danny Espinosa trying to do a bit too much. In an effort to nip that in the bud, Johnson is giving his second baseman the night off tonight. “I think he’s been pressing a little bit lately,” Johnson said. “He’s been swinging awfully hard and (I) just wanted to let him sit back and relax a little bit.”

Nats lighting up the scoreboard in Philly (solid work by Lannan)

PHILADELPHIA - Because of some late-afternoon rain, batting practice was canceled for the Nationals this afternoon. No matter. Kyle Kendrick is throwing the Nats some impressive BP during tonight’s game. Kendrick has surrendered three home runs through his first two innings, and all three were rockets. Bryce Harper crushed a two-run opposite-field shot just six pitches into the game, Ian Desmond led off the second

Espinosa out of Nats’ lineup

PHILADELPHIA - A day after Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that all hands would be on deck until the Nationals clinched the division, Danny Espinosa is out of the lineup. Espinosa got a cortisone shot in his aching shoulder last Monday and has played in all eight games (with seven starts) since then, batting .348 with two RBIs and three doubles. His production has returned,

Staying cool as the division race heats up

PHILADELPHIA - Things sure have gotten a bit more interesting within the last couple of weeks. Entering action Sept. 12, fresh off a three-game sweep of the Mets, the Nationals’ lead over the Braves in the NL East was 8 1/2 games. Today, that lead is down to four games, the slimmest the division margin has been since Aug. 28. The Nationals have also now

Detwiler on his performance: “It was embarrassing”

PHILADELPHIA - Ross Detwiler is usually pretty tough on himself after a poor outing. Tonight, given how close the Nationals are to clinching the National League East and how few starts he has left this season, Detwiler didn’t hold back when asked about his performance in the Nationals’ 6-3 loss to the Phillies. “It was embarrassing,” a dejected Detwiler said after the game. The Nationals

Johnson discusses Nats’ 6-3 loss

PHILADELPHIA - The combination of the Nationals’ loss to the Phillies and the Braves’ dramatic walk-off win over the Marlins leaves Washington’s lead in the NL East at four with eight games to go in the regular season. Your thoughts, Davey Johnson? “Just got to win tomorrow,” the Nationals’ skipper said. “We lost a battle today, we’ve got to win a battle tomorrow. Want to

One inning does in Detwiler (Nats lose, drop a full game)

PHILADELPHIA - If you take out the third inning, Ross Detwiler had a pretty solid start. Excluding that one frame, Detwiler allowed just one run and three hits over four innings of work. The Phillies did a lot of damage in that third inning, though. Detwiler, who was a little out of sorts early on, walked the first two hitters he faced in the third,

Nats have all hands on deck, Garcia keeping an open mind (Nats trail early)

PHILADELPHIA - Much was made of Davey Johnson’s quote yesterday, saying that he plans on resting some of his starters once the Nationals clinch the NL East title. Johnson isn’t there yet, though. So, he plans on using anyone and everyone necessary today against the Phillies, including reliever Christian Garcia, who dealt with some biceps tightness recently. “He’s available. Everybody’s available,” Johnson said. “And everybody’s

Nats know Morse isn’t 100 percent, but he’ll play

PHILADELPHIA - It’s clear at this point that Michael Morse is going to have to play though his lingering wrist and hand issues for the rest of this season. He won’t be 100 percent healthy the rest of the way out, and a lot of Morse’s performance will be about how much he’ll be able to tolerate, and fight through, any pain he feels when

Morse returns to lineup versus Phillies

The Nationals will have an extra dose of power tonight against Cole Hamels, as slugger Michael Morse returns to the lineup. He’ll bat fifth and start in left field as Washington draws closer to its first division crown since moving to the nation’s capital. For the Nationals: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B Ryan Zimmerman 1B Adam LaRoche LF Michael Morse SS Ian Desmond

Playing the numbers

PHILADELPHIA - It’s an absolutely gorgeous day at Citizens Bank Park, as the Nationals get set to open a three-game set with the Phillies. The Nats won’t see Cliff Lee in this series, but they’re likely to get two of the Phillies’ other big three starters. Cole Hamels will take the mound tonight, Kyle Kendrick will go tomorrow and while the Phillies haven’t officially announced

A chance to clinch in Philly

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has gotten a lot of heat over the years. How’s Selig look in comparison to his NFL counterpart, Roger Goodell, this morning? While everyone will still be busy ripping Goodell for subjecting us to replacement officials who look completely overmatched, I’ll be making the trip up to Philadelphia this afternoon for the Nationals’ final 2012 series at Citizens Bank

Postgame chatter from Werth, Desmond, Zimmerman

The baseball gods might have known they gave the Brewers a break yesterday when the Nationals lost two fly balls in the sun, both of which turned into Milwaukee runs. Today, it was the Nats that got the benefit of a sun-aided hit, which came when Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez lost track of a Jayson Werth fly ball in the fourth inning. Had Gomez

Johnson talks after Nats’ 12-2 win

Yesterday’s 6-2 Nationals loss was a bit of a sloppy affair. The Nats made a couple errors, lost a couple balls in the sun and struggled to do much of anything offensively against Brewers pitching. Flip that script and you’ll get an idea how this afternoon’s series finale between the Nats and Brewers played out. The Nats benefited from a fly ball which Brewers center

The sun monster strikes again (Nats win 12-2)

The Nationals lost two fly balls in the sun yesterday afternoon, helping the Brewers pick up a 6-2 win at Nats Park. After the game, Bryce Harper said that the “sun monster” got the best of the Nats. Apparently, the sun monster doesn’t discriminate, though. It’s attacked the Brewers today. With the Nats leading 2-1 today with two outs in the fourth and runners at

Plenty of notes on the rotation, playoff planning and Morse

Davey Johnson has made it well known that he’s not thinking ahead to the playoffs or how he’ll manage the team in the final days of the regular season. He’s fully focused on today (with an eye on tomorrow, as he likes to say) and often pumps the breaks when reporters ask questions that he feels are getting too far ahead of where the Nationals

Morse sits in finale against Brewers

The Nationals have posted their lineup for today’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Brewers and Michael Morse isn’t in it. Roger Bernadina will get the start in left field against ex-Nats right-hander Marco Estrada. Here’s the Nationals lineup: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B Ryan Zimmerman 1B Adam LaRoche SS Ian Desmond 2B Danny Espinosa LF Roger Bernadina C Kurt Suzuki P Jordan Zimmermann

Down the stretch they come

Over their last 15 games, the Nationals are 7-8. Reason to be concerned? No, not yet. But it’s not exactly the way you want to be playing with the postseason quickly approaching and meaningful regular season games still to come in the next week and a half. The Nationals’ competition down the stretch is fairly stiff. They’ve got one more game with the Brewers this

