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Nationals drop opener to Braves 4-2, fall out of first place (updated)

ATLANTA - The mild-mannered crowd of 22,380 at this second-year ballpark in the suburbs didn’t much convey it, but tonight’s game between the Nationals and Braves was the biggest matchup of these division rivals in at least four years, with first place at stake. Then again, the visiting club that has ruled the National League East for the better part of six seasons now didn’t

Runs aplenty early on in big series opener (Nats lose 4-2)

ATLANTA - In the opener of their big weekend series with the Braves, the Nationals have played some small ball to get on the board. Atlanta, on the other hand, has piled up hits to take the lead. The Nats scored two runs in the first three innings with the benefit of only three hits, all singles. Rather, it was two walks, two stolen bases

Madson returns to roster, Goodwin appears to be next up

ATLANTA - The Nationals are getting the first of their key injured players back tonight, with Ryan Madson activated off the disabled list. And more appear to be coming, with Brian Goodwin likely joining the club this weekend and Daniel Murphy and Matt Grace not too far behind. Madson was added back to the active roster in time for tonight’s opener against the Braves, the

Game 55 lineups: Nats at Braves (Madson activated)

ATLANTA - And a very pleasant good afternoon to you from SunTrust Park, here in beautiful unincorporated Atlanta. The hometown Braves have been among the biggest surprises in baseball so far, with the youngest roster in the sport playing an exciting brand of ball and (until last night) holding first place in the National League East division. That changed last night when the Nationals finished

With contributions from many, Nats have climbed back in NL East

BALTIMORE - For a few minutes Tuesday night, the Nationals found themselves tied for first place in the National League East division. And with the Braves trailing the Mets late, the Nats were on the verge of taking over sole possession of the top spot in the division for the first time since the season’s first week. A Mets bullpen collapse prevented that from happening,

Newcomers and old standbys deliver for Nats bullpen in win

BALTIMORE - As he watched his team squander opportunity after opportunity to tack on runs and give themselves something more than a 3-2 cushion this evening, Davey Martinez couldn’t help but start worrying this was going to come back to haunt his Nationals before their game against the Orioles was complete. “You always think that when you have so many chances to score runs and

Ex-Orioles give Nats lead, bullpen hangs on for 3-2 win

BALTIMORE - A couple of ex-Orioles helped the Nationals take a 3-2 lead tonight at Camden Yards. A bunch of relievers then made sure that razor-thin lead held up the rest of the way. Behind five strong innings from Jeremy Hellickson, Mark Reynolds’ latest homer and then four scoreless innings from their ever-changing bullpen, the Nationals eked out a one-run victory to earn their second

Madson, Grace on track to return this weekend

BALTIMORE - The Nationals expect to get two key relievers back on their active roster this weekend. Ryan Madson and Matt Grace each have taken significant steps in recent days in their rehab from injuries, and each is on track to come off the disabled list for this weekend’s series in Atlanta. Madson, out since May 17 with a right pectoral strain, threw off a

Game 53 lineups: Nats at Orioles

BALTIMORE - Jeremy Hellickson’s two months as an Oriole late last summer were, to put it bluntly, not good. You can’t sugarcoat a 6.97 ERA in 10 starts. Hellickson’s first two months as a National, however, have been nothing short of brilliant. You can’t describe a 2.13 ERA in seven starts any other way. Tonight, Hellickson gets a chance to show Baltimore how far he’s

One week in, Soto showing he can make adjustments

BALTIMORE - Anthony Rendon knows a thing or two about trying to thrive in the major leagues after getting rushed through the minor leagues. The Nationals third baseman accrued only 326 plate appearances over 79 minor league games in 2012 and early 2013 before getting his first promotion to Washington. It was a fast track, to be sure, but Rendon also had three seasons at

Gonzalez morphing into one of MLB’s most consistent starters

BALTIMORE - For all his big-picture success in seven seasons with the Nationals, Gio Gonzalez is never going to earn praise for his consistency. The left-hander’s erratic performance from start to start - sometimes even from inning to inning - can drive anyone mad. Here’s a dirty little secret for anyone who still feels that way about Gonzalez, though: He has become one of the

Nats shut out O’s 6-0 thanks to Gonzalez’s gem, Rendon’s blast

BALTIMORE - The Nationals lineup, which has been hit-or-miss throughout an injury-plagued season, showed up in full force today at Camden Yards. Gio Gonzalez, who has been outstanding from the get-go, also showed up. Together, they overwhelmed the Orioles during a 6-0 victory to kick off this year’s version of the Battle of the Beltways. Gonzalez was brilliant in yet another impressive performance, tossing 7

Rendon’s blast draws cheers from dugout, stands (Nats win 6-0)

