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Perseverance pays for Espinosa during torrid June at plate

Danny Espinosa had been down this path before, sporting a sub-.200 batting average and hearing calls from various directions for someone else to take his job. And his response - sulking, overworking, overthinking - all too often only made things worse. This time around, when he found himself hitting .199 on June 1 and hearing the calls for the Nationals to summon top prospect Trea

Espinosa’s pair of homers lead Nats to 13-4 blowout win

If anyone was worried the Nationals, after the highs of a three-game sweep over the rival Mets, might suffer from some form of letdown against the Reds, they needed watch only one inning of baseball to have those fears assuaged. The Nationals jumped out to an early lead behind Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer in the bottom of the first, then rode Danny Espinosa’s historic pair

Zimmerman, Espinosa lead offensive explosion (Nats win 13-4)

Throughout his season-long struggles, and especially this month, it seems like Ryan Zimmerman perpetually has found himself behind in the count, often 0-2, before making an out. So when Zimmerman finally found himself in an advantageous situation tonight - ahead in the count, 2-0, with two on in the bottom of the first - he made sure to make the most of it. And when

Strasburg and Giolito both preparing to start Sunday

The Nationals still haven’t decided if Stephen Strasburg will return from the disabled list this weekend, but Dusty Baker seems to prefer taking the cautious route with his rehabbing right-hander. Strasburg, who is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, continues to prepare as though he may start Sunday’s series finale against the Reds. Rookie Lucas Giolito, though, also is preparing for the same

Game 80 lineups: Nats vs. Reds

After a highly publicized, highly significant series against the division rival Mets that resulted in a sweep, the Nationals now find themselves hosting one of baseball’s worst teams this season for the next four nights: the Cincinnati Reds. That, of course, doesn’t guarantee anything. The Nats lost two of three at Great American Ball Park last month, and nearly lost the third game before eking

Murphy makes the Mets pay again with pair of homers

Daniel Murphy won’t ever say it, at least not publicly, so Max Scherzer was left to explain how his attention-deflecting teammate feels about his performance against the Mets this season. “It’s just obvious that he wants to beat ‘em up,” Scherzer said. “It’s obvious. Everybody wants to. When you face your former team, you obviously want to get the best of them. For him to

Even in June, Nats recognize significance of Mets sweep

It’s the last week of June and the season isn’t quite halfway complete yet, so there’s only so much significance that can be applied to a three-game series at this point. The Nationals didn’t make a profound statement this week. There’s too much time left for that script to be flipped, as everyone in Washington painfully found out one year ago. Then again, it’s not

Nats ride Scherzer, Murphy to 4-2 win and sweep of Mets

The Nationals already had this key series won after back-to-back victories the last two nights. But they weren’t satisfied with that, so tonight they went for the jugular and succeeded, riding another dominant performance from Max Scherzer and a pair of Daniel Murphy homers to a 4-2 win and a series sweep of the Mets. Scherzer allowed just two hits over 7 1/3 sparkling innings,

Scherzer sharp early vs. depleted Mets (Nationals win 4-2)

Max Scherzer has dominated a depleted Mets lineup before. He won’t be duplicating his end-of-season no-hitter tonight, but the Nationals ace is dealing and looking as sharp as he has in his previous historic starts. Scherzer has tossed three scoreless innings so far, striking out six as he attempts to lead the Nats to a series sweep over New York. Daniel Murphy’s solo homer -

Nats sign Latos to minor league deal, Papelbon throws sim game

Seeking some insurance in case a need for experienced pitching arises down the road, the Nationals have come to terms with journeyman Mat Latos on a minor league contract. Latos’ deal won’t be official until he passes a physical, according to a club source, but once that happens, he’ll report to the Nationals’ minor league complex in Viera, Fla., and attempt to work his way

Game 79 lineups: Nats at Mets

Three days ago, the Nationals were mired in a seven-game losing streak, unable to drive in a run in a key spot, with a daunting series against the Mets looming. Since then, they have won three games in a row (one over the Brewers, two over the Mets) and tonight they have a chance to sweep their chief division rivals and expand their lead over

Ramos still hitting, Harper homers and bullpen delivers

Lucas Giolito got most of the attention last night and deservedly so, despite the odd nature of his rain-shortened, major league debut. But there were some other noteworthy developments during the Nationals’ 5-0 victory over the Mets, so let’s give some of those their due ... * Wilson Ramos continues to hit as well as any hitter in baseball. With a 2-for-4 night that included

Rain can’t spoil Giolito’s long-awaited major league debut

Like every kid who grows up with a baseball in one hand, a bat in the other and the imagination to believe anything is possible, Lucas Giolito had played out his major league debut in his own mind plenty of times. But did he ever envision that debut being interrupted twice by rain, the second delay dragging on long enough to prevent him from re-taking

Giolito dealing with Mets, rain (Nationals win 5-0)

The biggest threat to Lucas Giolito so far in his major league debut hasn’t been the Mets lineup. It’s the weather. A heavy cell of storms delayed the first pitch of Giolito’s career for 55 minutes tonight. Now the Nationals rookie is trying to record as many outs as he can before the next cell hits. With ominous clouds hovering above Nationals Park, Giolito is