Johnson talks after Nats’ 6-2 loss

The Nationals held a “jerseys off their backs” promotion today, giving their game-worn jerseys to fans. The promotion was perfectly timed. “It was a good day to give the jersey away,” Johnson said. “I don’t wanna wear that one. That one was unlucky.” You’d have a hard time finding a game the Nationals have played this season which was as sloppy as the one they

A strong outing by Wang, even if the numbers say otherwise (Nats lose 6-2)

You look at the pitching line of Chien-Ming Wang this afternoon, you assume it was another tough outing for the veteran right-hander. Wang went four innings today, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out two, walked none and leaves with the Nats trailing 2-0 in the fifth. The numbers are deceiving, however. Wang actually pitched pretty darn well. His sinker had great movement,

LaRoche’s bounceback season just keeps getting better

After last night’s game, Adam LaRoche was asked about the season he’s put together, a season which is setting up to possibly be the strongest of his nine-year big league career from a statistical standpoint. “I’m not one to brag on myself, so it’s hard for me to say a whole lot about it,” LaRoche said. Fine, I’ll do the bragging for him. LaRoche leads

Chien-Ming Wang making first start since June 19

For the first time in over three months, Chien-Ming Wang will start a major league game today. The Nationals will give the ball to their veteran sinkerballer and hope he can cool down a red-hot Brewers lineup. Wang threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers, but he hasn’t started a game since June 19. Wang battled hamstring

Nats react to Gonzalez’ achievement, talk offensive explosion

Some of the guys in the Nationals’ clubhouse knew Gio Gonzalez was pretty darn good when he came aboard via a trade with the Athletics this offseason. Adam LaRoche, on the other hand, hadn’t faced Gonzalez before and didn’t know a ton about him, given the two guys played in different leagues. Now that Gonzalez has reached 20 wins and leaves the park today with

Gonzalez on 20 wins: “This is like a dream”

If you’ve seen Gio Gonzalez either in person or on TV this season, you might have noticed he’s constantly smiling. It’s hard to miss. There was a lot of that today after Gonzalez became the first pitcher in the majors to record 20 wins this season. He got a giant bear hug from pitching coach Steve McCatty immediately after the game, among many others, and

G. Gonzalez joins some elite company (also notches 20th win)

Leading 9-2 after six innings of work, it would take a complete collapse by the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez to not become the first 20-game winner in the majors this season. Assuming it happens, that will be quite an accomplishment. But that won’t be the only numerical milestone Gonzalez will reach today. He also has notched his 200th strikeout of the season, making him the

Nats glide their way to an early lead (it’s a party at Nats Park)

Prior to this afternoon’s game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson talked about how Bryce Harper has started to glide when chasing down balls in the outfield, instead of taking short, choppy steps like he did when he first moved to the outfield. We’ve seen a whole lot of that gliding from Harper through three innings today. Harper tracked down a deep fly ball off the bat

Talking playoff positioning and Harper’s defensive improvements

You don’t have to worry about Tyler Clippard taking his recent struggles too lightly. When manager Davey Johnson saw Clippard last night after the reliever blew a save in the Nationals’ 4-2 loss, Clippard was watching film of his outing. When Johnson saw Clippard this morning, Clippard was - you guessed it - watching film of his outing. “Talk about a glutton for punishment,” Johnson

Nats, Brewers Saturday lineups

The Nationals will have their regular starters on the field behind Gio Gonzalez this afternoon as the left-hander again tries for his 20th win of the season. Gonzalez got stuck with the loss his last time out, allowing two runs over five innings against the Braves on Sunday night. His record sits at 19-8 entering today, and he still could become the first guy in

Despite recent struggles, Clippard “still confident as heck”

After blowing his fifth save of the season and putting up another disappointing outing during a rough three-week stretch, Tyler Clippard stood at his locker for over five minutes and calmly answered question after question about his performance. You won’t find many guys more stand-up than the 27-year-old Clippard. The Nationals’ right-handed reliever is clearly frustrated with himself right now, partly because he blew a

Johnson sticking with Clippard as co-closer

Tyler Clippard’s rough stretch continued tonight. Clippard, who was lights out for much of the season, blew his fifth save of the year tonight and earned his third loss in his last seven appearances after allowing three Brewers runs in the ninth inning. It stuck the Nationals with a 4-2 loss, wasting a fantastic outing by Edwin Jackson, who threw eight innings of one-run ball.

Harper shows off his arm (Nats lose 4-2 after blown save)

Edwin Jackson retired just one batter he faced in the fourth inning and allowed three hits in the frame. Somehow, he still escaped with a scoreless inning of work. The Nationals put on a defensive display in the fourth, helping Jackson get through an inning in which he didn’t make many great pitches. Ryan Braun doubled leading off the fourth, his second double in as

Some possible tweaks to the rotation

In addition to announcing that he’s going to go with co-closers for the time being, Nationals manager Davey Johnson also announced his plans for the starting rotation through the next handful of days. We already knew that Chien-Ming Wang will start Sunday against the Brewers, and Johnson had two options for who would start Monday’s series finale against Milwaukee due to the doubleheader played Wednesday.

Johnson says Storen, Clippard now co-closers

Tyler Clippard has done an exceptional job stepping into the closer’s role this season, saving 32 games in 35 chances and providing some stability in the ninth inning after numerous early-season injuries to late-inning relievers. Drew Storen saved 43 games last season, appears to be completely recovered from elbow surgery and is on a roll right now. Manager Davey Johnson has faith in both Clippard

Jackson aiming for double-digit wins

Should Edwin Jackson pick up the win tonight, the Nationals would have five starters with double-digit win totals. Not too shabby. It’ll be Jackson against Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum tonight at Nats Park. Marcum is 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA this season. For the Nats: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B Ryan Zimmerman 1B Adam LaRoche LF Michael Morse SS Ian Desmond 2B Danny

Fittingly, Storen puts final touches on clinching win

It’s been a bit of a rough year for Drew Storen. Elbow surgery wiped out the entire first half of his season and forced him through a lengthy and trying rehab process. When he did come back, his closer job had been taken by his good friend and roommate, Tyler Clippard. You won’t hear Storen complain about what he’s been through or the situation that

The Davey Johnson effect

The last time Davey Johnson managed a playoff team, the year was 1997 and he was in Baltimore. Johnson led the Orioles to a 98-win season and a spot in the American League Championship Series. He was named AL Manager of the Year after that season, and then, due to a disagreement with ownership, was promptly was out of a job the same day that

Nats celebrate, “but the next one will not be as subdued”

The Nationals have been talking for the last couple weeks about how they didn’t have their eyes set on a mere playoff berth. Loftier goals were ahead, they said, like the NL East title. Once they clinched a wild card spot tonight, they weren’t about to get too caught up in this moment. After all, as Ian Desmond noted tonight, “This pretty much means that

Johnson discusses Nats’ playoff-clinching win

When Davey Johnson walked into the press conference room following tonight’s 4-1 win over the Dodgers, a large group of fans looking on through a glass window in the Presidents’ Club started applauding. “What’s the big deal?” Johnson said, a giant smile creeping across his face. Oh, nothing. You just locked up a postseason berth for the first time in team history and gave D.C.

