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Nationals and Phillies: A tale of two teams going in different directions

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Nationals and Phillies: A tale of two teams going in different directions

WASHINGTON -- Thursday night’s end tasted a lot better on the home side of Nationals Park.

It was a satisfactory win, not a cabbage-smashing, music-blaring bonanza, just clean baseball for a team which found the task to be so elusive through the first two months of the season.

Washington’s 7-4 victory produced the team’s first three-game series sweep of the season. It is 16-7 since coming back from New York in disarray, two games under .500 for the first time since April 28 (12-14) and cranking on the wheel to turn a doomed vessel around.

“I think baseball is hard to explain sometimes because we’ve won I feel like in many different ways lately, that's what good teams do, you can win 1-0, you can win 10-9, you can blow somebody out or win a close game,” Trea Turner said. “I think we have a deep enough lineup and roster to kind of do that. Some days the bullpen, they're going to pick us up, some days our starting pitching, some days top of the order, bottom of the order, whatever it may be and lately we've been doing it all.”

Turner made two stellar defensive plays Thursday. He and Adam Eaton threw out runners at the plate. The bullpen held after a short start by Erick Fedde. The No. 3 hitter produced two hits.The No. 5 hitter produced two hits. The No. 8 hitter produced two hits. It looks better. It is better.

Not so for the Phillies. They are dragging. The bullpen is beat up, losing Andrew McCutchen for the season is a yet-to-be-resolved ding and they have little to say about it. Manager Gabe Kapler spoke for 2:26 afterward. Bryce Harper was not available following a bumpy series.

Philadelphia is four games over .500 following a peak of 11 over May 29. The Nationals were eight under that day and 9 ½ games behind the Phillies. They enter the weekend trailing second-place Philadelphia by three games.

“You know what I think really happened [early on]? Guys tend to try a little harder. And they do it for their teammates,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I'm going to pick him up. I'm going to do this, do a little bit more of that. Just be you. Just play the game. That's one thing I think they're doing right now. They're playing the game. I'm going to get on base for this guy, make a play for this guy, throw a strike right here. It's all -- this is what we anticipated from the get-go. They are playing really well.”

More heat arrives Friday. Dallas Keuchel is slated to make his season debut for the Braves, who are a healthy 13 games over .500 and atop the division by 4 ½ games. A three-game series against Atlanta will finally yield to a day off Monday before a gift-giving portion of the schedule kicks in.

A series against last-place Miami precedes a visit to 26-44 Detroit. Home series against Miami (still in last place) and Kansas City (last place in the American League Central) end the pre-All-Star-break portion of the season. It’s an opportunity.

So, Turner is right. Baseball is hard to explain sometimes. It’s also more palatable when it’s going well, which is the space Washington has entered the last three weeks.

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Gerardo Parra 'overwhelmed' by 'Baby Shark' tribute on Nationals World Series ring

Gerardo Parra 'overwhelmed' by 'Baby Shark' tribute on Nationals World Series ring

The Nationals' 2019 World Series rings managed to capture just about every aspect of the team's unforgettable run to their first-ever championship. 

Included on the inside of the ring was a special tribute to "Baby Shark," which of course was Gerardo Parra's walkup song and eventually became the anthem for Washington's postseason run. Parra saw the design and posted a heartfelt message on Instagram thanking the organization for honoring him. 

"I’m completely overwhelmed about the honor the Washington Nationals organization gave me in our World Champions ring we earned last season," Parra wrote. "I can not say thanks enough to the organization and, of course, our fans, because you were the ones that made the Baby Shark song our anthem. I just feel really blessed and I want to say that I will be forever grateful for being a part of the Washington Nationals history!"

Now Parra's World Series ring matches his "Baby Shark" tattoo he got shortly after the Nats won the title. He may have only been in Washington for a year, but he left an everlasting mark on the franchise and its fans 

Parra unfortunately won't play in the majors in 2020 after signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a $3 million vesting option for 2021. 

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Ever Wonder: Why does Max Scherzer have different colored eyes?

Ever Wonder: Why does Max Scherzer have different colored eyes?

When Max Scherzer is in the zone on the mound, his stare into the batter's box is like none other. The intensity and fire in his eyes send a message to the hitter that he is about to get everything the ace has left in the tank.

A closer look will show something else about his glare that's even more unique: Scherzer's eyes are two different colors. His left is brown, while his right is blue.

Though it is an uncommon condition, Scherzer is not alone. Known as Heterochromia Iridis, 1 in about every 500 people have two different colored eyes. That includes celebrities such as Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour.

For the Nationals right-hander it is something that has been a part of him from a young age. Growing up, he would draw pictures of animals that had the same type of eyes as him, seeing no shame but rather pride in his condition. That mentality is something Scherzer has carried throughout his journey in baseball.

“I've always celebrated it. Whether you like it or not, that’s who I am," Scherzer said. “I got one blue and one brown, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

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As he's risen to the top of Major League Baseball, Scherzer isn't the only one celebrating his unique eyes. The brown and blue colors have become part of Mad Max's brand. They're prominently featured in his bobbleheads and are displayed throughout the scoreboards of Nationals Park following each of his many strikeouts. The three-time Cy Young winner has also adopted dogs with Heterochromia Iridis.

There are a lot of special things about Washington's ace, and his eyes are part of it. Yet when he locks in on another strikeout victim on the mound, the mixed colors make no difference in how he carries himself. He's thrived all his life with Heterochromia Iridis and will continue to do so in the future.

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