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Harper scratched with injury before Dodgers game

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Harper scratched with injury before Dodgers game

The Nationals were forced Tuesday night to go up against baseball’s best pitcher this season without the services of baseball’s best hitter this season.

Bryce Harper was scratched from the Nationals’ lineup with left knee soreness, the club announced about two hours before first pitch at Dodger Stadium, leaving the rest of the team to take its chances against Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke.

Harper hurt himself trying to make a diving catch of Jose Peraza’s sinking liner to right in the bottom of the third inning during Monday night’s 8-3 victory, manager Matt Williams told reporters in Los Angeles. The 22-year-old slugger finished the game with no issues, but the knee swelled up afterward. Williams told reporters no MRI was needed of the knee and Harper was available to come off the bench during Tuesday’s game.

This is the same knee Harper seriously injured in 2013, coincidentally as a result of crashing into the fence at Dodger Stadium, and though it has caused no serious problems over the last two seasons it has occasionally acted up on him. This is the first time it has forced him to miss a game this year.

After battling through a variety of injuries both significant and minor the last two seasons, Harper has managed to stay relatively healthy in 2015. He has been in the lineup for 105 of the Nationals’ 112 games to date, sidelined only a handful of times due to minor ailments.

The healthy Harper has proven to be the most-productive hitter in the sport. He entered play Tuesday with a .333 batting average, an NL-best 29 homers and an MLB-best .460 on-base percentage, .650 slugging percentage and 1.110 OPS. No player has posted an OPS that high over a full major-league season since Albert Pujols in 2008.

With Harper sitting out Tuesday’s game, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman moved up to the No. 3 spot in the Nationals lineup. Clint Robinson took over in right field and served as cleanup hitter.

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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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