Playoff bound

Congratulations, D.C. For the first time in 79 years, you now officially are the home of a playoff baseball team. The same Nationals who lost 103 games three seasons ago are now heading to the postseason, this after notching a 4-1 win over the Dodgers tonight. There is no giant pile-up on the field as the Nats celebrate, and we don’t expect to see any

Detwiler not perfect, but not far from it (Captain Hook strikes again)

Mark Ellis ended Ross Detwiler’s perfect night with a solo homer leading off the fourth inning. Outside of that, the Dodgers have done almost nothing against Detwiler thus far. The Nationals lefty has faced just two over the minimum through five innings, needing just 63 pitches to get to this point. He has a 4-1 lead going to the sixth. Detwiler was absolutely dominant in

Johnson gets an apology from ump (plus Clippard notes)

One part of last night’s blown call at home plate that Nationals manager Davey Johnson failed to mention after the game was that he actually received an apology from home plate umpire Alan Porter. Porter blew a call in the top of the fourth inning, giving the Dodgers a run when Adrian Gonzalez was clearly tagged out before Matt Kemp crossed home plate. The umpires

Chien-Ming Wang to start for Nats Sunday

Davey Johnson has decided on his starter for Sunday’s game against the Brewers. He’s going with Chien-Ming Wang. Wang pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the Nationals last night, allowing two hits and striking out one. That performance was enough to get the veteran right-hander the start on Sunday. Johnson said he liked how Wang threw yesterday, and saw good sink on Wang’s two-seam fastball.

Dodgers-Nats lineups

Ross Detwiler starts as the Nationals look to wrap up a playoff spot tonight, something they can accomplish with a win over the Dodgers. Detwiler has been on a bit of a roll lately, going 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA over his last six starts. He faces Chris Capuano, who hasn’t won since Aug. 12. For the Nats: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B

About last night

It was nearly one of the most thrilling, electrifying wins of the season, and if it had come to fruition, it would have clinched the Nationals a playoff spot in dramatic fashion. Down six, with six outs to go and three of their key hitters out of the game, the Nationals went on the comeback trail, bringing 12 men to the plate in one inning,

Flores “in shock,” Clippard says “it’s a tough one to swallow”

Jesus Flores had a pretty good view of the controversial play in the fourth inning tonight when home plate ump Alan Porter incorrectly called Matt Kemp safe at home. When Ryan Zimmerman placed a tag on Adrian Gonzalez for the third out of the inning, Kemp was still a good distance away from Flores and home plate. And the Nationals’ catcher says he was blown

Johnson talks blown call, comeback after Nats’ 7-6 loss

When home plate umpire Alan Porter ruled that Matt Kemp had touched home plate before Ryan Zimmerman tagged out Adrian Gonzalez for the final out of the fourth inning, it didn’t seem like a huge deal. The Nationals were already trailing 5-0 at the time and starter John Lannan had been knocked out of the game. Kemp’s run just added another tally onto what seemed

How’s this for a comeback? (Nats lose 7-6)

Josh Beckett had pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits. Davey Johnson had essentially thrown in the towel, taking Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth out of the game. It sure looked like the Nationals were going to have to wait another day to lock up a playoff spot. Well, maybe not. Six Nats runs came around to score in the bottom

A different John Lannan (Beckett shutting down Nats’ bats)

In John Lannan’s first three major league starts this season, he allowed a total of five earned runs, pitched to a 2.41 ERA and earned the win in all three games. I was starting to believe the Nationals would be best off just running Lannan out there every day. You can’t argue with guy who wins every time he takes the mound, can you? It

Quotes after Nats’ 3-1 win in Game 1 (plus Game 2 lineups)

The Nationals are at the 90-win mark. One more and they’ve locked up a postseason spot, marking the first time since 1933 that there will be a playoff baseball team in D.C. But again, the Nats insist they don’t have eyes set on clinching a Wild Card spot. Their goal is the NL East title, and their magic number to lock up the division now

“Team Cortisone” looking just fine (Nats win 3-1)

I’ve decided that I’m calling the duo of Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa “Team Cortisone”. Both guys have an ailing shoulder, both guys got a cortisone shot help alleviate the pain and let them keep playing. And both guys have looked just fine in the first game of today’s doubleheader. Zimmerman is 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, while Espinosa is 2-for-2. Each also

Zimmerman gets another cortisone shot, offseason surgery possible

It’s been nearly three months since Ryan Zimmerman had the cortisone shot which turned around his season. Today, Zimmerman is getting another dose of cortisone to help his ailing right shoulder. Manager Davey Johnson said today that Zimmerman will get another cortisone shot before today’s game, his fourth such shot this season. Minor offseason surgery to clean up the shoulder is a possibility, Johnson said.

Espinosa, Morse in Nats lineup

Because of injuries, Michael Morse hadn’t played since Sept. 11 and Danny Espinosa feared he’d have to miss some time. Well, both are in the Nationals’ lineup for the first game of today’s doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Morse sat out with a left wrist ailment while Espinosa hurt his left shoulder, an injury since revealed as a bone bruise and not a torn

It could be a special day

There wasn’t a game played yesterday at Nationals Park, but the Nats still received some good news. The Braves came back with three runs to tie the Marlins in the ninth inning and send the game to extras, but Miami ended up winning in the 10th, 4-3. That cut the Nationals’ magic number to win the division to 10, after it had been stuck on

Espinosa: Bone bruise “best news we could’ve gotten”

After injuring his left shoulder diving for a ball Sept. 8 against the Marlins, Danny Espinosa quickly learned something wasn’t right. He couldn’t get his bat to the ball quickly enough, forcing him to be late on pitches. When he did make contact during a game or in batting practice, he just didn’t have enough strength in the shoulder to turn on the pitch and

Nats-Dodgers postponed, straight doubleheader tomorrow

Tonight’s Nationals-Dodgers game has been postponed due to weather, and a straight doubleheader between the two teams has been scheduled for tomorrow. The first game will begin at 4:05 p.m., with tomorrow’s regularly scheduled contest to follow. It’ll be a single-admission doubleheader. Manager Davey Johnson said that Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan will likely be his two starters tomorrow, in that order, although he had

Morse in Nats lineup, good news on Espinosa

Michael Morse will take batting practice and is listed in tonight’s lineup. If all goes well in the cage, Morse will be playing left field and batting fifth. There was some good news on Danny Espinosa this afternoon. After leaving Sunday night’s game early, Espinosa underwent a MRI on his left shoulder. The scan revealed he had a bone bruise in the capsule of his

Nationals playoff tickets go on sale Friday (plus weather update)

