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Harper, Scherzer power Nationals past Cubs

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Harper, Scherzer power Nationals past Cubs

By BRIAN SANDALOW

CHICAGO (AP) -- Bryce Harper hit his 18th home run, Max Scherzer struck out a season-high 13 to outduel Jon Lester and the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 3-0 on Wednesday night.

The top two free-agent pitchers on the market last offseason, Scherzer (6-3) and Lester faced off in a memorable matchup in the finale of the three-game series. Scherzer, who signed a seven-year deal worth $210 million with Washington, was better than his counterpart, throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing five hits and one walk to win his fifth straight start.

Scherzer and three relievers combined to shut out the Cubs and take two of three from Chicago. Drew Storen pitched a scoreless ninth for his 16th save in 17 attempts.

In support of Scherzer, Harper continued his torrid May and pulled even with Seattle's Nelson Cruz for the major-league lead in homers. Harper's sixth-inning home run off Lester (4-3) was a line drive into the left-field bleachers, giving him 13 this month and 28 runs batted in during May.

Matt Grace started the eighth for Washington and allowed a Jorge Soler double and hit Anthony Rizzo before being replaced by Casey Janssen. Janssen got Kris Bryant to pop out before Dexter Fowler's sacrifice advanced the runners to second and third. Starlin Castro then grounded to short to end the threat for the Cubs.

Danny Espinosa added a solo home run in the ninth off Travis Wood, and Ian Desmond extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a one-out double in the first.

Beyond Harper's home run and an unearned run in the fourth, Lester kept pace with Scherzer. The veteran left-hander, who joined the Cubs after signing a six-year, $155 million contract, went seven innings and allowed two runs (one earned) and seven hits while matching a season-high with 10 strikeouts but couldn't become the first Chicago pitcher to win five games in a calendar month since Carlos Silva in May 2010.

Lester did make some history, but it was with his bat and not the way he'd want. He went 0 for 2 and dropped to 0 for 59 lifetime to move him into sole possession for the longest hitless streak to begin a career. With his second-inning fly-out to deep center and fourth-inning strikeout, Lester moved past Joey Hamilton (0 for 57) to set the new mark.

Chicago lost its fourth in six games.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Doug Fister (right forearm tightness) began the first day of a throwing program by playing catch Wednesday. Fister was placed on the disabled list May 15. . IF Anthony Rendon (strained oblique) played five innings in a simulated game in what manager Matt Williams referred to as a positive sign.

Cubs: Soler didn't start, but manager Joe Maddon said that was to give him an extra day off before Friday's series opener with Kansas City.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-5, 6.50) faces Reds RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-4, 3.46) on Friday in Cincinnati. Strasburg hasn't pitched more than 3 2--3 innings in three of his previous four starts

Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (4-4, 2.95) faces Kansas City RHP Edinson Volquez (4-3, 2.77) at Wrigley Field. Arrieta has been strong at home, posting a 2.41 ERA in five starts at Wrigley.

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Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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