Strasburg’s MRI shows “nothing serious” (we’re underway)

The Nationals remain optimistic that the injury that landed Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list isn’t serious and that the right-hander will be able to return to their rotation soon after getting a positive report from medical tests administered over the last two days. Results of Strasburg’s MRI confirmed the Nationals’ initial diagnosis of a strained upper back, encouraging news for the club. “Nothing serious,”

Game 78 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

There’s nothing quite like a major league debut. Every single one of them, no matter how hyped, is a big deal, literally a once-in-a-lifetime moment for a young man who gets to realize his dream. There are, of course, debuts that are bigger than others, and tonight we will be witnessing one of those when Lucas Giolito takes the mound shortly after 7 p.m. The

Nats confident Giolito can handle pressure of tonight’s debut

The Nationals have seen their share of players take the field for much-hyped, big league debuts during their first 12 seasons of existence. Stephen Strasburg’s inaugural appearance in 2010, of course, tops the list, but Bryce Harper’s arrival in 2012 stands right alongside it. And more than just die-hard fans recognized the significance of the first games in the careers of top prospects like Jordan

How the Nats turned a four-run deficit into a seven-run victory

They were down four runs already to their chief division rivals, their starting pitcher getting rocked and an imposing flamethrower on the mound for the opposition who had pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the first. Given the way things had been going for the Nationals over the last week or so, you could forgive them if they

Nats bats come roaring back during 11-4 thumping of Mets

Down four runs early to Noah Syndergaard, with the Mets lineup all over Joe Ross, the Nationals found themselves in a precarious position in the middle of the third inning tonight, in danger of letting their chief division rivals draw even closer in the standings. And then came the bottom of the third, at which point a Nationals lineup that spent the last week searching

Papelbon tosses perfect inning on rehab (Nats win 11-4)

Jonathan Papelbon cruised through a 1-2-3 inning in the first minor league rehab appearance of his career, moving a step closer to rejoining the Nationals bullpen. Pitching for high Single-A Potomac, Papelbon retired the side in the top of the first inning against Winston-Salem. Given a chance to start and get his work in quickly before making the short drive back up Interstate-95 to Washington,

Nationals trying out Trea Turner in center field at Syracuse

On the day they announced the promotion of their top pitching prospect to the big leagues, the Nationals also made an unconventional move that may be a precursor to a promotion of their top position player. Trea Turner, an infielder throughout his amateur and minor league career, is starting in center field tonight for Triple-A Syracuse. And the 22-year-old figures to see significant action there

Nats believe Giolito gives them “best option to win” Tuesday

The Nationals had seen enough of Lucas Giolito in recent weeks to believe he was ready for a promotion. To Triple-A Syracuse, not the big leagues. But when Stephen Strasburg’s lingering back injury opened up a spot in their rotation, the Nationals decided to go ahead and promote their top pitching prospect all the way up from Double-A Harrisburg and send him to the mound

Lucas Giolito to make major league debut Tuesday vs. Mets

The long wait is finally almost over as top Nationals pitching prospect Lucas Giolito will make his major league debut and start Tuesday against the Mets, manager Dusty Baker confirmed today in his pregame press briefing. The announcement comes after much speculation that the Nats would recall either the right-handed Giolito or 24-year-old right-hander Austin Voth to make a spot start with Stephen Strasburg landing

Game 77 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

Why does it feel like it’s been ages since the Nationals last played a game here on South Capitol Street? OK, maybe it hasn’t been ages in the technical sense, but it has been a full 12 days since Jayson Werth’s walk-off single beat the Cubs and sent the Nats out west flying high for the moment. They return now after winning yesterday in Milwaukee

Martin called up from Syracuse to bolster bullpen for now

The Nationals called up right-hander Rafael Martin from Triple-A Syracuse, giving themselves another reliever for tonight’s series opener against the Mets but still leaving the question of Tuesday night’s starter unanswered for now. Martin becomes the eighth member of the Nationals bullpen, but his stay in D.C. could be brief. Unless the club intends to use long reliever Yusmeiro Petit as Stephen Strasburg’s replacement in

The cases for and against recalling Lucas Giolito to face Mets

MILWAUKEE - Dusty Baker said the Nationals will dip into their minor leagues to find a starting pitcher for Tuesday night’s home game against the Mets. Since news broke that the Nats would need a starter Tuesday night, social media has been buzzing about the possibility that the hometown fans would get to see right-hander Lucas Giolito, the team’s top pitching prospect, make his major

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

Strasburg on injury and treatment, Baker on pitching plans vs. Mets

MILWAUKEE - Stephen Strasburg has spent more time with the chiropractor over the past week than he has on the mound. The right-hander didn’t want to go on the disabled list after a recurring upper back strain twice forced him to be scratched from scheduled starts, but he understands why the DL move was necessary. “Goal No. 1 is to figure out what it is