The Nationals have announced that tickets for potential Wild Card and NL Division Series games at Nats Park will go on sale to the general public this Friday, September 21 at 10 a.m. A maximum of four tickets can be purchased online by going to www.nationals.com/postseason or by calling 888-632-NATS (6287). The tickets will, as you might expect, be sold on a first come, first

Waiting for word on Espinosa

Another half-game has been chipped off the Nationals’ lead in the National League East. Atlanta won again last night, beating the Marlins to move within five games of the Nats in the division. They’re making a charge now. The Nats will get a chance to respond against a reeling Dodgers team which has lost eight of its last 11 games and is currently a game

A radical - and interesting - postseason idea

Today is the final off-day the Nationals will have during the regular season. They’ll finish by playing 16 games in 16 days. How am I celebrating this rare time that I get to spend away from my laptop? Sitting in front of my laptop reading and writing about baseball. Welcome to the life of Dan Kolko. Actually, I’m going to go out to dinner a

Keeping it in perspective

ATLANTA - Over 24 defensive innings the last three days, the Nationals surrendered 13 walks, hit two Braves batters and allowed three more to reach on errors. That’s 18 guys who reached base without truly earning it. “You can’t do that,” manager Davey Johnson said. Offensively, the Nats plated just six runs in three games, struck out 35 times and had only 15 at-bats with

Nats discuss another close one that got away

ATLANTA - Despite a slow start offensively and a sloppy first few innings from starter Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals still trailed by just a run after six innings. Things then got away from the Nats in the bottom of the seventh. Two tough defensive plays allowed the Braves to turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage, effectively wrapping up a three-game sweep in a

Espinosa going for MRI on injured left shoulder

ATLANTA - Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa will spend part of his off-day tomorrow going for an MRI on his left shoulder, according to manager Davey Johnson. Espinosa has apparently been dealing with left shoulder discomfort of some kind for about a week. Johnson, who used a pinch hitter for Espinosa in the ninth inning tonight, said the injury will likely keep Espinosa out of

A whole lot of pitches from G. Gonzalez (Nats swept in Atlanta)

ATLANTA - For a guy who’d allowed just one earned run over his last 22 innings coming into tonight, Gio Gonzalez sure is having a tough time getting outs. Gonzalez has thrown 83 pitches through three innings so far tonight, as Braves hitters have battled him deep into counts, fouling off pitches and laying off the stuff just off the black. The Nationals’ lefty has

Morse targeting Tuesday return to Nats lineup

ATLANTA - After being out of the Nationals lineup for the last four games, including tonight’s contest, Michael Morse said today he hopes to return for Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers. Morse, who is dealing with a lingering left wrist injury, still has not taken batting practice since being shut down following last Tuesday’s game in New York. Depending on how he’s feeling, Morse could

Moore in left for series finale

ATLANTA - After two one-run losses vs. the Braves, Gio Gonzalez will try to get the Nationals back on track and earn his 20th win of the season. Tyler Moore will get his first start of the series, playing left and batting seventh. For the Nats: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B Ryan Zimmerman 1B Adam LaRoche SS Ian Desmond 2B Danny Espinosa LF

G. Gonzalez aiming for 20th win, Espinosa trying to snap a skid

ATLANTA - Who better to send to the mound as you’re trying to avoid a sweep at the hands of your chief division competitors than your NL Cy Young Award candidate? Gio Gonzalez gets the ball tonight, looking for his 20th win of the season and for the Nationals’ win after dropping the last two to the Braves. The left-hander has been on a roll

How big is tonight’s game?

ATLANTA - The Nationals’ final trip to Atlanta this season hasn’t gone as planned though the series’ first two games. They’ve had close calls go against them. They’ve struck out a whopping 29 times. They’ve seen the Braves manufacture runs with groundball singles, walks and errors. Two games, two losses. The Nats’ division lead over the Braves, which was 8 1/2 entering the series, is

Mattheus takes blame while LaRoche, Jackson discuss blown call

ATLANTA - A despondent Ryan Mattheus sat at his locker after today’s 5-4 loss to the Braves, quietly staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. Mattheus allowed the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning tonight, loading the bases on two walks and a single. He then grazed the jersey of Andrelton Simmons with a sinker, plating Jeff Baker to give the Braves

Johnson discusses blown call in Nats’ 5-4 loss

ATLANTA - Davey Johnson was already dressed in his street clothes when he met with reporters after today’s game. He’d had a good bit of time to get showered and changed after getting ejected for the first time this season during the sixth inning of today’s 5-4 Nationals loss. Johnson got tossed by first base umpire Marvin Hudson for arguing a play at first base

Johnson ejected for first time this season (Nats lose 5-4)

ATLANTA - Davey Johnson has joked in recent weeks that he was going to pick his spot for his first ejection of the season. He wanted to save it for when it was really needed. That spot came in the bottom of the sixth inning this evening. Leading off the sixth, Martin Prado grounded a ball back to Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who fired to

LaRoche’s pop, Braves’ sloppiness give Nats an early lead

ATLANTA - Adam LaRoche has admitted that this season has felt pretty good on a personal level given all that he went through during a disastrous 2011 campaign. The 2012 season got even better for LaRoche in the top of the first inning today when he turned on an 0-1 pitch from Tommy Hanson and drove it out into the seats in right for his

Some surprising Moore stats, plus updates on Bernadina, Morse

ATLANTA - Roger Bernadina said last night that he felt fine after slamming into the left field wall while making a leaping catch, but manager Davey Johnson reported today that Bernadina has a bit of a stiff neck. That factored into Johnson’s decision to put Steve Lombardozzi in the lineup in left field. Another factor? “Lombo’s got 50 percent of his home runs off this

Nats lineup has Lombardozzi in left (plus Braves lineup)

For the first time since starting both halves of a July 21 doubleheader against the Braves in left, Steve Lombardozzi is getting a start in the outfield. Lombardozzi is appearing in left for just the third time since that date, but the two previous occasions had him moved there as a defensive replacement. Edwin Jackson takes the mound for the Nationals, seeking his 10th win

While waiting for the lineups

ATLANTA - A quick reminder that today’s 4:05 p.m. game between the Nationals and Braves won’t be airing on MASN, as FOX has picked it up and will have the rights for today’s broadcast. Daron Sutton and Eric Karros will have the call. I’ll still have full coverage on MASNsports.com here from Turner Field, however. You can’t get rid of me that easily. The Nats

A taste of what’s to come

ATLANTA - Most of the Nationals beat writers covering last night’s game at Turner Field felt that there was a bit of a playoff vibe surrounding the division battle between the Nats and Braves. The pitching was excellent, the game was tight, the crowd was large and rockin’, and the game ended in dramatic fashion. Not all the guys in the Nationals’ clubhouse agreed with

Clubhouse quotes from Desmond, Werth, Bernadina

ATLANTA - Think the Nationals were emotionally beat-up after being on the losing end of a 2-1 walk-off loss to their chief division opponent? Think again. They’ll be just fine. “No one in here is hanging their head,” Ian Desmond said afterwards. “More scratching their head than hanging their head, I guess.” “It’s just one of those days, one of those games,” Jayson Werth said.

