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Scherzer's home run problem, failed late-inning rally cost Nats against Brewers

Scherzer's home run problem, failed late-inning rally cost Nats against Brewers

What a difference a week — and one west coast trip — can make.

After a thrilling series victory over the Chicago Cubs in D.C. 10 days ago, the Nationals were riding high as they headed to the left coast for a crucial 10-game road swing. And with back-to-back wins in San Diego to kick things off, it looked like they were poised to pad their lead in the NL East.

But after Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington suddenly finds itself in a season-worst six-game losing skid. During the funk, it seems there's been a constant theme: the offense hasn't produced in big spots, the pitching has been ordinary and the defense has faltered at the most inopportune times

So with that, let's look back at at the Nats' latest setback: 

Scherzer bit by the home run...again: The $210 million ace served up a bit of a mixed bag on Friday night. While Max Scherzer may have notched double-digit strikeouts for third consecutive outing and the sixth time this season, his home run issue still reared its ugly head once again. He allowed the game-tying long ball to Keon Broxton in the fifth inning, and in the following frame gave up the go-ahead two-run shot to Kirk Nieuwenhuis that would put the Brew Crew up for good. In all, he allowed five earned runs on five hits over six laborious innings, throwing 117 pitches. 

Including Friday night's start, Scherzer has allowed 20 home runs in 2016— the most of any pitcher in the big leagues. He’s never yielded more than 29 in a single season, but if he continues at this pace, it looks like that could change pretty soon. Augment his long ball woes that with an uncharacteristically high walk total (he's six away from matching his 2015 mark), and it'd be hard not to acknowledge that it's been a bizarre year thus far for one of the top right-handed starters in the game. 

Offense can't come through late: The Nats' offense continues to scuffle at the worst times, and Friday performance was especially disappointing. Sure, Washington plated three runs in the third inning to go up 3-2, but it couldn't get the big hit it needed late in the game. With the bases loaded and down 5-3 in the top of the eighth inning, the Nats failed to capitalize after a strikeout by Danny Espinosa and a pop out by Clint Robinson ended the most promising rally of the night. The Nats stranded a total of 11 base runners and struck out 16 times. 

Ramos posts another big game: Is it possible that the Nats might have a new batting average leader by the time they return home? With the way Wilson Ramos is swinging it lately, that’s definitely within the realm of possibility. The catcher continued his bid for his first career All-Star nod on Friday night with a four-hit effort to raise his average to .341, just eight points behind Daniel Murphy's NL-leading mark of .349. With free agency looming after the season, the 28-year-old sure picked a good time to be on pace to set career-highs in home runs, RBI and walks. Perhaps LASIK has its new pitchman, yeah?

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.