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Two clutch HRs in pivotal doubleheader solidifies Brian Dozier’s stunning June turnaround

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Two clutch HRs in pivotal doubleheader solidifies Brian Dozier’s stunning June turnaround

WASHINGTON – Only a single run was scored in the first seven innings of the second game of the doubleheader between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. To those that haven’t been following closely in a while, it might seem surprising that it came off the bat of Brian Dozier. A player that was pivotal in a sweep of the two-game doubleheader over Philadelphia.

The run came off of a solo shot as he drove a 93-mph sinker into the short left deck at Nationals Park. Behind another dominant performance from Max Scherzer on the mound, it was all the team needed to put the team’s ace into a position to earn the win. 

An insurance run was added by Victor Robles in the eighth for the 2-0 final. But it was Dozier’s home run that allowed blackeyed Scherzer to pitch with a rare lead up until he was pulled in favor of the bullpen. Run relief that Scherzer has been waiting for quite often this year. 

“[It was important] to just have the lead. You’re still in a tight ball game. [Philadelphia] has shown they can leave the park at any time,” Scherzer said postgame. “It was huge for Dozier to continue to stay hot, have quality at-bats and to have a nice solo shot.”

The go-ahead home run is not the only offensive production that Dozier, 32, brought across the plate on Wednesday. In the first game of the doubleheader, he set the first of two back-to-back home runs also out to left field for the Nats. That time it was Dozier padding the insurance runs, turning a 3-1 game into a 5-1 game and allowed manager Davey Martinez to open up his bullpen. 

“He’s standing on the ball and I like it a lot. He’s really not trying to do a whole lot. He’s trying just stay up the middle of the field and stand on the ball,” Martinez said after the first game. 

Entering the day with a .228 batting average, the Nats starting second baseman rose his average up seven points to .235. But throughout the month of June, Dozier’s lines have steadily been improving after a putrid start to his first season in Washington. 

His average was .209 at the end of May with a .299 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging mark. In June alone he’s up at .326/.392/.696, a far jump and exactly what the Nationals expected from him when they signed him as a free agent this past offseason. 

Dozier's numbers were so bad early on that benching him was not a far-fetched proposal. He could be replaced for the hot-hitting, and team-leading, Howie Kendrick, and do it for more than just a couple days of rest. Trusting Dozier has definitely paid off this month and Martinez is encouraged that this is the turnaround that gets him on track.  

“You have to [keep playing him], knowing his history. Those kind of guys like that you have to keep running them out there. There are days where you try and give them a day off here and there, but you know he’s going to come out of it,” Martinez said in-between the two games. “I kept telling myself ‘As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to do that.’ Now you see the results, he’s playing real well, playing good second base and knocking in some runs for us.”

Days like the one Dozier had on Wednesday are going to be where the young Nationals hang on his experience. Playing against NL East opponents are especially when the Nats will need strong performances from an eight-year veteran. 

But with that all being said, at some point everyone expected the former All-Star to get it going. In the past, he has been known to have slow starts to the season, but he can always hang his hat on five straight 20-plus home run seasons. 

He’s halfway there now on what many once considered to be a rough season for him. 

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Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lined up as Wild-Card Game options if Nationals make it

Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg lined up as Wild-Card Game options if Nationals make it

Washington has options at the end of next week.

It shuffled this weekend’s rotation in order to put end-of-season choices in play. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg are in a place where they could each influence the final game of the season or the Wild-Card Game.

First, to this weekend: Aníbal Sánchez, Strasburg and Austin Voth are lined up to pitch against Miami. Sánchez has a 3.31 ERA against the Marlins this season, Strasburg a 1.19 ERA in four starts, Voth has not faced the Marlins.

Voth was moved back a day to accommodate this setup. Sánchez and Strasburg will be on regular rest. Patrick Corbin receives an extra day off before he starts the Phillies series. 

Which, in part, is what this is about. Corbin pitches the opener Monday. He is set to pitch again Saturday. Which means he could possibly be available for an inning in the Wild-Card Game on Oct. 1 and definitely available if needed for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, which starts Oct. 3, exactly when Corbin would be on regular rest.

Scherzer, who looked sharp most of Wednesday in St. Louis, should pitch the night portion of next week’s split day-night doubleheader against Philadelphia. The day-side portion of that game will fall to Erick Fedde or Jeremy Hellickson, the latter of which has not pitched in a major-league game since May 19. 

Pitching on Tuesday means Scherzer can pitch Sunday in game 162 if the Nationals need to win to get in. Otherwise, it means he can pitch Oct. 1 on extended rest. Should Washington make the postseason -- still a lot of work to do there -- and win the Wild-Card Game -- getting ahead of ourselves -- he would be able to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS in Nationals Park.

Next is Strasburg. After pitching Saturday in Miami, he should pitch Thursday against Philadelphia. That alignment puts him on regular rest for the Wild-Card Game. Which leaves the recently much-discussed choice: Scherzer or Strasburg to start a winner-take-all game? Both could be available. At the least, Scherzer could pitch game 162 or (gasp) 163 and Strasburg would be available for the Wild-Card Game.

So, a subtle shift this weekend set up everything to come. That’s if the Nationals can get into the postseason.

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Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

Nationals Roundup: Max Scherzer lets up five runs in Cardinals series finale

The Washington Nationals were in hopes of winning their final matchup against the Cardinals today after yesterday's win.

Here are the most recent news and notes.

Players Notes:

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer allowed five runs in Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals. This is only the second time this season out of his past 20 starts that he allowed more than a single home run.

First baseman Matt Adams was seen practicing his swing Wednesday morning for the first time since he sprained his AC joint in his left shoulder last week. He’s expected to hopefully return in the closing week of the regular season. 

Starting pitcher Patrick Corbin struck out 11 batters on Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, but he also allowed two unearned runs in their 6-2 win.

Injuries:

C Spencer Kieboom: Elbow, 2020

C Kurt Suzuki: Elbow, day-to-day

RP Joe Ross: Arm, day-to-day

RP Roenis Elias: Hamstring, possible late September

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely

1B Matt Adams: Shoulder, day-to-day

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, 2020

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Friday: 9/20: Nationals @ Marlins, 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Saturday 9/21: Nationals @ Marlins, 6:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Sunday 9/22: Nationals @ Marlins, 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park

Source: Rotoworld

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