Johnson discusses Nats’ 2-1 walk-off loss

ATLANTA - From the Nationals’ perspective, this was just one of those tip-your-hat type of games. They ran into a scorching hot starting pitcher in Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, surrendered just two extra-base hits, faced arguably the best closer in the majors in the ninth and then allowed the game-winning run on an infield single, a soft line drive to right and a fielder’s choice. They

More trouble with Medlen (Nats lose a tough one 2-1)

ATLANTA - They’re far from the only team which can say this lately, but the Nationals are having a really tough time against Braves right-hander Kris Medlen tonight. They trail 1-0 after four innings thanks to some solid work on the mound by Ross Detwiler, but Medlen has kept the Nats out of striking distance all night so far. He has a whopping nine strikeouts

Morse likely out for full Braves series, Nats not ready to celebrate yet

ATLANTA - It looks like the Nationals will be without Michael Morse for the entirety of this three-game series against the Braves. Morse did not take batting practice today, as the Nationals had originally planned. He’s going to give his ailing left wrist more time to rest, and according to manager Davey Johnson, isn’t likely to suit up and play until Tuesday’s game against the

Morse out of Nats lineup for second straight game

ATLANTA - For the second straight game, a left wrist injury is holding Michael Morse out of the Nationals’ lineup. Morse has been bothered by the left wrist for some time now, and he told manager Davey Johnson after Tuesday night’s game in New York that he felt he was hurting the team by trying to play through it. The initial plan was for Morse

Another meeting with Medlen

ATLANTA - Greetings from Atlanta, where I’m all set up after an interesting journey through an airport which always seems to confuse the heck out of me. The weather is absolutely gorgeous down here, not anywhere close to the record temperatures that affected Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals so much when they last visited in late June. We’re set up for three straight days in

A chance to put the final nail in the divisional race

Yesterday sure made for an interesting off-day. We had Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, who lives in the Houston area, interviewing for the Astros’ managerial job. Porter is highly thought of within the Nationals organization and is considered a candidate to eventually replace Davey Johnson once Johnson decides to step out of the managerial role. Porter missed out on two past managerial openings after

Who’s your most surprising National?

As Ian Desmond’s 23rd homer of the season sailed over the fence last night at Citi Field, I thought to myself, “Self, there’s no way you could’ve seen this coming.” Desmond hit .253 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS last season. Anyone that says they expected the Nationals’ shortstop to be batting .295 with 23 homers and a .854 OPS and to have

He’s not Strasburg, but he doesn’t have to be

Bring the magic numbers down another couple notches. The Nationals keep grooving while seemingly everyone else around them in the National League with the exception of the suddenly unstoppable Phillies (what’s up with those guys?) is faltering. With last night’s win over the Mets and another Atlanta loss, the Nationals’ lead in the NL East is up to a season-high 8 1/2 games and their

A quiet start for Lannan, and that’s a good thing (Nats sweep Mets)

If you were thinking that John Lannan might be a little too hyped up for his first major league start in over five weeks, you don’t really know John Lannan all that well. The veteran lefty, who isn’t the type to let his emotions affect him too much on the mound, has thrown three scoreless innings to start tonight’s ballgame. Lannan’s allowed three hits so

Morse, Espinosa out of Nats lineup as Lannan takes the hill

Today was originally scheduled to be Stephen Strasburg’s final start of the 2012 season. Those who bought tickets to tonight’s Nationals-Mets game at Citi Field hoping to see Strasburg’s finale will get John Lannan instead. Lannan makes his return to the Nationals’ rotation tonight as he takes on the Mets in the finale of this three-game series. The veteran left-hander has made two starts with

Nationals announce 2013 schedule (updated)

The Nationals have announced their 2013 schedule, which sees them open at home against the Miami Marlins and finish the season with six straight road contests - three at St. Louis and three at Arizona. The season opener will come on Monday, April 1. The Nats will host the Marlins for three games before hitting the road for three against the Reds. The annual Battle

The end is in sight

Another night, another couple games are cut off of the Nationals’ magic number. The magic number to clinch the division is now down to 13 after last night’s Nats win and another Braves loss. In addition, the Dodgers lost last night, cutting the Nationals’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot to seven. The Nats’ lead in the NL East is up to 7 1/2

Zimmermann not at his sharpest (Nats win 5-3)

For the second straight night, a Nationals starter is getting the job done against the Mets despite having some command issues. Last night, Gio Gonzalez walked five and was frustrated by his inability to locate his pitches, but he still worked six innings and allowed just a single run. Tonight, Jordan Zimmermann has walked three through four innings and has needed 83 pitches to get

Nationals, Mets lineups

The Nationals have won 10 of their last 11 games at Citi Field, including six straight. They look to continue that road dominance tonight against R.A. Dickey and the Mets. For the Nationals: RF Jayson Werth CF Bryce Harper 3B Ryan Zimmerman 1B Adam LaRoche LF Michael Morse SS Ian Desmond 2B Danny Espinosa C Kurt Suzuki P Jordan Zimmermann For the Mets: SS Ruben

Nats set to face Dickey, Zimmermann hoping for carryover performance

We’ve got quite a pitching matchup on our hands tonight up in Flushing, N.Y. Two of the top seven in the National League in ERA - R.A. Dickey and Jordan Zimmermann - will toe the rubber at Citi Field. Dickey (18-4, 2.64) is probably the leading candidate for the NL Cy Young award at this point, while Zimmermann (10-8, 2.99) is looking to carry some

Breaking down Gio’s Cy Young chances

The magic number to clinch the division is down to 15 with 21 games left on the Nationals’ schedule. Last night’s 5-1 win over the Mets coupled with Atlanta’s loss to the Brewers boosted the Nationals’ lead in the division back up to 6 1/2 games, seven in the loss column. Never mind that the Nats didn’t register a hit from the fourth inning on

The homer-fest continues (Nats win 5-1)

Another game, more Nationals longballs. The Nats have played just four innings tonight and they’ve already smacked three home runs - a solo shot by Kurt Suzuki, a two-run bomb to straightaway center by Ryan Zimmerman and a two-run opposite-field shot by Ian Desmond. That’s been nothing unusual over the last week; in the Nationals’ last seven games, they’ve hit 23 homers. Not bad, I

Zimmerman, Desmond return as G. Gonzalez guns for 19th win

The Nationals have Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond back in the lineup after both infielders sat out Sunday’s 8-0 loss to the Marlins. Manager Davey Johnson has planned to give Zimmerman Sunday off and Desmond asked for a bit of a breather to rest his sore hamstring. The Nats will have both their third baseman and shortstop on the field tonight when they open a

