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Blowout sets Zimmermann up nicely to face Mets

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Blowout sets Zimmermann up nicely to face Mets

In the Nationals' 15-1 pounding of the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, manager Matt Williams was afforded the opportunity of letting several key players sit out the later innings. Bryce Harper, for one, was pulled in the sixth to rest his left glute tightness. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth also hit the showers and called it an early night.

Jordan Zimmermann was among those given an early exit and it came at a good time for the right-hander. Zimmermann was coming off three straight outings where he threw 100 pitches or more. He had topped the century mark in four of his previous five starts.

This time? Only 87, which sets him up rather nicely to face the New York Mets on Tuesday in Washington.

"It's huge," he said. "I've had a couple of outings where I've pitched 100 or 115 pitches. To have a short one like this and get a little extra rest and hopefully be good to go when we face those guys."

"It’s important to limit Zim a little bit," Williams said. "He’s been [106], 116, 100 his last three. Those are some heavy workloads so we got him out of the game which is good. A limited pitch count through six so that’s a good thing for him going into his next one."

Zimmermann made it through six innings with just one run on two hits allowed, but he gave up four walks, which tied a career-high. He also had a balk for just the second time in his career (7/31/2011).

This one came in the second inning and it helped Atlanta score a run. The mistake moved Nick Swisher to second and the Braves outfielder later scored on a groundout by Hector Olivera.

"I guess it's [from watching] a little too much Little League World Series," Zimmermann joked. "I got on the mound and I knew something wasn't right. Then I went to step off and I ended up stepping off with the wrong foot. That was a huge mistake on my part and it ended up costing me a run."

Forgive Zimmermann if he was a little out of rhythm. The Nationals' starter had unusually long rests in between innings, as the Nats scored their 15 runs on 18 hits and eight walks. Inning after inning they loaded the bases and sustained long rallies against a total of eight Braves pitchers.

"It's tough. Long innings and you're sitting around and your arm gets a little tight. But I'd rather have a long inning with a bunch of runs then short, quick innings," Zimmermann said.

Zimmermann has now won four consecutive starts and sits at 12-8 with a 3.38 on the season. Against the Braves in 2015 he is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA (7 ER in 34.2 IP).

Zimmermann has gone at least six innings with only one earned run allowed in four of his last six outings. The other two in that stretch were games in which he gave up four earned runs on at least eight hits.

That right there kind of sums up Zimmermann's 2015 season. He has shown flashes of brilliance, looking like the top shelf starter he has been over the last four years. But periodically he will put out a few clunkers that produce a sum of inconsistency.

Zimmermann now, though, looks well-positioned for his next outing against the Mets. He has some momentum and a well-rested arm working in his favor with his biggest start of the season so far on the horizon.

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

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USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

Following a dicey matchup between the Nats and Braves Friday night which featured a heated argument between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are getting a much-needed opportunity to regroup.

The Washington Nationals' official Twitter account announced that Saturday evening's matchup will be postponed due to inclement weather just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals had planned to host "JMU Night" at the ballpark as a part of their "College Day" series, and due to more forecasted inclement weather Sunday, the Nationals decided to call the game off sooner rather than later.

The Nationals have yet to announce when the game will be made up.

If Sunday's game is played as scheduled, Max Scherzer will start.

This post will be updated when more information regarding a makeup date has been announced.

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