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Harper, Werth and Espinosa homer in Nats' comeback win over Braves


Harper, Werth and Espinosa homer in Nats' comeback win over Braves

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals dug themselves into an early hole with a bit of sloppy play (dropped throws to the plate, runners straying too far off base) and poor at-bats against left-hander Eric Stults. But the tide quickly turned after that, thanks to a long-awaited blast from an old friend ... and then two more from a very familiar face.

Jayson Werth's fourth-inning homer (his first of the season) got the Nationals going and ignited the rest of the lineup. Bryce Harper launched his fourth homer in seven at-bats to give the Nats the lead in the sixth, then Danny Espinosa added his own in the seventh for a big insurance run. Oh, and then Harper added another one for good measure, launching a 3-run shot to right in the eighth for his fifth homer in eight games, earning another curtain call. And then Espinosa did it again himself, sending his second homer in as many innings over the wall in left to turn this game into a rout.

The Nationals beat the Braves 9-2.

Gio Gonzalez pitched exceptionally well, going seven innings before handing things over to the bullpen. Rookie Matt Grace delivered an important scoreless frame in the eighth, and Blake Treinen finished it off with a scoreless ninth, sending the Nationals to their eighth win in 10 games and getting them back to the .500 mark overall.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Werth's first homer of the season deserves to be highlighted. So do Espinosa's two left-handed homers. But who are we kidding, it's all about Harper right now. Forty-eight hours after his 3-homer afternoon against the Marlins, he was back in full force against the Braves. He took Stults deep to left-center in the sixth and then greeted Williams Perez (making his MLB debut) with a towering, 3-run bomb to right that earned the 22-year-old his second curtain call in as many games. Harper now is tied with Cincinnati's Todd Frazier for the NL lead with 10 homers while also leading MLB with 26 walks. That's an impressive combo, a pair of league-leading stats typically reserved for only the game's very best hitters. Harper is beginning to prove he belongs in that discussion.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: It wasn't perfect, but this was a really, really good start by Gonzalez. Yes, he allowed two early runs, but those were aided in part by Andrelton Simmons sticking his foot out of the batter's box to get hit by a pitch and by Wilson Ramos dropping a 1-hop throw that would've beat Simmons to the plate two innings later. After that, Gonzalez was fantastic, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He wound up issuing only one walk while striking out eight, and his pitch count of 103 was more than manageable.

KEY STAT: Over the last two seasons, Freddie Freeman owns a .294 batting average. Take out his 42-for-91 against the Nationals, though, and that batting average drops to .269.

UP NEXT: The series continues at 4:05 p.m. Saturday when Doug Fister (2-1, 2.61) faces Julio Teheran (3-1, 3.82). Be sure to get to the ballpark early for pregame ceremonies honoring former manager Frank Robinson.

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg's status still in limbo

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

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.