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Burnett throws, likely available Wednesday

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Burnett throws, likely available Wednesday

NEW YORK -- Sean Burnett threw off a bullpen mound this afternoon and reported no pain in his elbow, though manager Davey Johnson doesn't plan to use the left-hander before Wednesday.

Burnett, who hasn't appeared in any of the Nationals last seven games due to lingering elbow irritation, threw 15 pitches in the bullpen prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Mets. He said the elbow isn't 100 percent healthy -- "I mean, it's September, so it's not going to be 100 percent," he said -- but feels considerably better than it did after his last appearance.

"It was just more typical ball flight that I'm used to seeing and movement," he said. "It probably hadn't been like that in 2-3 weeks."

Though Burnett was hopeful he'd be cleared to return to game action Tuesday, Johnson said he's likely to wait one more day, wanting to make sure his setup man makes it through a light tossing session first.

"I don't know how much he put into the 'pen," the manager said. "Was it game-like, or what? Normally coming back from something bothering him, I give him a day of rest to regroup, and then I go. But I would expect he'd want to be in tomorrow night. I would expect that of Sean: My riverboat gambler."

Burnett dealt with this issue for a while in midsummer but bounced back and posted a 1.38 ERA while holding opponents to a .149 batting average in 15 appearances from July 13-August 10.

But Burnett hasn't enjoyed a clean outing since, allowing 19 batters to reach safely over his last six innings and blowing late leads to the Cardinals on consecutive days last weekend.

Reluctant at first to be shut down, he finally relented once he realized it might allow him to be available for the stretch run.

"They had to convince me of that," Burnett said. "That was hard for me. It feels like it's been a month for me. But it got to a point where it wasn't fair for me, it wasn't fair to my teammates, to go out there not 100 percent in a pennant race and put stuff in jeopardy. It wasn't right to my teammates. But I felt like a week off would freshen me up a little bit and hopefully get back with no pain. And today it was better. It seemed like the action on the ball was back."

The Nationals haven't had Burnett undergo an MRI, though doctors performed manual tests on the elbow and found no evidence of structural damage.

"No MRI. I didn't want to look and see what that was going to show," he said. "I've already had surgeries on it. It's not going to look pretty. ... I'm not scared something's wrong. Obviously going through the ligament tests, I passed all those. The doctor said the ligament was fine, so I don't see anything else in there."

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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

Marcell Ozuna homered and Austin Gomber tossed six shutout innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

St. Louis has won a season-high eight straight. The Cardinals, who are 18-9 since the All-Star break, captured their sixth successive series after taking the first three of the four-game set.

Daniel Murphy homered in the ninth for Washington, which has lost four in a row and seven of nine to fall below .500 and nine games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The current skid began with a loss to the Cubs on a two-out, walk-off grand slam.

Ozuna homered in the second inning, his 14th of the season and his first since July 30.

Gomber (3-0), in his fourth start of the year, gave up three hits, struck out six and walked four.

Bud Norris pitched the ninth to pick up his 23rd save in 27 opportunities.

Harrison Bader and Yadier Molina added run-scoring hits for St. Louis, which improved to 19-9 since Mike Matheny was fired and replaced by interim manager Mike Shildt.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter extended his on-base streak to 33 games with a walk in the fifth. It's the longest current streak in the majors. Carpenter left the game in the seventh after he was hit on the hand by a pitch from Matt Grace, but X-rays were negative.

Jeremy Hellickson (5-3) left in the fifth inning after colliding with Bader on a play at the plate following a wild pitch. Hellickson gave up three runs, two earned, on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Bader, who had three hits, also made a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Bryce Harper in the fourth.

The Cardinals, who have an NL-best 12-2 mark in August, remain one game behind Philadelphia for the second wild card spot. They are four games behind Chicago in the NL Central.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a simulated game on Wednesday. He threw around 70 pitches and could be ready to return early next week, manager Dave Martinez said.

Cardinals: LHP Brett Cecil was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. Cecil, who had been sidelined with inflammation in his right foot, pitched four scoreless innings in four appearances with Triple-A Memphis. LHP Tyler Webb was optioned to Memphis.

UP NEXT

RHP Tanner Roark (7-12, 4.12) will face RHP Luke Weaver (6-10, 4.66) in the finale of the four-game series on Thursday. Roark has won his last four decision, Weaver is 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA in nine career games against NL East foes.

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Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson exits game after collision

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Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson exits game after collision

Washington Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was removed from Wednesday night's game in St. Louis in the fifth inning after colliding with Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader at the plate.

Hellickson was covering home after a wild pitch. He stumbled over Bader as Bader slid home safely.

Hellickson was charged with three runs, two earned, on three hits in his 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.