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Scherzer to start Sunday, miss All-Star Game

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Scherzer to start Sunday, miss All-Star Game

BALTIMORE — Max Scherzer will start Sunday’s first-half finale at Camden Yards, knocking the Nationals’ ace out of Tuesday’s All-Star Game, a decision manager Matt Williams said reflected both his and the right-hander’s priorities.

“It’s a question of him wanting to pitch tomorrow on his normal rest and help us win another game,” Williams said. “We’re here to win games. It’s a great honor for anybody to go pitch in the All-Star Game. But he views it like the most important thing is for him to help us win games.”

Scherzer will still travel to Cincinnati and take part in Monday and Tuesday’s festivities at Great American Ball Park. But he’ll be taken off the NL’s roster, unavailable to pitch and replaced by someone else who doesn’t start Sunday.

The decision had little to do with the All-Star Game itself and more to do with the needs of the club. Scherzer originally was not scheduled to take the mound in this series against the Orioles, but when Stephen Strasburg strained an oblique muscle last weekend, the Nationals’ rotation plans suddenly changed.

Rather than replace Strasburg in the rotation, the Nationals elected to use Thursday’s off-day as a chance to skip that turn and then use everyone else on normal rest. Scherzer, who last pitched Tuesday against the Reds, will be on regular turn for Sunday’s matinee.

“Until Stras got hurt, he wasn’t planned for Sunday,” Williams said. “Sometimes injuries move guys into different spots. But if it was the normal rotation and Stras didn’t get injured, then he wouldn’t have been on tomorrow’s schedule.”

Scherzer, named NL pitcher of the month for both May and June, ranks among the league leaders in most categories, with a 2.12 ERA, 143 strikeouts, only 14 walks and a historic stretch over three starts in which he carried a perfect game into the sixth inning each time and completed a no-hitter against the Pirates.

That resume made Scherzer a strong candidate to start the Midsummer Classic, but he has held that honor before, starting the 2013 game for the AL in New York. He also pitched in last year’s game in Minnesota and earned the win for the AL.

Scherzer’s spot now will replaced on the roster, with Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti left to select another pitcher by Sunday afternoon. Nationals closer Drew Storen would be a logical choice, but Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Reds ace Johnny Cueto also have been waiting for an opening to potentially be added.

“There’s been a conversation,” Williams said with a laugh. “But it’s not our decision. It’s Bruce’s decision and Rags’ decision on who they want to be as part of their team. We can lobby all we want, but they’ll have til tomorrow afternoon to make the final spots. We’ll see.”

Williams wouldn’t reveal rotation plans for the Nationals’ first series post-break (home against Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the Dodgers) but Scherzer would be on normal rest for Friday’s opener if the club wants to maximize his appearances.

MORE: Lost in shuffle, another strong start for Gonzalez

“He’s very important for us, and he will continue to be, even beyond tomorrow,” Williams said. “Looking at the second half, it’s important for us to have him out there as often as we can, keeping in mind that his load has been pretty heavy.”

The 30-year-old leads the NL with 123 1/3 innings pitched and is on pace to throw a career-high 230-plus innings this season. The Nationals are keeping an eye on his workload but have had no reason to be concerned about to this point.

“We’ll take advantage of any off-days that we have in the second half and go from there,” Williams said. “But yeah, we have to understand where he’s at. It’s a little different because there have been more innings, not necessarily more pitches. He’s been really good about limiting his pitch counts. But the innings he has pitched have been not necessarily what he’s used to. That being said, it’s more ups, more times to sit down, more innings that he goes out there and takes the mound. So we’ll monitor. And we talk every time he pitches and into his bullpen about how he’s feeling.”

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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.

RELATED: BRYCE HARPER HOME RUN TRACKER

Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.

RELATED: LATEST MLB POWER RANKINGS

In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."

RELATED: HOW NATS DROPPED FINAL GAME VS. DODGERS

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Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

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USA TODAY

Bullpen falters as Dodgers rally from 3 runs down to top Nationals

LOS ANGELES  -- Although Cody Bellinger's fierce line drive drove in the tying run, it hit the center field wall so quickly that the throw back to the infield beat him to second base.

No problem: Bellinger adroitly avoided the tag with a swim move he learned from watching Mike Trout on television, and the Dodgers kept charging toward the latest win in their comeback surge.

Bellinger followed Yasmani Grandal's two-run double with an RBI double in the sixth, and Corey Seager drove in Austin Barnes with the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Los Angeles' sixth win in seven games, 4-3 over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night.

With smart plays by Bellinger, Barnes and almost everybody else, the Dodgers (10-10) got back to .500 after a rough start for the defending NL champions. They were largely dominated by Jeremy Hellickson until they erased a three-run deficit in the sixth with three big hits from their patchwork lineup.

"There were signs of that old ballclub when we were coming from behind," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "That was good to see."

Los Angeles went ahead shortly after Barnes was hit by a pitch from Trevor Gott (0-1). Barnes wisely advanced to third on Chris Taylor's single and scored on Seager's fly.

"You've got to make something happen in that situation," Barnes said of his dash to third. "We're trying to get runs on the board late in the game. It was worth a shot. Be aggressive and play our kind of baseball, and eventually it'll pay off for us."

Alex Wood pitched six innings of six-hit ball for the Dodgers, and Josh Fields (1-0) survived a rocky seventh inning.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his first save since April 10 and his third of the season -- but not without drama. The Dodgers' vaunted closer began the ninth by yielding two singles, but then struck out Andrew Stevenson and Trea Turner before ending it on Howie Kendrick's fly to the warning track.

Michael Taylor homered, doubled, singled and walked for the Nationals, who have lost seven of 11.

Hellickson retired 14 straight Dodgers before doubles by Chris Taylor and Grandal, with a walk by Seager sandwiched between them. Bellinger followed with his go-ahead line drive against Sammy Solis.

"The one that Taylor got was probably just a tad up," Hellickson said. "(The pitch to) Grandal was down. Probably the only at-bat I'd like to have back is that one to Seager."

Michael Taylor put his first homer of the season into the home bullpen beyond left field in the fourth. He then doubled, advanced on Wood's pickoff throw into center field and scored on Moises Sierra's mid-length fly in the sixth for a 3-0 lead.

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