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Patrick Corbin shuts out the Marlins, Nationals win second straight

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Patrick Corbin shuts out the Marlins, Nationals win second straight

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins, 5-0, Saturday to raise their record to 21-31. Here are five observations from the game...

1. Good defense Saturday.

A simplistic thing, yet perversely elusive this season for the Nationals.

Washington committed no errors. It turned three double-plays, allowing the bullpen to be used for just three outs. Brian Dozier made two quality plays -- including snagging a line . Trea Turner charged a ground and used his jump throw to gain an out. Anthony Rendon charged a ground and used his smoothness to throw to first for another. Adam Eaton made a nice sliding catch.

Friday was nasty in the field. The Nationals committed three errors, should have been charged with four. Turner committed two (and would have been the recipient of a third if not for generous scoring). Manager Davey Martinez was not pleased with what he called “sloppy” play Friday. They clean it up Saturday.

2. Corbin was back for the eighth inning, starting with 89 pitches behind him and a run of retiring 16 out of 17.

Miami did not use one left-handed hitter Saturday. The strategy mattered little to Corbin, who picked up three double plays on the day and closed the eighth with a strikeout of Bryan Holaday.

Corbin was removed just five innings into his last start after throwing 98 pitches. Manager Davey Martinez said then the Nationals wanted to keep Corbin under 100 pitches three starts after he threw a career-high 118 pitches and was on a run of throwing at least 107 pitches.

Saturday, he finished the eighth at 103. Corbin hit for himself, despite two runners on base with two out, and came back out for the ninth. A strikeout, flyout and groundout followed.

In all, four hits, no runs, one walk and five strikeouts on 116 pitches.

3. The fourth inning had a little bit of everything Saturday. Adam Eaton committed a major running gaffe. Juan Soto ran from third on a contact play, stopped just short of home plate, then veered left and slid in safe. Victor Robles squared to bunt and leaned in. A 96-mph fastball came up and in, grazed his cheek and sent him to the ground. Team trainer Paul Lessard and manager Davey Martinez immediately ran out at the behest of home plate umpire Tim Timmons. Robles was OK, went to first, then later scored from first base on a single to shallow right.

The Nationals scored five runs in the inning to jolt what was a scoreless game. Eaton’s running mistake -- he made a hard turn at second base, then was hung up in a rundown -- carried the start of the inning. But, Yan Gomes’ squibber to right field redeemed Eaton by scoring three.

4. Sean Doolittle stood at his locker Friday night in case the media wanted to talk to him postgame following his second consecutive rough outing. Reporters took a pass -- no need to talk to a player every time they have a bad night -- and Doolittle went to the back for his postgame maintenance.

His two outings this week vaulted his ERA up almost two runs, from 1.71 to 3.68, before Saturday’s game.

Martinez said Doolittle’s recent bumps are not health-related, despite a downtick in velocity. Doolittle was throwing around 92 mph Friday. He hit 94 mph, but his velocity was down for the most part.

“Credit to Doolittle,” Martinez said. “He knows his stuff wasn’t what he wanted it to be [Friday], but he fought through it. That’s what a good closer does sometimes. I’ve got all the confidence and faith in the world...He knows what he needs to do. When you have a guy like that, and a closer like that, they know how to work out their [issues] when they’re struggling, some of his spin rate stuff he’s going to look at. The biggest thing is I don’t want him to start thinking there’s something wrong with him. I told him that [Friday]: ‘You’re one of the best. You’re an elite closer. It’s OK. Guys go through that.

5. The Nationals called up right-handed reliever James Borque from Double-A Harrisburg on Saturday. Joe Ross, who allowed three earned runs in his Friday appearance and has a 9.22 ERA, was sent to Triple-A Fresno.

Borque arrives after quality work in Harrisburg: a 1.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings. This is his first time on the major league roster. Borque believes better fastball command led to his success and subsequent call-up.

Ross lost the bite on his slider despite showing flashes of being an effective reliever. He will be "stretched out" in Fresno, though he is unlikely to be ready when the Nationals need a spot start April 29 in Atlanta. Kyle McGowin pitched in place of injured Anibal Sanchez (left hamstring strain) Friday. He allowed five earned runs in four innings and is unlikely to receive another opportunity.