Hitting the road and going for gold

Of course, the Nationals were disappointed they couldn’t pick up a win yesterday to close out their homestand on a positive note and stay even with the Braves, who won in 10 innings to cut the gap in the National League East to 5 1/2 games. The postgame frustration didn’t linger too long, however. As the Nats packed up for a six-game road trip and

Nats get nada off Nolasco

You’d think that when a team faces a starting pitcher twice in a 13-day span that they’d have a pretty good idea what was coming the second time around, wouldn’t you? “Yeah, you would think,” Adam LaRoche said. That didn’t help the Nationals against Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins right-hander, who came into today with a 4.64 ERA this season, shut out the Nationals back on

Johnson talks after Nationals’ 8-0 loss

Davey Johnson sat down for his postgame press conference and flashed a smile. “Well, there’s not much to say about that one,” he said. Not much positive stuff, anyway. The Nationals lost to the Marlins 8-0 today, putting the wraps on a 8-3 homestand. All in all, the Nats should be pretty pleased with how they played over the last week and a half, but

It’s all Marlins early on (Nats lose 8-0)

A day after the Nationals packed an offensive punch, put together some late-inning dramatics and smacked four more home runs, their bats have been dead silent through four innings against Ricky Nolasco. Same can’t be said for the Marlins’ bats against Edwin Jackson. The Nats trail 5-0 after four innings, as they’ve yet to record a hit against Nolasco and also watched as Miami has

Back in the saddle again

Yesterday was the first Nationals home game I’ve missed all season. Good thing I didn’t miss anything. Oh, Stephen Strasburg was shut down, the Nats and Marlins played a game which finished nearly six hours after it was scheduled to begin, Jayson Werth hit a dramatic game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Nats then won it in the bottom of

Zimmerman, Desmond get day off in finale vs. Marlins

After Saturday’s marathon, rain-delayed, 10-inning victory over the Marlins, the Nationals lineup will have a different look for the Sunday series finale. Both third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and shortstop Ian Desmond will get the day off, meaning a new left side of the infield. Chad Tracy will play third and Danny Espinosa will man shortstop, with Steve Lombardozzi taking over for Espinosa at second base.

Focusing on Strasburg’s focus

Some fans and media pundits wondered why the Nationals waited so long to tell Stephen Strasburg about their plan to shut him down. They questioned the Nats’ decision to keep Strasburg out of the loop and implied that it was a case of mismanaging by the front office and coaching staff. You want to know why the Nats didn’t tell Strasburg about the shutdown plan

Strasburg’s 2012 home finale is a brief one (Nats lose 9-7 in 10 innings)

Pitching for the final time at Nats Park this season, Stephen Strasburg didn’t exactly go out on a high note. The Nationals’ ace has seen his night end after just three innings of work. He was hit hard early, allowing five runs on six hits, walking three batters and surrendering four extra-base hits, two of which were homers. His location was off, with a number

Ozzie Guillen talks Strasburg shutdown, Wang has strong bullpen session

Finally, an outsider’s opinion on Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown which makes sense to me. Asked before today’s game about the Nationals’ decision to shut down their ace, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen went all Ozzie Guillen on reporters. “It’s nobody’s (bleeping) business what they do with Strasburg,” Guillen said. “That’s between Washington, Strasburg and the team. “Do they need him? Yes. But the four guys they have

Nats, Marlins lineups

The Nationals get their second crack at Marlins rookie hurler Jacob Turner in a 10-day span as the right-hander will take the mound tonight against a Nats lineup which is crushing pretty much everything of late. Over their recent nine-game stretch, the Nats have won eight games, they’ve plated eight runs or more a whopping seven times. Taking the mound for the Nationals tonight will

One last home start before “The Shutdown”

Lost in all the testosterone that was on display at Nationals Park last night was the impressive offensive performance put up by Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 3-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. That type of production hasn’t been rare from Suzuki of late. Over his first 13 games with the Nats, Suzuki hit just .180 (9-for-50) with two

Baseball’s unwritten rules lead to more drama

Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn’t hold back. He knows what he saw over the last four days. “It’s probably one of the biggest butt-whuppings I’ve ever gotten in my career, as a coach or player,” Sveum said last night. Yeah, that just about covers it. The Nationals badly outplayed the lowly Cubs over the last four days, crushing 15 homers and outscoring the visitors 31-9

Harper, Gonzalez, Porter discuss the benches-clearing incidents

Bryce Harper had a feeling he was going to get thrown at leading off the sixth inning, given what had happened an inning prior, when third base coach Bo Porter got into a heated argument with Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk. Sure enough, the first pitch Cubs righty Lendy Castillo threw in the sixth was aimed at Harper’s kneecaps, causing the rookie outfielder to take

Johnson: “We don’t start things, but we’re not going to completely back down”

There was a baseball game played tonight at Nationals Park, but as you might guess, the Nats’ 9-2 victory over the Cubs wasn’t what Davey Johnson spent the vast majority of his postgame press conference discussing. There were two bench-clearing incidents tonight, one in the bottom of the fifth inning and then another in the bottom of the sixth. The action all started when Cubs

Benches clear in the fifth (things get ugly in the sixth, Nats win 9-2)

Seemingly out of the blue, things got a little heated in the bottom of the fifth inning of tonight’s game. With the bases loaded and a 3-1 count on Jayson Werth, time was called as Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger walked to the dugout to get a new catcher’s mitt. As clubhouse staffers went back to grab a new glove, Nationals third base coach Bo Porter

The beatdowns continue

Poor Dale Sveum. The Cubs’ manager probably wants to pull his hair out right about now. And he doesn’t even have any hair. Sveum said that last night’s game, a 9-1 throttling by the Nationals, was like men playing against boys. Tonight hasn’t been much different. The Nats lead the Cubs 7-2 after 4 1/3 innings and have now put up 27 runs over their

Some interesting stats on Zimmermann plus Burnett, Lannan updates

Sean Burnett is making slow progress in his rehab from what manager Davey Johnson says is an inflamed nerve in his elbow, but it’s progress nonetheless. Burnett is scheduled to play catch Saturday and if all goes well in that session, he could be on track to return as early as Monday. Johnson said that the elbow issue which Burnett has battled since prior to

Werth back in lineup, Zimmermann seeking first win since Aug. 9

After being given Wednesday off, Jayson Werth is back in the Nationals’ lineup, leading off tonight’s series finale against the Cubs. Jordan Zimmermann is taking the mound, as the Nats shoot for their fifth straight victory. Zimmermann, however, hasn’t had the decisions going his way of late. He’s been stuck on nine wins since Aug. 9, going 0-2 with a 7.91 ERA over his last

Danny Espinosa is heating up at the right time

A slow offensive start to the season left Danny Espinosa frustrated and “nervous” about being sent down to the minors. He’d stew over poor individual performances, letting his ultra-competitive streak get the better of him at times. He’d watch tape of countless subpar at-bats, critiquing every minor error, likely putting more pressure on himself in the process. Lately, Espinosa has changed his ways. He rarely