Nats halt seven-game skid in finale, but it wasn’t easy

MILWAUKEE - Ending a seven-game losing streak proved just as daunting a task for the Nationals as the difficult path that saddled them with a season-worst skid in the first place. But a 3-2 win over the Brewers on Sunday assured the Nationals of going home for a key series against the Mets with some positive vibes on their side. But to get there, the

Losing streak ends with 3-2 Nats win

MILWAUKEE - Tanner Roark is through three scoreless innings against the Brewers. Now if only the offense could do something to help the right-hander. Roark has allowed one hit - Jonathan Lucroy’s leadoff single in the second - walked one and struck out three. Jonathan Villar drew a leadoff walk in the first, but was erased trying to steal on a strong throw from catcher

Who pitches against Mets? (Strasburg placed on DL)

MILWAUKEE - When the Nationals scratched right-hander Stephen Strasburg from today’s start with a recurrence of his upper back strain and decided to start righty Tanner Roark instead, it threw their rotation for this week’s key home series against the Mets into disarray. Instead of starting Roark, then right-handers Joe Ross and Max Scherzer against their division rivals, the Nats are now reassessing their options.

Game 76 lineups: Nats at Brewers

MILWAUKEE - The Nationals will turn to Tanner Roark to halt a season-high seven-game losing streak today, while awaiting further word on the upper back strain that caused scheduled starter Stephen Strasburg to be scratched from his second assignment in a week. The current skid is the Nats’ longest since 2009. A 2-7 road trip isn’t what they expected when this trek began 10 days

How Dusty Baker, Nats are dealing with disappointing skid

MILWAUKEE - A couple of hours before Saturday’s game - a loss that extended their losing streak to seven games, a season high - the Nationals were sitting at their lockers in the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park, several players nodding their heads and silently mouthing the words to the pulsating beat of a rap tune that was blaring from the speaker in the center

Skid hits seven games, Strasburg scratched from Sunday start

MILWAUKEE - Just when it felt like the Nationals had absorbed all the frustration they could stomach in one disappointing day - after the Brewers had handed them a 6-5 loss, stretching their season-worst losing streak to seven games - fate delivered a parting gut punch. Stephen Strasburg felt a recurrence of his upper back issue when throwing this afternoon and has been scratched from

Brewers knock Gonzalez out after three innings, Nats fall 6-5

MILWAUKEE - Gio Gonzalez usually has good first innings. So today’s opening-inning effort by the struggling left-hander was a little out of the ordinary. Or was it, considering that the Nationals are mired in a six-game losing streak. Gonzalez, who has posted a 2.57 first-inning ERA in his previous 14 starts this season, trailed 3-0 after facing five batters. He surrendered an infield single to

Bullpen session has Papelbon hopeful of midweek return from DL

MILWAUKEE - Jonathan Papelbon is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on June 29, and with a little luck, the Nationals could have their closer back by the middle of next week. Papelbon, who has been on the DL with a right intercostal strain since June 15, threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Saturday afternoon, the first time he’s thrown off a mound since

Game 75 lineups: Nats at Brewers

MILWAUKEE - The Nationals’ losing streak has reached a season-worst six games, and the pitcher they turn to in hopes of halting it this afternoon hasn’t won a game in his past six starts. But there is cause for hope. Since beating the Mets at Citi Field on May 18, left-hander Gio Gonzalez is 0-5. He’s failed to get to the sixth inning three times

Ramos’ hot stick has earned trust of Nationals clubhouse

MILWAUKEE - As Wilson Ramos keeps chugging along, ripping hit after hit with an authoritative bat, he’s pushing an indicator within the Nationals clubhouse to previously unseen heights. A .341/.385/.567 slash line - boosted again after a 4-for-5 night in a 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday - is only part of the story. During June, when he’s hitting .371 in 19 games while

Baker bemoans strikeouts, homers again bedevil Scherzer

MILWAUKEE - The hushed tone of Dusty Baker spoke volumes after a 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Friday night stretched the Nationals’ losing streak to a season-worst six games and left a once-thriving offense searching for answers. Baker can live with the occasional skid - it happens to every team at some point during a season, and he didn’t think his Nationals would escape

Scherzer weathers first, wilts in sixth (Nats lose 5-3)

MILWAUKEE - The Nationals desperately need a Max Scherzer-like outing from Max Scherzer to halt a five-game skid and in the early going at Miller Park, the right-hander was pretty much all or nothing. A weird first inning saw Scherzer strike out the side, walk the bases loaded and surrender a two-run single to Aaron Hill on a 1-2 pitch. The result: a 2-0 Brewers

Ribs back in place, Strasburg on track to start series finale

MILWAUKEE - Stephen Strasburg strode into the Nationals clubhouse at Miller Park about three hours before Friday’s game, sweat glistening off his face after he threw a lighter-than-usual bullpen session, a necessary hurdle before rejoining the rotation after being scratched from his scheduled Monday start. Strasburg said he felt fine after an upper back strain forced him out of a marquee matchup against Dodgers ace

