Nationals

Quick Links

Machado sinks Nationals with home run off Scherzer

usatsi_8819804_141983962_lowres.jpg

Machado sinks Nationals with home run off Scherzer

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Knowing his team has reached a point where it all but has to win every remaining game on the schedule, Matt Williams asked his ace to do something extraordinary. Max Scherzer couldn't quite do it, and so the Nationals lost yet another game via a huge hit allowed in the seventh inning. And that only set up some more fireworks later than may have brought some new life to this interleague rivalry.

Scherzer was electric most of the night, striking out 12. But he was done in by a pair of homers, one allowed early, one allowed late. Steve Pearce's 2-run shot in the top of the first gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Then Manny Machado's 2-run blast in the seventh (on Scherzer's 122nd pitch of the night) gave Baltimore a 4-3 lead that altered the course of the game.

The Nationals couldn't overcome that deficit. They got one run back off Chris Tillman in the bottom of the first, then two more in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn't deliver another hit that would have brought them back.

The real fireworks came in the top of the ninth, when Jonathan Papelbon twice threw up-and-in to Machado, plunking the Orioles third baseman with his second offering. Plate umpire Mark Ripperger immediately ejected Papelbon, prompting both benches to empty (though nothing remotely close to a brawl ensued).

Of more concern, the Nationals wasted a second straight opportunity to pick up a critical game in the standings after the Mets lost again to the Braves. The deficit remains 6 1/2 games with 11 to play, New York's magic number now down to 5.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: The Orioles haven't gone after Bryce Harper much at all in this series; they've walked him five times in two nights. But the MVP favorite had a chance to swing away when leading off the eighth with the Nats down a run against right-hander Mychael Givens. So what did Harper do? He squared around to bunt a 1-1 pitch, fouling it off. Givens then struck him out on the next pitch. Harper likes to square around on occasion, especially against tough lefties, but that situation screamed for him to swing away and try to tie the game on his own.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Scherzer's pitch count was at 104 when he took the mound for the seventh, trying to protect a 3-2 lead. He gave up a quick double to J.J. Hardy but then buckled down and struck out Jimmy Paredes on a 98-mph fastball before getting Gerardo Parra to ground out. His starter's pitch count now at 117, Williams had to make the kind of decision that has faced him all season: Leave Scherzer in to face Machado with the game on the line, or ask one of his beleaguered relievers (in this case, Casey Janssen) to get the job done? He stuck with Scherzer, who on his 122nd pitch reached back to find 98 mph again but left it over the plate and watched as Machado launched it into the Red Porch for the go-ahead homer. It was the 17th homer Scherzer has allowed in 80 innings since the All-Star break. And the pitch count of 122 was the largest for a Nationals starter since Edwin Jackson threw 123 on Aug. 30, 2012.

KEY STAT: Bryce Harper has reached base 290 times this season, most by any Washington major leaguer since Frank Howard (294 in 1970).

UP NEXT: This year's Battle of the Beltways wraps up at 4:05 p.m. Thursday, a day later than originally scheduled thanks to a rainout. Tanner Roark (4-6, 4.73) starts for the Nationals against right-hander Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.72).

MORE NATIONALS: Stock Watch: Harper's magical season nearing its end

Quick Links

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

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

scherzer-dugout.jpg
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.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: