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How Bryce Harper helped Chris Heisey before his walkoff homer

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How Bryce Harper helped Chris Heisey before his walkoff homer

Bryce Harper and Chris Heisey combined to lead the Nats to victory on Sunday with a pair of solo homers spread seven innings apart. Harper's tied the game in the ninth and sent it to extras, while Heisey's ended it on a walkoff bomb in the 16th inning. Long before their heroics, and well before they knew they were going to enter the game, the two had a conversation in the underbelly of Nationals Park that set the stage for all of it.

In the indoor batting cage before the ninth inning, Heisey saw Harper taking batting practice holding the bat with only his left hand, or his top hand. Heisey approached him with some questions and ended up trying it for himself.

"It was just a one-hand drill with the top hand, trying to stay on top of the baseball. Not rocket science," Heisey said. "I just asked him 'how do you do that?' I ended up doing it for a little."

The drill helped Heisey hone in on something manager Dusty Baker was telling him during batting practice that morning, to stay on top of the ball. Heisey explained how the simple tweak helped his swing.

"When you drop your back shoulder, your bat has a tendency to fly out of the zone quicker than it normally would and you also end up being underneath the ball. So, I've been trying to work on hitting low line drives. It keeps me in the zone longer and puts more backspin on the ball," he said.

It's an approach that Harper, not surprisingly, is very good at. And Heisey has taken notice.

"I try to learn as much from him as I can," Heisey said. "Just to try to duplicate what he's doing, putting those swings on the ball on a nightly basis, it's really special. Just to take a little bit of knowledge from him, I'm going to continue to do that as much as I can."

Heisey was able to come up big for the Nationals with a walkoff homer against Michael Tonkin of the Twins in the 16th inning on Sunday. Afterwards he felt the need to give credit where credit was due.

"I credit [Harper]," Heisey said. "He was trying to take some credit for it and I gladly will give it to him."

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Trea Turner hits for cycle against Rockies for the second time in his career

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Trea Turner hits for cycle against Rockies for the second time in his career

For the second time in his career, Trea Turner has hit for the cycle against the Rockies. This time, he did it in Nats Park. 

Turner started his day in the first inning with a solo shot to left-center to open the scoring for the Nationals. A fortunate bounce yielded an infield single in the second inning, and he smashed a liner into the right-field corner in the fifth. A double for most players, Turner's trademark speed enabled him to stretch it into a triple.

With a comfortable 8-0 lead in the seventh, Turner sent a 98 mph fastball into the gap in right-center field, completing the cycle and capping off an incredible night for the Nats. 

Turner is the fourth player to hit for the cycle this season, and the 27th since 1908 to do it multiple times in his career


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Max Scherzer's named Thursday's starter and penciled in for the postseason

Max Scherzer's named Thursday's starter and penciled in for the postseason

WASHINGTON -- So, it’s settled: Max Scherzer will pitch Thursday.

The Nationals’ best pitcher played catch in right field Tuesday. He felt well a day after a full bullpen session. He, finally, is aligned to make his first start since July 6.

Why Thursday? Well, this is where things are more interesting. Davey Martinez and his staff mapped out Scherzer’s possible starts from Thursday to the end of the season to see how he lines up if he would pitch every fifth game (not every fifth day because of scheduled off-days). If he pitches Thursday, this is how the rest of his season would look:

July 25 vs. Colorado

July 30 vs. Atlanta

Aug. 5 at San Francisco

Aug. 11 at New York

Aug. 17 vs. Milwaukee

Aug. 22 at Pittsburgh

Aug. 28 vs. Baltimore

Sept. 5 vs. New York

Sept. 8 at Atlanta

Sept. 14 vs. Atlanta

Sept. 20 at Miami

Sept. 25 vs. Philadelphia

Oct. 1 Wild-Card Game

Note three appearances against the first-place Braves. Consider a late-September start against Philadelphia. Then, of course, being on an extra day of rest should the wild-card game be necessary.

“You know Max,” Martinez said. “He wants to pitch today. He wants to pitch tomorrow. He wants to pitch Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

Can things go wrong between now and then? Yes. A rainout could move Scherzer around. A recurrence of the mid-back strain which put him on the 10-day injured list July 13, retroactive to July 10, could happen. But, the Nationals took the time to map this out when considering whether Scherzer will pitch Thursday opposite Colorado or Friday against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers. 

One wrinkle in this projection: The final series of the season is at Nationals Park versus Cleveland. The Indians start play Tuesday just three games out of the division lead in the American League Central and two ahead for a wild-card spot. Which means Cleveland could be playing for everything (from the division title, to hosting the wild-card game, to just getting into the postseason) or nothing because it has clinched a spot. Scherzer would not be on schedule for that series.

More immediately, Monday’s rainout forced the Nationals to massage their rotation. Erick Fedde was moved from Monday’s start to the first game of Wednesday’s split day-night doubleheader. Anibal Sanchez will pitch Friday. Joe Ross is expected to fill the open spot Saturday. Patrick Corbin, Scherzer and Sanchez will line up to face Atlanta when it visits next week.

There was one other starting pitcher issue exposed Tuesday. Austin Voth (right biceps tendinitis) has stopped throwing. He will have an MRI this week and his future is to be determined. Not so for Scherzer. He's expected back Thursday, then Oct. 1, if necessary.