BALTIMORE - The Nationals had never faced Alex Cobb before today, and the first time through the lineup it looked that way. But once they had a chance to see the veteran right-hander up close and personal, the Nats turned things around in a hurry. Shut down by Cobb through the first two innings of today’s game at Camden Yards, the Nationals came to life

Martinez hoping Murphy will be activated “fairly soon”

BALTIMORE - After two months of waiting and waiting for positive injury news, the Nationals may be on the verge of getting one of their most important injured players back at long last. Daniel Murphy spent the last two days rehabbing for Double-A Harrisburg and emerged from it with his surgically repaired right knee in good shape. The Nationals aren’t offering up any firm timetable

Game 52 lineups: Nats at Orioles

BALTIMORE - No, it’s not the most important sporting event today involving a team from Washington, but it’s still the first game of this year’s Battle of the Beltways, and that’s not bad. The Nationals and Orioles renew their annual interleague rivalry this afternoon under gray (and surprisingly chilly) skies, and these two franchises are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum right now. The

Nationals finally get first look at Marlins this weekend

The Nationals are set to do something tonight for the first time this season. No, they won’t be fielding an entirely healthy lineup. That milestone will have to wait for another day down the road. The Nats will, however, be facing the Marlins for the first time in 2018. Even though the 2018 season is nearly one-third complete. In one of several odd quirks to

Nationals’ bond with Stanley Cup-bound Capitals is genuine

Davey Martinez, as he has done every time for the last month he’s met with reporters on the same day the Capitals have been in a Stanley Cup Playoffs game, walked into the press conference room at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon wearing his custom-made No. 4 Caps jersey and cap. Asked for a prediction for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Nationals

Fedde leaves positive impression, despite end result

The result - a 3-1 loss to the Padres - was frustrating, no question. If the Nationals can take a step back and view today’s game with a wider lens, though, they’ll come away with a much more positive vibe. No, they didn’t do nearly enough at the plate against Tyson Ross, Craig Stammen and Brad Hand, who combined to allow one run on seven

Nats can’t muster enough offense to support Fedde in 3-1 loss

The Nationals continue to get excellent starting pitching. But as has too often been the case, great starting pitching doesn’t count for much without competent offense and defense. So even though Erick Fedde continued the rotation’s strong run this afternoon over 5 2/3 impressive innings, the Nationals were left to stew over a 3-1 loss to the Padres because they managed only seven hits against

Soto moved up in lineup, Torres dropped from roster (Nats lose 3-1)

He homered and singled in his first major league start. He singled and walked three times in his second major league start. So when it came time to figure out where to bat Juan Soto in his third major league start, Davey Martinez decided to throw a new challenge at the 19-year old: The No. 2 spot in the lineup. Soto will hit in that

Game 48 lineups: Nats vs. Padres

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Erick Fedde in a big league game. The Nationals’ top pitching prospect made three starts here last summer with mixed results, and then was shut down with a forearm strain. Fedde has returned this season with increased velocity, though, and even though his 4.57 ERA at Triple-A Syracuse isn’t going to turn any heads, club officials have been

No homers, but impressive patience from Soto

Did the Padres give Juan Soto the Barry Bonds/Bryce Harper treatment in his second big league start? San Diego manager Andy Green insisted it wasn’t by design, but of the 14 pitches his staff threw to the 19-year-old Nationals phenom Tuesday night, 12 were out of the strike zone. And all 12 came during three plate appearances, each resulting in a four-pitch walk. “We definitely

After brutally difficult month, Taylor finally gets his moments

As 25,700 fans roared in the stands, as Juan Soto scampered across the plate and as a stream of Nationals came bursting out of the dugout and made a beeline for him, Michael A. Taylor simply stood on second base. He gazed out toward center field, where his double off the wall had just given the Nationals a 2-1, walk-off win over the Padres and

Taylor leads Nats to 2-1 win with his arm and then his bat

There’s a reason Michael A. Taylor remains in the Nationals lineup, even when his batting average drops into the .180s and his strikeout totals pile up. He’s in there because of his defense. And if he happens to deliver a big hit in a key moment ... well, they’ll take that, too. So on a night in which offense was at an extreme premium, the

Madson throws for first time since landing on DL

When Ryan Madson made three appearances in four days against the Diamondbacks earlier this month, his velocity up from previous outings, the veteran reliever was as encouraged as he had been all season about the way he was pitching and the way his arm felt. Then on the flight home from Arizona, Madson felt a cramp in his right pectoral muscle. And a week later,

Game 47 lineups: Nats vs. Padres

Don’t shoot the messenger here, but I feel obligated to inform you that there’s a line of thunderstorms approaching from the west as we speak, and so there’s a chance tonight’s game is going to be impacted. Doesn’t appear like this is going to be a complete washout, but the start could be delayed, depending on the timing of this whole thing. Assuming they do

Collins tosses scoreless inning in long-awaited MLB return

Tim Collins doesn’t particularly enjoy waiting around for his name to be called out of the bullpen. Life as a reliever is tough enough, all the more so when you find yourself in a major league bullpen for the first time in four seasons as the left-hander did Monday night. Thankfully, Collins’ name was called during the Nationals’ 10-2 victory over the Padres. He had

With one big blast, Soto makes a memory for parents, Nats

When he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon for the first at-bat of his major league career, Juan Soto understandably felt a little out of sorts. “I was really nervous,” the 19-year-old outfielder said. “I was just saying: ‘Oh, my god. ...’ I was just trying to breathe down and do my job.” The previous 24 hours had been a whirlwind

Behind Soto’s historic homer, Nats cruise to 10-2 win over Padres

All it took to get an injury-depleted Nationals lineup going was the addition of 19-year-old Juan Soto. Well, that and a matchup with a Padres left-hander making only his second start of the season. Behind Soto’s historic first career homer, plus a pair of additional blasts by Mark Reynolds and Bryce Harper, the Nationals jumped all over San Diego fill-in starter Robbie Erlin and cruised

Soto gets first chance to start, Eaton starts throwing again

Davey Martinez wanted to give a heads-up to Juan Soto about his plans for tonight’s game, so the first-year manager texted the 19-year-old slugger this morning and told him he would be in the Nationals’ lineup for the first time, starting in left field and batting sixth against the Padres. A few hours later, when Martinez arrived in the clubhouse at Nationals Park, Soto immediately

Game 46 lineups: Nats vs. Padres (Collins joins bullpen)

The Nationals said Juan Soto would play. And play he will. The 19-year-old slugging sensation is making his first MLB start this evening, batting sixth and playing left field even against Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin. Davey Martinez held the kid out of Sunday’s lineup against another lefty, Alex Wood, but the book on Soto is that he can handle left-handed pitching, so he’s about to

More on Doolittle, Scherzer and Soto

Whew, that turned out to be some eventful Saturday at Nationals Park. Most of what transpired both on and off the field was not positive, but the night-capping news that Juan Soto is getting called up today to make his major league debut at 19 at least was a small ray of sunshine on an otherwise dismal day. We covered all the news elsewhere, but

Kendrick out for year with ruptured Achilles, Soto to be promoted

Howie Kendrick, the Nationals and everybody inside the ballpark who watched the veteran left fielder crumple to the ground and grab his lower right leg this afternoon knew this probably was a serious injury. By the end of the night, they all knew just how serious: Kendrick needs season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. That diagnosis was announced by manager Davey Martinez minutes

Nats’ furious rally wasted after Doolittle blows first save (updated)

They got the gutsiest effort of the season from Max Scherzer. They got a furious, four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to give themselves a lead for the first time tonight. But the Nationals could not get the final three outs from Sean Doolittle before giving the lead back to the Dodgers. And because of all that, the Nats trudged off the field

Kendrick goes on 10-day DL with Achilles injury (Nats lose 5-4)

Though they’re still waiting for a final diagnosis, the Nationals decided not to wait any longer and placed Howie Kendrick on the 10-day disabled list and promote right-hander Jefry Rodriguez from Double-A Harrisburg in time for the second game of today’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. Kendrick, who was injured after making what appeared to be a routine catch at the base of the left field

Game 44 lineups: Nats vs. Dodgers

And we’re back, for the nightcap of today’s doubleheader against the Dodgers. The Nationals didn’t get much going at the plate in the opener against Ross Stripling, and now they’ll have to try to get back on track tonight against Rich Hill, with Howie Kendrick no longer available. Kendrick suffered what looked like a serious right lower leg injury in the top of the eighth

Kendrick suffers apparent serious right leg injury (updated)

The Nationals’ already thin outfield lost another key player today when Howie Kendrick appeared to suffer a significant right lower leg injury making a catch in the top of the eighth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Dodgers. Kendrick retreated to the wall to catch what otherwise was a routine fly ball by Los Angeles first baseman Max Muncy, then threw

Wieters’ return to D.C., Murphy’s return to spring games delayed

This week’s terrible weather in Washington hasn’t just prevented the Nationals from playing baseball, it has prevented them from seeing Matt Wieters in person in the wake of his major hamstring surgery. Wieters, who had the surgery Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas, was unable to make it back to town today due to flight delays caused by the storms that have limited the Nationals to

Nats have some time to make catching decisions

The immediate reaction to Thursday’s news of Matt Wieters’ hamstring surgery was to wonder how quickly Mike Rizzo will be on the phone in search of another catcher. Those phone calls undoubtedly will occur, but don’t count on any major moves being made within a matter of days. In all likelihood, the Nationals won’t be in a position to acquire a catcher until later this

Wieters expected to miss significant time after hamstring surgery

Matt Wieters had surgery Wednesday to repair his left hamstring, the Nationals announced today, a major procedure that figures to sideline the veteran catcher until at least late in the season, if not through the remainder of the season. The Nationals offered no timeline yet for Wieters’ recovery, saying only that they “will provide more information when Matt returns to Washington, D.C. and is evaluated

Wednesday’s games postponed, makeups on June 18

So much for the Nationals and Yankees trying to play 1 1/3 games tonight. Despite hopes of completing the final three innings of Tuesday’s suspended game at 5:05 p.m., then proceeding with their regularly scheduled game at 7:05 p.m., all baseball for the evening was postponed due to the forecast of continued rain throughout the rest of the day. According to a message posted on

Game 43 resumed: Nats vs. Yankees

It’s a beautiful day for baseball ... let’s play 1 1/3! Well, that’s what the Nationals and Yankees will try to do. The forecast obviously isn’t great, but they’re preparing to resume last night’s suspended game at 5:05 p.m. and then play the originally scheduled game at 7:05 p.m. Whether any or all of that happens remains to be seen. Stay tuned. A reminder regarding

Game suspended in sixth, to be resumed at 5:05 p.m. Wednesday

The Nationals and Yankees traded blows for 5 1/2 innings tonight on South Capitol Street, all the while knowing a massive storm was approaching and was likely to prevent the full nine innings from being played. Sure enough, once the heavy stuff began falling in the middle of the sixth and never eased up, the game was officially suspended with the Nats and Yanks tied

Eaton encouraged after surgery, wants to return in six weeks

Adam Eaton has heard the reactions since he woke up from arthroscopic surgery Thursday in Green Bay and the baseball world was informed of the procedure he had to remove a flap of cartilage from his left ankle. Today, the Nationals outfielder sought to allay fears that came with that news by declaring his goal to return to the active roster in six weeks. “It’s

Game 43 lineups: Nats vs. Yankees

Hello from South Capitol Street, where the Nationals are home for the next week-and-a-half, hosting a pair of marquee opponents (Yankees, Dodgers) and then the Padres. The matchups don’t get much bigger than what’s on tap the next two nights (weather permitting). No two teams in baseball are hotter right now than the Nats (who have won 13 of 15) and the Yanks (who have

How the Nationals have won 13 of 15 and righted their ship

At the end of play on April 28, the Nationals didn’t very much look like a legitimate contender. With an 11-16 record, they found themselves in fourth place in the National League East, a full six games back of the first-place Mets, a full 4 1/2 games back of the third-place Braves. Only three teams in the NL had worse records, and all were among

Monday morning Q&A from 33,000 feet above America

So I’m flying home from Phoenix today, and what better way to pass the time than by chatting with all of you! (Who needs Netflix?) There’s plenty to discuss at the end of an eventful road trip that included a 6-1 record, a bunch of injures, dominant pitching performances, surprising offensive performances and six trips by Nationals relievers on the Chase Field bullpen cart. My

After long winter, spring at home, Reynolds debuts with a bang

PHOENIX - As he sat around his house in Charlotte, N.C., all winter - and well into the spring, for that matter - Mark Reynolds battled conflicting emotions. There certainly was a relaxing element to all this, with an opportunity to coach his kids, play golf and enjoy an actual spring break for the first time “since I probably was, like, 8,” he said. And

Reynolds powers Nats to 6-4 win, four-game sweep of D-backs

PHOENIX - For a month and a half now, the Nationals have overcome a host of injuries to regulars thanks to some unlikely performances from guys who they’ve been forced to add to their big league roster along the way. Mark Reynolds just joined that club tonight with a most impressive debut in a most familiar setting. Reynolds, the veteran slugger who played the first

After near misses, Harper finally homers in Arizona (Nats win 6-4)

PHOENIX - Bryce Harper spent all weekend crushing pitches to every corner of Chase Field without having anything to show for it. Finally, tonight he launched one farther than the park or its newly installed humidor could contain. With a green light on a 3-0 pitch from Zack Godley in the top of the third, Harper sent a 448-foot home run soaring into the back

Scherzer to face Yanks, Rendon gets day off thanks to Reynolds

PHOENIX - An unusual quirk in the schedule this week gave the Nationals the option to tweak their rotation, and they’ve decided to take advantage of it and move Max Scherzer up in the order so he can face the Yankees. With off-days scheduled for both Monday and Thursday around the two-day interleague series at Nationals Park, the team was afforded the chance to either

Game 42 lineups: Nats at Diamondbacks

PHOENIX - What a weekend it’s been for the Nationals. They learned Adam Eaton needed arthroscopic ankle surgery. They lost Matt Wieters to a hamstring strain (and possibly a knee injury as well). They lost Ryan Zimmerman to an oblique strain. Not good, any of that. Oh, and they also won the first three games of this series against the best team in the National

On Strasburg’s velocity, outs on the bases and blocking the plate

PHOENIX - More from Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Diamondbacks to help tide you over before the Nationals’ series finale on Sunday Night Baseball ... * When Stephen Strasburg was giving up frozen-rope singles and then plunking opposing batters in the bottom of the first, all with a fastball that was registering only 92-93 mph, a few red flags went up in the Nationals dugout.

SolĂ­s, Kelley, Madson finish off another close win for Nats

PHOENIX - Much as he wants to hand the ball to Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle every chance he gets while holding a slim lead late in games, Davey Martinez knows those three elite relievers won’t make it to September if he keeps calling their names over and over and over. No, there are five other relievers sitting in that bullpen every night,

Behind “B” bullpen, Nationals eke out 2-1 win over D-backs

PHOENIX - If the Nationals are going to insist on playing low-scoring, tight ballgames every night, Davey Martinez is going to have no choice but to ask the members of his “B” bullpen to record some key late outs every once in a while. Such was the case this afternoon at Chase Field, where Brandon Kintzler and Sean Doolittle were unavailable after pitching the previous

Zimmerman to DL with oblique strain, Reynolds called up (Nats win 2-1)

PHOENIX - The sore back that prevented Ryan Zimmerman from playing in five of the Nationals’ last seven games has now landed him on the disabled list. The Nationals placed Zimmerman on the 10-day DL today with what the club called a right oblique strain and purchased the contract of veteran slugger Mark Reynolds from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place and provide another right-handed

Game 41 lineups: Nats at Diamondbacks

PHOENIX - With two games left to play, the Nationals have already locked up a winning record on this seven-game road trip through San Diego and Arizona. They’d like to do even better than that, though, and today they have an opportunity to take three in a row from the Diamondbacks, owners of the National League’s best record to date. Stephen Strasburg takes the mound

With Wieters on DL, Severino ready to take over as top catcher

PHOENIX - For several years, Pedro Severino has been waiting for an opportunity to show the Nationals what he can do catching in the big leagues on a regular basis. And for several years, the Nats have been intrigued at the prospect of Severino playing on a regular basis but unwilling to go all-in on him while trying to contend for a title. They have

With early escape, Scherzer sets tone in Nationals’ latest win

PHOENIX - Max Scherzer likes to say that a starter’s outings are most defined by his final 15 pitches. And so often that has been the case for the Nationals ace during his remarkable and sustained run of excellence. Sometimes, though, the most important pitches come earlier. Much earlier. As he proved tonight during the Nationals’ 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks, Scherzer’s first 15 pitches

Scherzer piling up strikeouts and RBIs (Nats win 3-1)

PHOENIX - Strikeouts may be up across baseball, but Max Scherzer is taking it to levels few ever dreamed of reaching. On the heels of a 15-strikeout performance in his most recent start, Scherzer already has eight of them through three innings tonight against the Diamondbacks. Not that the Nationals ace has been perfect, far from it. He had to pitch out of jams in

Wieters placed on 10-day DL, Kieboom promoted (updated)

PHOENIX - The Nationals, as expected, placed Matt Wieters on the 10-day disabled list today with a left hamstring strain, though the club has not yet announced what this morning’s MRI of the catcher’s injured left leg revealed. Wieters hurt himself rounding first base during the top of the second inning of Thursday night’s 2-1, 11-inning win over the Diamondbacks, his left leg buckling. Afterward,

Game 40 lineups: Nats at Diamondbacks

PHOENIX - It was only a few weeks ago when the Nationals kept needing Max Scherzer to be their stopper and put an end to losing streaks. Now they just want their ace to keep the team rolling while it’s playing some exceptional baseball. Tonight the Nationals seek their 11th win in 13 games, a sustained hot streak that has allowed them to move from

Doolittle rides bullpen cart, raves about its benefits

PHOENIX - It wasn’t anywhere close to the most important thing that happened Thursday for the Nationals, paling in comparison to Adam Eaton’s ankle surgery, Matt Wieters’ hamstring and/or knee injury, Tanner Roark’s outstanding seven-inning start, Matt Adams’ RBI single in the 11th or the overall bullpen effort that made the Nationals’ 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks possible. But it certainly qualified as the most

Nats pull out 11-inning win after Wieters suffers injury

PHOENIX - The day began with news that Adam Eaton had arthroscopic surgery to remove a flap of cartilage causing pain in his left ankle, a procedure that will keep the injured left fielder out for an indeterminate amount of time longer than the month he already has missed. Then came the top of the second, and the latest malady for a Nationals club that

Wieters departs with apparent knee injury (Nats win 2-1 in 11)

PHOENIX - A Nationals club that already has dealt with long-term injuries to multiple key regulars this season just saw another one go down to a potentially serious injury. Matt Wieters appeared to injure his left knee after taking a wide turn around first base on his second-inning single tonight at Chase Field, leaving a Nats organization woefully thin on catching depth in a possible

Eaton has surgery to remove cartilage flap from ankle

PHOENIX - A month after losing him to what they hoped was a minor ankle injury, the Nationals finally figured out what exactly was wrong with Adam Eaton. That’s the good news. The bad news: It required surgery to figure it out. Eaton had arthroscopic surgery today in Green Bay, Wis., to remove a flap of cartilage that didn’t show up in any of the

Game 39 lineups: Nats at Diamondbacks

PHOENIX - To say it’s slightly warmer here than it was in San Diego when last we spoke is a mild understatement. It’s 104 degrees at the moment - it was 67 degrees at first pitch last night at Petco Park - but the good news is they just closed the massive roof here at Chase Field (which it appears won’t be the home of

On middle relief woes and Harper’s chance that never was

SAN DIEGO - Some more thoughts, observations and reactions from Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Padres before heading to Arizona for a four-game weekend series ... * The Achilles’ heel of the Nationals’ roster is no secret. It’s been on display throughout the season’s first month-plus, and it’s a carryover from the 2017 season: the middle portion of their bullpen. And it reared its

With chance to sweep Padres, Nationals lose another close one

SAN DIEGO - On a night when Bryce Harper was held out of the lineup for the first time this season, when Gio Gonzalez needed 59 pitches just to get through his first two innings and the Nationals managed only one run off a rookie starter, the mere fact they were in prime position to beat the Padres late was telling. The fact they couldn’t

Gonzalez up to his old tricks escaping jams (Nats lose 2-1)

SAN DIEGO - At this point, there’s no sense agonizing when Gio Gonzalez gets himself into early jams and racks up a high pitch count. It may frustrate everyone wearing a Nationals uniform, or rooting for them, but Gonzalez has shown time and again he’ll find a way to get out of the trouble with minimal, if any, damage. Gonzalez is up to his old

Why Martinez chose tonight to sit Harper for the first time

SAN DIEGO - Bryce Harper joked a few times recently about wanting to be an “Iron Man” and play in all 162 of the Nationals’ games this season. Deep down, the star slugger knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was only a matter of time before he got a day off. And that day is today. With a left-hander on the mound for the

Game 38 lineups: Nats at Padres

SAN DIEGO - It was going to happen eventually. And given the circumstances, tonight made a lot of sense for Bryce Harper to get his first day of the season off. Manager Davey Martinez made the decision to rest Harper, who is on an 0-for-19 slump and now batting only .230 (albeit with a .410 on-base percentage and .951 OPS). With left-hander Joey Lucchesi on

On Harper’s slump, Hellickson’s stuff and Madson’s early usage

SAN DIEGO - Some more thoughts, observations and reactions after Tuesday night’s 4-0 win over the Padres ... * On a night in which all of the Nationals’ runs were driven in by guys batting sixth (Matt Adams), seventh (Pedro Severino) or eighth (Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Stevenson), Bryce Harper again took an oh-fer out of the leadoff spot. With an 0-for-4, two-strikeout game, Harper extended

Behind gem from Hellickson, Nats win for ninth time in 10 games

SAN DIEGO - It’s easy to gloss over Jeremy Hellickson in a star-studded Nationals rotation. He doesn’t have the stuff to match Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg. He doesn’t have the wipeout curveball of Gio Gonzalez. He doesn’t have the bulldog reputation of Tanner Roark. Here’s what Hellickson does have: motivation. After sitting around all winter and the majority of the spring looking for work

Hellickson dominating Padres at Petco Park (Nats win 4-0)

SAN DIEGO - If Jeremy Hellickson wanted to make sure he gets to face a lineup for the third time, he’s sure doing everything he can tonight to keep Davey Martinez in the dugout and the Nationals bullpen quiet. Hellickson has retired the first 15 Padres batters he’s faced, cruising through five perfect innings on only 69 pitches. The veteran right-hander, who has pre-emptively been

How Matt Wieters has become an elite throwing catcher again

SAN DIEGO - Managers will always say a pitcher is more responsible for the opposition’s success stealing bases than the catcher who actually makes the throws. If a pitcher can’t vary his timing and can’t deliver the ball to the plate in short order with a runner on base, the catcher can’t do much to make up for lost time, no matter how strong his

