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Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1


Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1

Game in a nutshell: After a four-game sweep against a hapless team in Houston, the Nationals figured to face a stiffer test tonight against an Arizona club trying to hang on in the NL wild-card race. But what began as a tight pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Trevor Cahill turned into a rout. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run homer in the fifth. Michael Morse crushed a solo shot to deep right-center in the sixth. And the Nats piled on in the ninth to run away with it. Strasburg, meanwhile, merely tossed a one-hitter over six strong innings to earn his 13th win of the year. Thus, the Nationals earned their seventh consecutive victory, and at 70-43 they're on pace for 100 wins at season's end.

Hitting highlight: We could highlight the homers by Zimmerman and Morse, each of them towering shots. But how about some love for Steve Lombardozzi? The rookie tripled in the third, singled in the fifth, singled in the seventh and then was credited with another single in the ninth (though pitcher Mike Zagurski may have tagged him on the back before his foot hit the base). Regardless, it was the second time this season Lombardozzi has compiled four hits. He also scored four times, helping lead an impressive offensive attack against the Arizona pitching staff.

Pitching highlight: What would Davey Johnson have done if Strasburg didn't allow a hit through six innings but had a pitch count of 105? We'll never know, but the veteran skipper is probably glad he didn't have to contemplate such a scenario, because he probably would have had to make a very unpopular decision. Despite the dominant numbers, Strasburg wasn't totally sharp during this outing. He uncharacteristically walked four batters and expended a lot of energy (and sweat) throwing those 105 pitches. It's a testament to his overall stuff and ability to pitch that he could still hold a pretty good lineup to one run and one hit over six innings. Sadly, there were no offensive fireworks from the right-hander in this one. Strasburg went 0-for-3 with three groundouts, seeing his batting average plummet from .343 to .316.

Key stat: Nine of Morse's 11 homers this season have been hit to center or right fields. Tonight's blast to right-center traveled 446 feet, the longest opposite-field homer in the majors this season according to ESPN Hit Tracker.

Up next: Game 2 of this series features veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson against left-hander Wade Miley, who at 12-7 with a 2.85 ERA is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year honors. First pitch will be at 8:10 p.m. EDT.

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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.