Even more offensive numbers, notes and quotes

There are so many offensive notes and numbers to pass along after what the Nationals have done the last handful of days, I’m not sure I could fit them all in one entry. Let’s give it a shot. The Nationals became just the third team in the history of Major League Baseball to hit six home runs in a game on back-to-back nights. The 1996

The offensive juggernaut keeps rolling along

Last night it was Adam LaRoche (twice), Ian Desmond, Jesus Flores, Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman going yard. Tonight it was Bryce Harper (twice), Roger Bernadina, LaRoche, Desmond and Danny Espinosa. The Nationals have 12 home runs in their last 16 innings. They’ve scored 20 runs in that same span. Dating back to the win in Miami which snapped their five-game losing streak, the Nats

Johnson discusses Nats’ 9-1 rout of Cubs

The first start of Gio Gonzalez’s 2012 season came against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. That day, the lefty went just 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with three walks. Today was a bit different. Sure, it was a different Cubs lineup, one loaded with young guys suiting up for a team which is on pace for a 100-loss season. But Gonzalez

This is getting ridiculous (Nats crush Cubs 9-1)

A day after hitting six home runs in a game against the Cubs, tying a Nationals team record, the Nats have hit six home runs in a game against the Cubs. It’s déjà vu all over again. The Nats have put eight runs up through seven innings and now have 12 homers in their last 15 frames. Are the Nationals this good or are the

More home runs for the Nats, more shutout innings for Gonzalez (updated)

Going back to last night, the Nationals hit nine home runs in a 12-inning span against the Cubs. They hit six jacks last night, two of which came off the bat of Adam LaRoche. They added three more through the first three innings tonight, and have a 5-0 lead on the hapless Cubs. All three homers so far tonight came in the third inning. Roger

Burnett: “I was putting my team in jeopardy and it wasn’t right to them”

Up until about two weeks ago, Sean Burnett was putting up career numbers, despite the fact that he had battled tightness in his throwing elbow for a handful of weeks. After an appearance on August 10, Burnett’s ERA sat at 1.81, he had a 0.96 WHIP and had become a dominant force in the eighth inning. Over his next eight games, however, Burnett looked like

Bernadina in center, G. Gonzalez takes mound

As Davey Johnson said, Jayson Werth is getting the night off, shifting the Nationals’ outfield alignment. Roger Bernadina starts in center and leads off against the Cubs, making just his seventh start since Aug. 1. Bryce Harper starts in right field. Gio Gonzalez is on the hill, seeking his 18th win one start after a complete-game shutout. For the Nationals: CF Roger Bernadina RF Bryce

Chipping away at the magic number, enjoying a special debut

The Nationals’ lead over the Braves in the NL East is now 7 1/2 games, the highest it’s been this season. They’re back to 31 games above .500, tying the high-water mark for the year. Their magic number to win the division is 20 with 27 games left on their schedule. By no means are the Nats looking ahead or counting their chickens. But they

Johnson discusses Nats’ 11-5 win

The days when the Nationals scored six runs over a five-game span seem so long ago. In reality, it was only a week ago that the offensive skid came to an end. And since then, the bats have come alive in a big way. Tonight, the Nats exploded for 11 runs, 19 hits, six home runs from five different players and 11 extra-base hits. Adam

Double digits and a D.C. record (Nats win a laugher 11-5)

The Nationals have hung double digits on the Cubs tonight, putting up 17 hits through seven innings. Nine of those hits have been for extra bases. Five have been home runs. The five homers has set a record for the most home runs ever by a D.C. baseball team in games played in the district. Five different Nats have connected for longballs: Ian Desmond, Jesus

Nats do major damage early (it’s a party for the home team)

Chris Rusin wasn’t fooling anyone. The Cubs’ rookie left-handed starter faced 11 Nationals hitters tonight. He retired just two of them before being pulled from the game. Rusin leaves after surrendering five runs in just an inning plus four batters. He gave up eight hits (including two home runs and four extra-base hits) and walked a batter. Things could have been even worse if Michael

Wang activated, Brown back after strong season at Syracuse

The Nationals have officially activated Chien-Ming Wang from the 15-day disabled list, giving manager Davey Johnson yet another option in relief. Wang has been around the Nats the last couple days after making his final rehab start Sept. 1 for Double-A Harrisburg. Realistically, the veteran righty doesn’t stand much chance of pitching in meaningful situations, but he could be called on to eat innings at

Various odds and ends involving Harper, Morse, Lannan

Bryce Harper’s getting a rare day off today, but it’s not due to anything injury-related, manager Davey Johnson said this afternoon. With the Nationals facing a lefty starter, Johnson figured this was a good time to rest one of his normal left-handed-hitting position players. It was either going to be Harper or Adam LaRoche, and Harper ends up being the one who will take a

A bunch of lineup changes today (Brown recalled)

With the Nationals facing Cubs left-hander Chris Rusin, Bryce Harper will have a seat today. Jayson Werth will play center field, Michael Morse will move over to right and Tyler Moore will play left field and hit seventh. This is Moore’s first start since Aug. 26. Morse is back in the lineup after being pulled from yesterday’s game in the fourth inning due to what

Clippard keeps clicking, racking up saves at near-record rate

Tyler Clippard had one career save entering this season. He had one career save on May 20, six weeks into the Nationals’ 2012 season. Clippard now possesses 31 career saves. And he’s showing no signs of slowing down. The 27-year-old righty reached the 30-save mark for the 2012 campaign in yesterday’s win over the Cubs. Given how badly Clippard wanted the opportunity to close games

A winning season? Small potatoes

In past seasons, if the Nationals had reached 82 wins and guaranteed themselves a winning season, it’d have been a cause for celebration. Heck, given where the team finished in 2008 and 2009, you would’ve thought they’d be popping bottles in the Nats’ clubhouse after finally notching that 82nd win. The Nats hadn’t topped the 81-win mark since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005, and

An update on Morse plus a few clubhouse quotes

The Nationals announced during today’s game that Michael Morse had been removed from the contest due to right thumb soreness, an issue which plagued the left fielder back in mid-August, causing him to leave one game early and sit out another. In his postgame talk with reporters, Davey Johnson indicated something different - that he took Morse out as a precaution because the bottom of

Johnson talks Detwiler’s dominance after 2-1 win

With today’s 2-1 win over the Cubs, the Nationals clinched the first winning season for a D.C. baseball team since 1969. Davey Johnson didn’t seem to care much. Asked after today’s game about the significance of the Nationals reaching 82 wins, Johnson said, “I wasn’t really concerned about that,” and then quickly switched the topic. The fact that the Nats guaranteed a winning season is

LaRoche leaves the yard, Morse leaves early (Nats lock up winning record)