Game 74 lineups: Nats at Brewers

MILWAUKEE - The Nationals continue their 10-game road trip tonight at Miller Park, and send right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound in hopes of snapping out of a season-high five-game losing streak. Scherzer hasn’t seen a lot of the Brewers in his career, but has made three starts against them among his four appearances and carries a 1-0 record and 1.64 ERA into tonight’s game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nats agree to terms with 23 players from First-Year Player Draft

The Nationals announced this afternoon that they have agreed to terms with 23 players selected in the recent First-Year Player Draft, including first-round selection Carter Kieboom, the 28th overall pick in the first round. Kieboom, an 18-year-old shortstop out of Walton (Ga.) High School who had committed to Clemson, will begin his career in the Nats’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla. Kieboom

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

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

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

Game 70 lineups: Nats at Padres

On the heels of perhaps their worst loss of the season, the Nationals will try to bounce back this afternoon and close out their four-game series in San Diego on a high note. Three out of four anywhere ain’t half-bad, and the Nats would happily take that before making the short trip up the coast to Los Angeles, where Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers await

Rivero’s struggles coming to a head for Nationals

The Nationals have long seen in Felipe Rivero a dynamic left-hander with the kind of overwhelming stuff that suggest he could become a big league closer some day in the not-too-distant future. That may yet happen, but at this particular moment, Rivero looks like a pitcher in need of a major overhaul. “He’s in a bad state right now,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters in

Eighth-inning meltdown turns late lead into 7-3 loss

Thanks to some timely hits, a dominant-at-times start from Max Scherzer and a couple fortuitous breaks, the Nationals found themselves in prime position to win their fourth straight game tonight and expand their ever-growing lead in the NL East. Instead, an eighth-inning meltdown by reliever Felipe Rivero turned a well-played victory over the Padres into perhaps the Nats’ worst loss of the season. Rivero failed

Recently potent lineup tries to stay red-hot (Nats lose 7-3)

The Nationals have been waiting 2 1/2 months to see if their entire lineup is capable of coming together at the same time and producing like one of the best lineups in the majors. That time may finally be arriving. The Nationals have turned into a consistent offensive force over the last couple of weeks. They’ve scored an average of 6.8 runs over their last

Game 69 lineups: Nats at Padres

Do the Nationals have another late-night win in them? They’ve already taken the first two games of this series in San Diego, piling up 15 total runs and launching five homers. Now they’ll try to make it three in a row, once again facing the Padres late tonight at Petco Park. Max Scherzer gets this start for the Nationals, looking to duplicate his dominant outing

Baker has no choice but to mix and match in bullpen for now

When Dusty Baker named Shawn Kelley his interim closer late Thursday night, the chosen replacement for Jonathan Papelbon while the latter endures through the first DL stint of his career, he did so with a caveat. “We think he’s best suited for that until Pap gets back,” Baker told reporters in San Diego. “But again, he’s thrown two days in a row, and I doubt

Nats ride early offense, late bullpen work to beat Padres 7-5

Cross-country flights. Late-night starts. No off-days. Nothing right now seems to be able to derail the Nationals, who were at it again tonight during a 7-5 victory over the Padres. With another offensive explosion at Petco Park, the Nationals won for the 10th time in their last 12 games and in the process expanded their lead in the National League East to a season-high six

Ross faces Padres club that traded him (Nats win 7-5)

The Padres knew they were giving up a lot when they sent Trea Turner to the Nationals as part of a December 2014 three-team trade that also brought prized prospect Wil Myers from Tampa Bay to San Diego. They just didn’t know long before Turner makes any real impact in the big leagues, they’d be watching Joe Ross do just that. Ross, widely considered a

Game 68 lineups: Nats at Padres

The Nationals didn’t appear to suffer at all from jet lag last night in the first game of their first West Coast trip of the season. The bats were alive during an 8-5 win over the Padres that included home runs from Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon. Whether all the late nights and travel catch up to them tonight remains to be seen.

Encouraging signs at the plate from Harper and Rendon

The Nationals have been waiting for Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon to start hitting like Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon again. With each passing day, it looks like both stars are finding their way back to their old selves. Harper and Rendon each played a key role in last night’s 8-5 win in San Diego, but it was more than the mere production they contributed

Nats slug three homers at spacious Petco Park in 8-5 win

The home run has become such a big part of the Nationals’ offensive attack, they’re even managing to hit them in bunches in one of baseball’s most spacious ballparks. With three more homers tonight, the Nationals outslugged the Padres 8-5, fazed not one bit by the expanded dimensions at Petco Park. Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos hit back-to-back opposite-field shots in the top of the

First trip west in 2016 presents challenges (Nats win 8-5)

A full 41 percent of the baseball season has now been played, which is more than ample time for teams to face a wide assortment of competition from other divisions within their own league and even outside their own league. So how is it that the Nationals tonight are facing their very first National League West opponent of 2016? In an odd quirk to their

Game 67 lineups: Nats at Padres

On the heels of their dramatic, 12-inning victory last night against the Cubs, the Nationals open their first West Coast trip of the season with the first of four games in San Diego. Tanner Roark gets the start in tonight’s opener, looking to build off his strong start against the Phillies his last time out. Right-hander Erik Johnson, acquired by the Padres from the White