Sanchez threw 41 pitches in a simulated game Friday. He felt well Saturday. Sanchez is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday and make a rehabilitation start Wednesday.

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Report: MLB intends to propose season of around 50 games

Report: MLB intends to propose season of around 50 games

Major League Baseball intends to propose a plan to the MLB Players Association for a significantly shorter season in 2020, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Monday.

According to Passan, MLB envisions a season of about 50 regular-season games beginning in July. The league will continue discussing other options with players but believes its agreement in March to pay prorated salaries allows for it to dictate the shorter schedule, even without an MLBPA deal. 

The exact number of games under the proposal is still being considered, according to the report, but players would receive the full prorated amount of their salaries.

The 50-game range is less than half of what the players reportedly proposed to MLB on Sunday. MLBPA delivered a proposal for a 114-game season that would begin June 30, Passan reported. The players' proposal included the right for all players to opt out of the season, and a deferral of salaries if the 2020 postseason was canceled.

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This round of proposals comes after contention between the sides over pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries. MLB previously proposed a second pay cut in the form of tiered salaries, an offer players balked at. Players likely won't find MLB's newest idea favorable either, as they reportedly want a season of at least 100 games.

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Max Scherzer, Sean Doolittle provide powerful voices during baseball’s search for answers

Max Scherzer, Sean Doolittle provide powerful voices during baseball’s search for answers

Sean Doolittle was willing to talk about it. The topic was union business. He’s focused, detailed and informed when any player-related financial topic is put in front of him. Being prepared is his process in general. Before Doolittle dispatches a thread of tweets, he reads multiple background sources, formulates his thoughts, looks for spaces that may lack clarity when dispatched in public.

On this particular topic, back in spring training when everything was more hopeful, he deferred. He asked if Max Scherzer had talked about the subject broached by a reporter. Told Scherzer had not, Doolittle said he would prefer to wait until Scherzer spoke. They had discussed the idea prior. So, they were working in tandem.

The pair has operated individually when addressing their personal performance or as team spokespeople when discussing the state of the Nationals. In this new setting, when a negotiating battle is underway between the union and league, and a pandemic has hurtled the sport into unprecedented territory, the two have become one of the most prominent duos in the league.

Scherzer dropped the largest statement of the negotiating period when he tweeted last week. A member of the union’s powerful eight-person executive subcommittee, and the best player among that group, Scherzer’s decree the players would not accept a further pay cut rattled the sport. An out-of-town announcer railed against the stance. The league received a large hint of the players’ coming counter-proposal. The union, through Scherzer’s rarely used social media account, had spoken.

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Days later, Doolittle countered his employer when tweeting about the Nationals players’ desire to step in and pay minor-league players in the organization. Doolittle’s Twitter account is often an outlet for his thoughts on topics from social justice to baseball matters to, of course, Star Wars. He uses the medium for consistent and steady interaction with the public. Scherzer operates differently. He stays off social media -- for the most part. He composed just four original tweets in the two years before delivering a missive via screenshot last week.

Soon, both will be gone. Doolittle is in the final year of his contract. Scherzer has one more year on his seven-year, $210 million deal which has evolved into a bargain framed by staggering figures.

Doolittle will be 34 years old on Sept. 26. Scherzer turns 36 years old on July 27th. Their statesmen positions in the game are likely to last beyond their playing careers. Doolittle will walk into a flood of post-career media offers. Scherzer’s future could include being the executive director of the MLBPA. He is the necessary blend of informed, passionate, and obstinate.

Both are voices to be heard in this climate. They understand the landscape in front of and behind them. Managing messages within the union and out in the public eye are divergent projects which simultaneously influence each other. Being the elders -- the viejos -- on the team brings a specific responsibility separate from overall union business. They need to be the house protectors then.

And know they are working in conjunction. An avenue over here for one, an avenue over there for another, making two of the most prominent local voices two of the most powerful across the sport.

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