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Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

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USA TODAY Sports

Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Dodgers travel to Washington on Friday to take on a Nationals team that was rolling before rain idled them for most of the week.

On Thursday, the Dodgers snapped a six-game losing streak with one of their best games of the season.

Justin Turner, who returned from the disabled list this week, tied a career high with five RBIs and Kenta Maeda threw eight scoreless innings in a 7-0 win over the Miami Marlins. Turner provided a three-run double in the third inning and a two-run double in the fourth.

"As a collective group, we've done a good job of getting people on base -- we just haven't had that timely hit," Matt Kemp told the Los Angeles Times. "We got one of our best hitters back, and he had a big day for us today. I think it relaxed everybody, and you saw some good things today."

Building on that momentum won't be easy on Friday as the Dodgers (17-26) face a well-rested Nationals team that has won 13 of its last 15 games and starter Max Scherzer (7-1, 1.69).

Washington (24-18) has played 5 1/2 innings of baseball since Monday due to rain in the Washington area.

Scherzer had been slated to pitch against the Yankees Wednesday on normal rest. The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer is making a strong case for No. 3.

He has won six straight decisions and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any start. Scherzer leads the majors with 14 strikeouts per nine innings and has held opponents to a .116 batting average in four home starts this season.

"I think what separates Max is his competitiveness, the fire and energy that he pitches with, almost imposing his will at times on hitters. He's just in attack mode all the time," closer Sean Doolittle told the Washington Post.

Ross Stripling (0-1, 2.20 ERA), filling the injured Clayton Kershaw's spot in the rotation, pitches for Los Angeles. He is 0-1 lifetime in two games against Washington with a 21.60 ERA.

In his last start, he left with the lead after allowing two runs on six hits, with a career-high seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to the Reds. Stripling batted in the fifth and was lifted in the sixth, only to watch the bullpen lose the lead in that inning.

"This was the first time Ross pitched into the sixth inning," manager Dave Roberts told mlb.com. "Up to 79 pitches, more than he's ever thrown, got a guy (JT Chargois) you're comfortable getting (Eugenio) Suarez out and it just didn't work out. We just didn't get it done."

Washington's light week was a gift for the back of the Nationals bullpen, including Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler and closer Doolittle, all of whom are on pace for career highs in appearances.

"Take 'em all," Kintzler told the Washington Post regarding the days off. "We need 'em."

Somebody who will be getting more days off than they want is catcher Matt Wieters, who had surgery Wednesday to repair his left hamstring, a procedure that could keep him out at least until the latter part of the season.

Backup Pedro Severino is hitting .274 with a .386 on-base percentage.

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Nationals' offense remains quiet in 2-0 loss to Toronto

Nationals' offense remains quiet in 2-0 loss to Toronto

TORONTO  -- Max Scherzer lost his second straight start for the first time since 2015 when Marco Estrada pitched 6 2-3 shutout innings and Devon Travis homered Saturday for the Toronto Blue Jays in a 2-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

Scherzer (10-3) gave up four hits, including the two-run homer by Travis, in six innings. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out 10, increasing his major league-leading total to 152.

The right-hander, who lost to San Francisco in his previous outing, last lost two straight starts in a three-game skid in August 2015. Travis homered for the second game in a row when he connected in the fifth, right after Scherzer hit Luke Maile with a pitch.

Estrada (4-6) allowed three hits, one a bunt single, to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Toronto has won six straight at home after losing 10 of its previous 11 at Rogers Centre.

Trea Turner hit a two-out double in the sixth, but Estrada struck out Bryce Harper looking. An exasperated Harper was caught looking again to end the eighth, stranding a runner at first. Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, dropping his average to .221.

Estrada left after Michael A. Taylor's two-out single put runners at first and second in the seventh. Danny Barnes came on and needed two pitches to retire Wilmer Difo on a groundout.

Barnes and Aaron Loup each got two outs and former Nationals closer Tyler Clippard finished the three-hitter for his third save in six opportunities.

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What to watch for in Major League Baseball this weekend

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What to watch for in Major League Baseball this weekend

Nationals brief weekend preview: Get your passports out, because the Nats head north of the border this weekend to take on the Blue Jays in interleague play. The Jays have struggled this season, though they’ve still got plenty of talent on the roster.

Expect lower-scoring games on Friday and Saturday, as Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Aaron Sanchez, and Marco Estrada are varying levels of good. Sunday afternoon is when the fireworks should come, when Tanner Roark goes up against Sam Gaviglio.

All in all, Toronto is good enough to steal a series from the Nats, especially in their home ballpark where the Jays hit much better. I wouldn’t expect a sweep for either club.

Orioles brief weekend preview: Could this be the weekend the Orioles finally record their first 3-game sweep of the season? If it’s ever going to happen, it’ll probably be against another bottom-5 team in baseball, and given that the Marlins rank dead last in our current MLB power rankings, they are as likely an opponent as any.

The Orioles will put two of their best feet forward in the form of starting pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, so this is one of the only times all season the O’s will be favored to win a series. Here’s to (hopefully) reaching win number 20 by Father’s Day!

Best series to watch: Red Sox at Mariners

This is a matchup between two teams who expected to be really good and compete for playoff spots, but neither likely saw themselves leading their respective divisions in mid-June. The Yankees and Astros were expected to take the AL East and AL West, so it classifies as an upset  to see Boston and especially Seattle in the driver’s seats.

This makes for a great weekend series, as both teams have been hot lately, and this easily could be an ALDS preview (or an AL Wild Card preview, depending on how the next couple of months go).

You definitely want to watch on Friday night, as “Big Maple” James Paxton, who has been superb this season, gets to face a Red Sox lineup that has struggled against left-handed pitching all year long.

Promotion of the Weekend: This is one weekend I don’t want to pick just one, because just about every franchise has something fun planned for Father’s Day, whether it’s a catch on the field, a BBQ picnic, a tie giveaway, or all of the above.

Separately, I’ll give a shout out to the Orioles, who are giving away a Buck SNOWalter snow globe. Points for originality and for reminding fans what it’s like to be cool on a hot June night.

Best pitching matchup: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) vs Alex Wood (Dodgers), Saturday, June 15th at 8:15 p.m.

Madison Bumgarner is the best postseason pitcher of this generation, and he’s a pretty darn great regular season ace as well. Injury troubles have cropped up in the last couple of seasons, but when healthy, this is still one of the six best pitchers on the planet, and you can bet he’ll be ready to bring his A game against the Dodgers.

Alex Wood isn’t quite matching his sub-3.00 ERA of last season (he’s currently porting a 4.43 ERA to go along with a 1-5 record) but the metrics say he’s been a full run better than that. His Field Independent Pitching sits at 3.29, and he’s struck out 66 batters against just 13 walks.

There’s not a clear ace vs ace matchup this weekend, but these are two pitchers who are extremely talented when healthy, and considering the bitter rivalry between the two clubs, it was a clear choice.

This weekend in baseball history: On June 15th, 2016, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,257th career professional hit (including his 1,278 in Japan) and became the sort-of all-time hit leader, much to the chagrin of Pete Rose. June 16th also marks the tragic four-year anniversary of Tony Gwynn’s passing.

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