Game 37 lineups: Nats at Padres

SAN DIEGO - The Nationals have a chance tonight to win their third consecutive series, and Jeremy Hellickson has a chance tonight to actually receive his first decision of the season and maybe even face an opposing lineup a third time. Hellickson has pitched quite well for the Nats, posting a 3.00 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in four starts. But he has yet to complete

Turner finally makes debut in San Diego ... and homers

SAN DIEGO - Trea Turner had hit at Petco Park once before, in September 2014, when the Padres brought their first-round draft pick to town at the end of his abbreviated first minor league season to get a look at him and give him a chance to take batting practice in the ballpark everyone assumed he’d be calling home in short order. Nearly four years

Adams caps brilliant week with another big night in Nats’ 8-5 win

SAN DIEGO - Matt Adams signed with the Nationals over the winter, understanding what would be expected of him from his new team. There wasn’t a guaranteed starting job for the big slugger, only the promise that he’d get some starts at first base and in left field and a whole lot of pinch-hit appearances late in games against right-handed relievers. There was, however, a

Turner goes deep in long-awaited Petco Park debut (Nats win 8-5)

SAN DIEGO - Padres fans always expected to watch Trea Turner do something special in his first game at Petco Park. They just wish it didn’t happen wearing a visiting team’s jersey. Turner, the former San Diego first-round pick dealt along with Joe Ross to the Nationals in the controversial 2014 trade, connected for a first-inning homer tonight to give Washington an early 1-0 lead

Kelley activated off DL, Zimmerman expects to return Tuesday

SAN DIEGO - The Nationals have Shawn Kelley back in their bullpen tonight. And they expect to have Ryan Zimmerman back in their lineup Tuesday night. Kelley was activated off the 10-day disabled list this afternoon, one day after completing a six-pitch rehab assignment for Single-A Potomac and only 14 days after he walked off the mound in San Francisco suffering from what some feared

Game 36 lineups: Nats at Padres

SAN DIEGO - It’s about 70 degrees, without a cloud in the sky, a gentle breeze coming off the bay ... yes, this is a tough assignment for the next three night, but someone had to do it. The Nationals open their second West Coast trip in three weeks tonight, beginning here in San Diego and continuing this weekend in Arizona. Having already visited Los

On Rendon’s return, Gott’s injury and Adams’ robbery

Some news and notes to tide you over before the Nationals return to the field this afternoon against the Phillies, seeking to extend their winning streak to seven games ... * Though nothing was formally announced Friday night, Anthony Rendon is all but certain to be activated off the disabled list today. The Nationals third baseman completed his second rehab game with Single-A Potomac, going

Nats remind Phillies who’s still boss with sixth straight win

For six years, the Phillies - once the titans of the National League East - have been forced to watch the Nationals seize control of this division and undergo their own long and painful rebuild. That dynamic could change at some point, though, and the folks from Southeast Pennsylvania are hoping this is the year it happens, with a young and talented roster beginning to

Harper and Adams still launching homers (Nats win 7-3)

Bryce Harper is never going to want to give up the leadoff spot in the Nationals’ lineup. And Matt Adams is never going to want to give up the No. 3 spot. The two left-handed sluggers are doing it again tonight, combining for three home runs through the first two innings of what is already shaping up to be another Nats rout. Harper led off

Rendon could return Saturday, Kelley and Grace getting closer

Anthony Rendon is playing third base for the Potomac Nationals tonight. If all goes well, he’ll be playing third base for the Washington Nationals tomorrow. After taking five plate appearances as the designated hitter Thursday night in Woodbridge, Rendon is again in the P-Nats’ lineup tonight, batting third and this time playing third base. Manager Davey Martinez said he will get three or four at-bats,

Game 33 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

The Nationals already have had a chance to take on two of their potential challengers in the National League East division this season in the Mets and Braves. Tonight they’ll get their first look at the Phillies, who after a long and at times painful rebuild appear to have turned the corner and look ready to contend. Gabe Kapler’s first week on the job was

How Doolittle made sure he could handle a five-out save

As he entered from the bullpen and took the mound with one out in the top of the eighth Thursday afternoon, Sean Doolittle knew two things to be true: 1. He was going to need to record five outs to earn the save and seal a Nationals victory over the Pirates. 2. Before he could even think about the final three outs, he was going

With quick hooks, Nationals are getting Hellickson’s best

Time was when 61 pitches through 5 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball wouldn’t prompt anyone seated in a bullpen to so much as stretch his legs. These, however, are different times. Teams across the sport are pulling their starters - especially fourth and fifth starters - before they have a chance to face an opposing lineup the third time through, no matter how effective and

Nats ride late homers, bullpen escape act to sweep of Pirates

The exact situation practically was proposed to Davey Martinez 90 minutes before Jeremy Hellickson threw his first pitch of the day. Given the right-hander’s propensity to fade quickly when he faces an opposing lineup for the third time in a game, Martinez was asked before today’s series finale what he would do if Hellickson was performing well with a low pitch count when the Pirates

Martinez hopes to find days off soon for Harper, Turner

The 162-games-a-year player is nearly extinct. Five big leaguers actually did it last season (Joey Votto, Rougned Odor, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Freddy Galvis) but that was the league’s highest total in a decade. Only one player in Nationals history has done it: Ryan Zimmerman in 2007. And only two others have even reached the 160-game mark in club history: Austin Kearns in 2007, Danny

“Neighborhood Play” reviews irk Strasburg, Nats

For more than a century, the “Neighborhood Play” existed in baseball as sort of an accepted form of breaking the official rules of the game. By the letter of the law, an infielder turning a double play must have his foot on the bag with the ball in his possession before making the throw to first. But throughout the vast majority of the history of

Tweaked lineup stays red-hot in Nats’ 9-3 win (updated)

The unorthodox lineup the Nationals unveiled Tuesday night was supposed to be a temporary one, but perhaps Davey Martinez is going to have to reconsider its long-term potential now. Because although the Nationals’ out-of-nowhere offensive explosion of the last 48 hours might be temporary, there just might be some staying power here as well. With Bryce Harper again leading off, Matt Adams batting third and

Murphy admits he can’t run well enough to play yet

Daniel Murphy today confirmed what was pretty obvious to anyone who watched him work out at Nationals Park yesterday afternoon: His surgically repaired right knee is still in pain when he tries to run, which has left his potential return from the disabled list up in the air. “I’m not in a position where I can run right now to play,” the veteran second baseman

Scherzer wins another NL Pitcher of the Month Award

We might be becoming numb to it at this point, but it’s good to be reminded every once in a while: Max Scherzer is great. And he’s showing no signs of letting up. The 2016 and 2017 National League Cy Young Award winner is already starting to make his case for consideration this season, with a dominant April that today earned him NL Pitcher of

Game 31 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

After watching the team explode for 12 runs with Bryce Harper in the leadoff spot last night, Davey Martinez said he would probably “let it ride” for at least another day. Well, the Nationals manager is a man of his word, because tonight’s lineup looks very similar. Harper indeed is back in the leadoff spot, with Trea Turner and Matt Adams behind him. Ryan Zimmerman

From last spot in lineup, Difo delivers four times

Davey Martinez had Wilmer Difo bat ninth Tuesday night with a specific goal in mind, especially with Bryce Harper batting leadoff for the first time in five years. “Hey, you got one job to do,” the Nationals manager told his young infielder. “And that’s get on base.” Well, technically speaking, Difo did get on base in his first at-bat. He just never stopped rounding them

In unfamiliar leadoff spot, Harper finds familiar power stroke

Bryce Harper was out on the field at 3 p.m. today, joining injured teammates Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy for a round of early batting practice. It’s the kind of a thing a player does when he’s struggling, when he needs to work on some specific techniques or change his mechanics. For Harper, the early BP session had a simpler purpose. “Just hit some homers,”

Lineup shakeup leads to 12-4 blowout win for Nationals

Who knew the best way to induce an offensive explosion from the Nationals’ lineup was to move Bryce Harper to the leadoff position, Matt Adams into Harper’s customary No. 3 spot and drop Wilmer Difo to ninth? Hey, as manager Davey Martinez said the afternoon when asked about the unconventional decision to stick Harper at the top of his lineup: “Why not?” It may not

Murphy cuts workout short after trying to run, and more injury updates

The sight of Daniel Murphy on the field at Nationals Park this afternoon, hitting balls over the fence during batting practice and moving well as he fielded grounders at second base, could be viewed as nothing but encouraging for a team and a fan base desperate for a boost to their struggling lineup. But the sight of Murphy pulling up short of first base as

Game 30 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

What’s this? Do the Nationals have a chance tonight to go on - dare we say it? - a legitimate winning streak? They’ve won two in a row, and now they send Max Scherzer to the mound, a development that has produced a 5-1 record so far this season. Scherzer will need to keep up his winning ways tonight against the Pirates, and he’d certainly

As walks pile up, Harper growing impatient and chasing

With a pair of walks - both intentional - during Monday night’s 3-2 win over the Pirates, Bryce Harper racked up his 37th and 38th free passes of the season. Only Barry Bonds, with 39 in 2004, has ever drawn more walks in March/April. Harper enters May with a .458 on-base percentage, tops in the majors. Which is a good thing. Except Harper isn’t doing

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