Nationals top draft pick Kieboom gets $2 million to sign

The Nationals and top draft pick Carter Kieboom agreed to terms this week on a deal that will pay the 18-year-old shortstop a $2 million signing bonus, a source familiar with the decision confirmed. That amount, which was first reported by MLB.com’s Jim Callis, is roughly the same as Major League Baseball’s predetermined slot amount of $2,065,900 for the 28th overall selection in last week’s

Cubs-Nats games have proven tense, tight affairs so far

There is a long way to go, a whole lot of baseball left to play and no way to know how things will shake out in the end. But there is at least a reasonable chance of the Nationals and Cubs seeing each other again in 2016, even after today’s series finale on South Capitol Street. The owners of the NL’s two best records after

Nats manufacture runs, but not enough to beat Cubs

More than two months into the season, the Nationals have established their ability to hit the ball out of the park. They lead the National League with 87 homers in 65 games. They have not yet, however, established their ability to manufacture runs. There have been glimpses, as there were tonight against the Cubs. But they haven’t quite been able to get over that hump

Gonzalez laboring vs. Cubs lineup (Nats lose 4-3)

Last time, it was the first inning that got Gio Gonzalez. This time, the damage has come in the third and fourth innings. Despite a promising start to his night, Gonzalez has run into trouble the second time around the Cubs lineup, giving up two runs in the top of the third and another in the top of the fourth to leave the Nationals in

After initial reluctance, Papelbon agrees to first career DL stint

Jonathan Papelbon had never spent a day on the disabled list in his 12-year career, and he certainly didn’t want to end that streak now after feeling a tug on his right side while throwing a warmup pitch before the top of the ninth of Sunday’s game. But after meeting with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Mike Maddux late

Game 65 lineups: Nats vs. Cubs

The Nationals had plenty of reason to feel good about themselves last night after a 4-1 victory over the Cubs, one of their better wins of the season to date. But they arrived at the ballpark today to the news that they need to find a new closer for at least the next 15 days, with Jonathan Papelbon landing on the disabled list for the

Papelbon lands on DL with intercostal strain, Belisle activated

The Nationals have placed closer Jonathan Papelbon on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain and activated fellow right-hander Matt Belisle off the DL to take his roster spot. It’s not yet known how Papelbon, who had never before been on the DL during his 12-year career, suffered the injury. But the 35-year-old wasn’t available to pitch during last night’s 4-1 win over

With Papelbon “sore,” Kelley steps in to close out win

When he returned to the dugout after striking out both batters he faced in the top of the eighth last night, Shawn Kelley had no idea he’d be returning to the mound for the top of the ninth. Until Dusty Baker approached him with a simple question. “He asked me how I felt, and I said I felt good,” Kelley recalled. “He said: ‘You’re going

No history for Scherzer, but domination is more than enough

It is mostly ludicrous to conjure up images of no-hitters or record-breaking strikeout performances after exactly one half-inning of baseball, but when Max Scherzer takes the mound, the conventional line of thinking doesn’t apply. “If he’s done it once, he can do it again,” manager Dusty Baker said. “You allow yourself to think it. You don’t talk about it, but you think it.” “I’d like

Nats ride Scherzer’s dominance, clutch hits to 4-1 win over Cubs

This time, the Nationals put together a bunch of quality at-bats against the Cubs. And Max Scherzer was able to carve up Chicago’s lineup, aside from the one ball that left the yard against him on an otherwise spectacular night on South Capitol Street. Behind Scherzer’s pitching brilliance, Wilson Ramos’ homer and clutch hits from Danny Espinosa and Ben Revere, the Nationals won the opener

Scherzer racking up strikeouts vs. Cubs (Nats win 4-1)

Think Max Scherzer might be a little fired up to face the Cubs for the first time since getting blasted out of Wrigley Field last month? Scherzer took the ball for tonight’s series opener at Nationals Park and immediately started overwhelming Chicago’s vaunted lineup with dominating stuff. Through three perfect innings, the right-hander already has eight strikeouts, conjuring up memories both of his 20-strikeout game

Baker offers up defense of Papelbon as Nats closer

If asked what the biggest area of concern facing the Nationals is at this stage of the season, the most common answer likely would involve the bullpen, more specifically the closer’s role. It’s not that Jonathan Papelbon’s performance to date has been egregiously poor. He is 16-for-18 in save opportunities. He has a 3.28 ERA. But there have been more than a couple of shaky

Game 64 lineups: Nats vs. Cubs

So you may have heard there’s a pretty big series taking place here in town this week. The Cubs and Nationals are as big as it gets in baseball at this moment, owners of the two best records in the sport and loaded with star power. So it’s no surprise the sport is going to be focused on South Capitol Street over the next three

Live Nationals video Q&A

We’ve been having plenty of fun doing the weekly Q&A’s right here, but now it’s time to expand it into something new and exciting: A live video Q&A. Yes, at 2 p.m., I’ll be hosting a live video Q&A on our Facebook page (facebook.com/masnNationals) straight from Nationals Park in advance of the series opener against the Cubs. You can submit your questions in advance here