Ross Detwiler is through four scoreless innings having thrown just 52 pitches. Talk about being aggressive in the zone. That’s the way to attack most lineups, especially this soft-hitting Cubs order. The Nationals lead 1-0 after four thanks to Adam LaRoche, who blasted his 25th home run of the season in the second inning. The ball came down in the second deck in right. It

Burnett battling elbow irritation, Johnson outlines plan for call-ups

Sean Burnett’s recent struggles might be injury related. Davey Johnson said today that his left-handed reliever has been dealing with some irritation in his throwing elbow, the same issue that he went through earlier this season. The plan for now is to rest Burnett for a couple days and hope that the elbow improves. Johnson said Burnett will not undergo an MRI. “He’s had a

Werth, LaRoche both in Nats lineup (plus minor league honors)

Both Jayson Werth (hamstring cramp) and Adam LaRoche (sore back) are in the Nationals’ lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Cubs. Werth was pulled in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game after feeling his hamstring cramp up, and he was a late scratch from the lineup yesterday. LaRoche has been battling a sore back the last three or four days and was held out

Nats add pitchers Garcia, Duke from Triple-A Syracuse

When the Nationals showed up in their clubhouse today before the start of a four-game series against the Cubs, there were two new arrivals to pitch in during the stretch run. The Nats selected the contracts of right-hander Christian Garcia an left-hander Zach Duke from Triple-A Syracuse. To accommodate them on the 40-man roster - which stood at 39 before the additions - right-hander Henry

The clubhouse reaction to the Strasburg news

Outside the Nationals’ clubhouse, the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg has been met by many with a mixture of shock and disgust. Inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, word that Strasburg will only get two more starts before his 2012 season is brought to an end was largely met with shoulder shrugs. Are some guys a little frustrated that Strasburg won’t be there with them as

Johnson on Burnett’s struggles, late-inning drama (plus Werth, LaRoche updates)

Today’s actual game might get lost in the shuffle amidst the news that Stephen Strasburg will make two more starts this season before getting shut down. Let’s just say I don’t anticipate too much talk about Kurt Suzuki’s offensive performance on ESPN or MLB Network tonight or tomorrow when the Nationals are mentioned. But the game itself was a thrilling battle between two playoff-caliber teams,

Nats announce Strasburg will make two more starts

Stephen Strasburg threw six scoreless innings against the Cardinals this afternoon, striking out nine and upping his season innings total to 156 1/3. It was another dominant performance from the Nationals’ ace, and his season ERA now sits at 2.94. Immediately after the game, we learned that Strasburg will only get the ball twice more this season. Manager Davey Johnson announced that Strasburg will have

Burnett gives up lead for second straight day (Nats win 4-3)

Sean Burnett is still in the midst of a career season. He’d just prefer to forget the last 2 1/2 weeks. After an appearance on August 10, Burnett had a 1.81 ERA. He hadn’t given up a single run and had allowed just three total baserunners over his previous 10 appearances, spanning nine innings. Since then, things have turned for the worse. Burnett has a

Nats defense hurts Strasburg, then bails him out (Strasburg leaves with lead)

The Nationals have made two errors behind Stephen Strasburg today, both of which left him in jams with runners at the corners and two outs. Both times, Strasburg worked out of trouble to keep the game scoreless. The Nationals’ ace can thank Bryce Harper for helping bail him out of the second such situation. Three batters after Ryan Zimmerman airmailed a throw into the stands

Nats’ inability to hold runners frustrating the coaching staff

Sitting down with Randy Knorr in the dugout late this morning, I told the Nationals’ bench coach I’d like to talk about his team’s issues with holding and throwing out runners. “Favorite topic,” Knorr said sarcastically, a smile creeping across his face. This is a bit of a tired subject for Knorr, who has been preaching the importance of holding runners to Nationals pitchers and

Waiting on the Nats’ lineup (Werth a late scratch)

We’re less than two hours away from first pitch and are still waiting for the Nationals to send out their lineup for today’s game against the Cardinals. The holdup is almost certainly related to Jayson Werth, who was pulled from last night’s game in the ninth inning due to a hamstring cramp. Werth didn’t sound concerned about the hamstring after the game and said that

Zimmermann blames himself; Storen discusses slow times to the plate

As off of his game as Jordan Zimmermann was today, the Nationals still held a lead in the eighth inning and were five outs from their third straight win over the Cardinals. That didn’t stop Zimmermann from putting the full blame for today’s loss on his own shoulders. “I just felt like the offense did a great job. You’ve got to tip your cap to

Johnson discusses Nats’ 10-9 loss

Davey Johnson said after today’s 10-9 loss to the Cardinals that Jayson Werth was pulled from the game in the ninth inning because of cramping. Werth later said the cramps were in his hamstring, and while he hasn’t dealt with that type of a thing during a game in four or five years, he hopes to be able to play tomorrow. Werth and the rest

We’ve got a wild one (Nats lose 10-9)

The Nationals and Cardinals have played six innings. Seventeen runs have been scored in that time. Five pitchers have been used. Those six innings have taken a whopping 2:22. The Nats led 4-0 and 6-2. The Cardinals then led 8-6. Now the Nationals have the lead yet again, after a three-run sixth inning put them up 9-8. The play which gave the Nationals the lead

Zimmermann’s recent struggles appear again

The Nationals held a 4-0 lead over the Cardinals when Jordan Zimmermann took the mound for the top of the second inning. The guy who led the majors in ERA just a few starts ago proceeded to give up eight runs over his next 2 2/3 innings of work. Zimmermann was pulled after just 3 2/3, making this by far his shortest outing of the

The one minor flaw in Zimmerman’s defense

When he’s stationed at the hot corner, Ryan Zimmerman has the tendency to do the remarkable. I can’t even count the number of head shakes Zimmerman has gotten from those of us in the press box this season after another ridiculous stab of a sharp grounder, dive to snag a hot shot or web gem on a tapper down the line. Every now and then,

How will the three call-ups fit into the mix?

Xavier Nady had six RBIs in 40 games with the Nationals this season. He already has three RBIs in his first game since getting called up by the Giants. The veteran outfielder, who signed a minor league deal with the Giants after getting his outright release by the Nationals, has made an early impact with his new team. Who knows, the guy might end up

Nats call-ups and lineup

Rosters have expanded and the Nationals have added four players to their active roster. Left-hander John Lannan, catcher Sandy Leon and outfielder Eury Perez have been officially recalled, while outfielder Mark DeRosa has been activated off the 15-day DL. The Nats also announced that catcher Jhonatan Solano has been reinstated from the DL and optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. More to come. Here’s the Nationals lineup

The losing streak seems oh, so long ago

When reporters entered the Nationals’ clubhouse after last night’s 10-0 shellacking of the Cardinals, the Braves-Phillies game was showing on every TV in sight. As we huddled around Ryan Zimmerman, asking the third baseman about a third straight Nats win, Phillies outfielder John Mayberry crushed a fly ball to deep left in the 10th inning of a tie game. Shouts came out from different parts

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