Werth’s clutch hit caps dramatic ninth-inning rally by Nats

As Maikel Franco rounded the bases, Jonathan Papelbon watched from the mound and a crowd of 34,294 at Nationals Park booed, Dusty Baker had just one thought from the dugout. “OK, Pap,” the manager said in his mind to his closer. “We gave up one. Let’s not give up any more. Because we can come back. It’s a lot easier to get one than it

Espinosa’s home run barrage continues (Werth walk-off wins it)

Danny Espinosa is on some kind of home run barrage right now. The oft-maligned, light-hitting shortstop has been making a case for himself over the last two weeks with an impressive power display, and he is up to it again this afternoon. Espinosa’s leadoff homer in the bottom of the second gave the Nationals a 3-0 lead over the Phillies and kept his run alive.

Will Cubs refuse to pitch to Bryce Harper again this week?

The Cubs are coming to town Monday, and so the question on everybody’s mind this week is a simple one: Will they pitch to Bryce Harper? They most certainly did not last month when the Nationals visited Wrigley Field. Though he stepped up to the plate 19 times in that four-game series, Harper wound up with only four official at-bats. He was walked 13 times,

Game 63 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

After an early afternoon Saturday win over the Phillies, the Nationals now go for the series sweep in a late afternoon Sunday ballgame, with first pitch not scheduled until 4:05 p.m. (Reminder: All of this was done to create as much space as possible around last night’s annual team charity gala.) The Nationals, who are looking to improve to a season-best 15 games over .500,

With 100 games to go, Nationals starting to build a cushion

There are different ways to break up the baseball season into chunks - 10 separate 16-games stretches, nine separate 18-game stretches, quarters, thirds, halves, etc. - and the Nationals are at one of those junctures right now. They’ve played 62 games, which means there are exactly 100 to go. Mathematically, it doesn’t really mean much. The season is now 38.2716 percent complete. That’s not a

Nats breathing easier after week of lopsided victories

The 162-game season can be a meat grinder much of the time, with tense contests, tough decisions and constant roster-tinkering required for a team to navigate its way through six months and emerge on top. So when a team can enjoy a week like the Nationals just did, five times holding a lead of five runs or more en route to victory, it offers a

Small ball produces early lead in D.C. (Nats win 8-0)

The Nationals have relied on the home run often during their recent offensive surge. So far today, they’re scoring runs the old-fashioned way: with a string of quality at-bats and timely base hits. Thanks to four singles, a hit-batter and a perfectly executed squeeze bunt, the Nationals racked up four runs in the bottom of the second this afternoon, storming out to an early lead

Game 62 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

Slowly but surely, the Nationals are building their resume, piling up wins at a rate faster than any other big league club than the Cubs. They’ve now won eight of their last 11, moving to a season-best 13 games over .500. They’re getting contributions from up and down their lineup. Their pitching staff continues to be among the best in the majors. And their defensive

On Gonzalez’s rough first inning, dominant six after that

CHICAGO - If you didn’t watch last night’s game and merely glanced at Gio Gonzalez’s pitching line - 7 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 116 pitches - after the fact, you most likely would emerge with positive emotions. The end result may have been fine, but the process that got Gonzalez there was a bit less satisfying, certainly for the left-hander,

Nats bats go silent after explosive start to the week

CHICAGO - No, they weren’t going to score 10 runs every night the rest of the season. But after reaching double digits in three straight games, the notion of the Nationals being held to one run and five total baserunners (two of them coming with two outs in the ninth inning) sounded pretty implausible entering tonight’s series finale against the White Sox. By the time

Nationals can’t overcome early deficit, lose 3-1 to White Sox

CHICAGO - A three-run first inning off Gio Gonzalez put the Nationals in an early hole. And even though the left-hander recovered nicely from that inauspicious first frame, his teammates couldn’t duplicate their recent offensive exploits in their series finale against the White Sox, losing 3-1 to wrap up their longest road trip of the season. Miguel Gonzalez, the former Orioles right-hander now trying bounce

Miguel Gonzalez outdueling Gio Gonzalez early (Nats lose 3-1)

CHICAGO - Gio Gonzalez has been perfect since struggling in the first inning. But Miguel Gonzalez has been perfect from the moment he took the mound tonight, leaving the Nationals in trouble early in their series finale against the White Sox. The Nationals don’t have a baserunner in four innings against Miguel Gonzalez, the former Orioles right-hander given an opportunity to start for the White

Five-day layoff doesn’t slow down productive Zimmerman

CHICAGO - From a personal standpoint, Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t have timed his paternity leave much better. Zimmerman’s wife, Heather, gave birth to the couple’s second daughter Thursday (an off-day for the Nationals). Then Zimmerman missed his team’s three-game series in Cincinnati while officially on the paternity leave list. Then he got to take advantage of another off-day for the Nationals before rejoining them here Tuesday

Game 60 lineups: Nats at White Sox

CHICAGO - The good news: It’s warmer today than it was either of the previous two days, when temperatures never got out of the 60s. The bad news: It’s raining. And it’s not supposed to stop all night. What that means for the series finale between the Nationals and White Sox: This could be dicey. The problem is that the Nats don’t return to Chicago

Thursday morning Q&A from Chicago

CHICAGO - Well, well, well ... look what team suddenly has one of the most potent lineups in baseball? Did you know the Nationals now lead the National League in home runs? It’s true. They’ve hit 81 of them, one more than the Cardinals. Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon finally look like Zimmerman and Rendon. Bryce Harper is starting to look like Harper again. Daniel

Contributions come from entire lineup in blowout victory

CHICAGO - On nights like this, when he is handed a comfortable lead and can actually take a few moments to watch his own teammates hit, Max Scherzer can’t help but be impressed by what he sees. Then again, what wasn’t to like about the Nationals’ 11-4 thumping of a shell-shocked James Shields and the rest of the White Sox? “Man, one through nine we

Nats cruise to another lopsided win, 11-4 over White Sox

CHICAGO - They played the full nine innings at U.S. Cellular Field tonight, but that was merely to preserve the integrity of the official major league ballgame. There is no mercy rule at this level, even if the Nationals and White Sox happily would have agreed to one, probably after three innings. With an onslaught of offense against a woefully ineffective James Shields in his

Shields ransacked in Chicago debut (Nats win 11-4)

CHICAGO - On the bright side for James Shields and the White Sox, there’s nowhere to go but up from here. The Nationals are putting a hurting on Shields in his White Sox debut, pounding out six runs on seven hits (three of them homers) in two innings to open up a commanding 6-0 lead at U.S. Cellular Field. Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew and Danny

Baker on lack of bullpen changes, Rivero’s struggles vs. lefties

CHICAGO - After the Nationals needed to ask for 11 total innings out of their bullpen over the last two games, it was fair to wonder if they would need to bring in a fresh arm before tonight’s game against the White Sox. The short answer: No. “We didn’t even talk about it,” manager Dusty Baker said. The thinking behind such a move: Blake Treinen

Game 59 lineups: Nats at White Sox

CHICAGO - They piled up 10 runs against John Moscot and the Reds bullpen. Then they piled up 10 runs against Mat Latos and the White Sox bullpen. Now the Nationals will try to keep their offensive surge going tonight against James Shields, the newest member of Chicago’s rotation, plus this same relief corps. Shields, acquired from the Padres over the weekend, is trying to

Harper slips to second in All-Star voting, Ramos up to fourth

CHICAGO - Bryce Harper has slipped behind Dexter Fowler in All-Star balloting, but the Nationals star remains comfortably in position to earn a starting spot in the outfield for the National League in next month’s Midsummer Classic. Harper, who led all NL outfielders in the first round of voting released by Major League Baseball last week, has since fallen slightly behind Fowler. The Cubs center

On Ross’ short start and Treinen’s long relief appearance

CHICAGO - When the night began, the Nationals certainly weren’t expecting Joe Ross to last only four innings. And they really weren’t expecting Blake Treinen to then throw three innings of relief after that. Sometimes you’ve got to adjust on the fly, though, and that’s exactly what last night’s 10-5 victory over the White Sox required. Ross’ uncharacteristic command issues early forced the young starter

Lineup finally coming together with back-to-back 10-run games

CHICAGO - Though it perhaps hasn’t happened as frequently as they would like, the Nationals have known all along their lineup is capable of scoring runs in bunches on a regular basis, more than enough to overcome even a moderate deficit on any given night. As Bryce Harper put it: “When we’re down, we’re never down.” They’ve now proven that in consecutive games. Two days

Nats storm back from early deficit to beat White Sox 10-5

CHICAGO - Joe Ross’ worst start of the season wound up an afterthought tonight, and all it took for that to happen was another double-digit offensive explosion from the Nationals’ suddenly explosive lineup. Behind another big showing from Anthony Rendon and some long-awaited clutch hits from Bryce Harper and Michael A. Taylor, the Nationals dug themselves out of the early hole Ross dug and wound

Uncharacteristic command dooms Ross early (Nats win 10-5)

CHICAGO - When Joe Ross walked the night’s first batter, it was immediately noted as out-of-character for the right-hander. When he walked the night’s second batter as well, it seemed more than just out-of-character. And when Ross proceeded to give up two runs in the bottom of the first and then three more in the bottom of the second to the White Sox, the red

Baker to Turner: “The world’s going to be yours at some point”

CHICAGO - Dusty Baker had a simple, but important, message for Trea Turner upon sending the young infielder back to Triple-A Syracuse following his weekend stint in the big leagues. “The world is yours,” Baker said he told Turner. “All you’ve got to do is live and breathe and stay healthy, and the world’s going to be yours at some point in time.” Promoted from

Game 58 lineups: Nats at White Sox

CHICAGO - Hello from the South Side, where the Nationals are appearing for the first time since the John McLaren Era. For those who have forgotten, that was June 24-26, 2011, when McLaren served as Nats manager for three games following Jim Riggleman’s surprise resignation and before Davey Johnson took over, and proceeded to go 2-1 against the White Sox. That technically makes McLaren the

Tuesday morning notes as Nats prepare to face White Sox

Some Tuesday morning odds and ends to whet your appetite before the Nationals open their three-game interleague series against the White Sox in Chicago (to which I am currently en route)... * The Nationals are catching a break this week when it comes to the White Sox’s rotation ... sort of. The good news: They’re missing both Chris Sale (9-2, 2.54 ERA) and Jose Quintana

Lombardozzi back in Nats system, Harper’s brother promoted

Steve Lombardozzi is returning to the Nationals organization, signing a minor league contract after re-establishing himself this season playing independent ball in Waldorf. Lombardozzi will report to Triple-A Syracuse. He’s not on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. A 19th-round pick in the 2008 draft, Lombardozzi became one of the Nats’ top prospects and made his major league debut in September 2011. The Columbia native wound up

Zimmerman returns from paternity leave, Turner back to Triple-A

The Nationals reinstated Ryan Zimmerman off the paternity leave list this morning and optioned Trea Turner back to Triple-A Syracuse, a move that was expected all along but nonetheless raised the question once again of the organization’s plan for its top infield prospect. Zimmerman was required to return to the active roster after spending the maximum three days on paternity leave following the birth of

Nationals bench driven to continue collective success

PHILADEPHIA - It is, most agree, the toughest job in baseball. Come off the bench cold late in a game, to face a reliever probably throwing at least 95 mph, in a big spot that figures to dramatically affect whether your team wins or loses. Pinch-hitting is not for the faint of heart, which is why the Nationals are grateful to have assembled a particularly

Daniel Murphy wins NL Player of Month honors for May

Bryce Harper was National League Player of the Month for April. Now Daniel Murphy is NL Player of the Month for May, continuing the Nationals’ impressive run through the early portion of the 2016 season. Murphy earned his honor after a remarkable month in which he hit .416 with seven homers, 23 RBIs and a .673 slugging percentage in 29 games. His 47 hits recorded

Ramos developing into baseball’s best-hitting catcher in 2016

PHILADELPHIA - As each day passes and Wilson Ramos continues to produce at the plate like never before, the rest of the Nationals only find themselves more and more impressed with a catcher who has managed to elevate his game to lofty new heights this season. “Extremely impressive,” right-hander Max Scherzer said. “Because those guys are back there grinding and taking balls off the forearm

Nats rounding into form as season moves into third month

PHILADELPHIA - On nights like this, when Max Scherzer is dealing and guys are producing up and down the lineup to complete a road series sweep, the Nationals have the look of an elite ballclub. Maybe the competition - the suddenly sliding Phillies - wasn’t the stiffest, but the Nationals still have to play everyone on the schedule. And so this 7-2 victory at Citizens

Nationals thump Phillies 7-2 to start road trip with sweep

PHILADELPHIA - The weather’s heating up, the Nationals are starting to drive the ball out of the park and Max Scherzer is striking out batters left and right. With homers from Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa, plus a string of extra-base hits, the Nationals gave Scherzer plenty of cushion with which to pitch. And the ace right-hander responded with a dominant performance during a 7-2

Scherzer sharp early, Zimmerman drives in run (Nats win 7-2)

PHILADELPHIA - Max Scherzer appears to have his good stuff, and his mound strut, going early tonight, which could mean trouble for the Phillies. Scherzer is through three scoreless innings, allowing just two singles while striking out five as the right-hander attempts to pitch the Nationals to a series sweep at Citizens Bank Park. Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double in the top of the first gave

Pregame notes on Harper, Zimmerman and Belisle

PHILADELPHIA - Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals lineup for the second consecutive day, his right knee still sore after getting hit by a pitch two nights ago, though the club is hopeful he’ll be ready to return for Friday night’s series opener in Cincinnati. Harper did take some swings in the batting cage this afternoon for the first time since getting hurt, but

Game 54 lineups: Nats at Phillies

PHILADELPHIA - The Nationals are going for a series sweep tonight at Citizens Bank Park, but they’ll have to do it without the services of Bryce Harper once again. Harper remains out of the lineup, two days after taking a fastball off the outside of his right knee. This again isn’t a huge shock. Harper said the knee didn’t feel any better yesterday than it

Harper leads early All-Star voting, Murphy second at second base

PHILADELPHIA - The first round of National League All-Star voting was released this afternoon, and for the first time the Nationals have a legitimate shot of having two starters in the game. Bryce Harper leads all NL outfielders early on, with 838,599 votes. Daniel Murphy, meanwhile, ranks second at second base with 488,468 votes. Wilson Ramos, who is fifth among catchers with 209,949 votes, is

Wednesday morning Q&A from Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA - Is it really June already? How did that happen? Tonight the Nationals play their 54th game of the season, officially the one-third point of the 162-game marathon, and it certainly feels like things have flown by so far. There has been a lot of good for this team so far (Bryce Harper’s April, Daniel Murphy’s April and May, Stephen Strasburg’s perfect record, stellar

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