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Making sense of a rare sweep for the first-place Nats

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Making sense of a rare sweep for the first-place Nats

After winning nine consecutive series to tie a franchise record, the Nationals took a step back over the weekend by getting swept by the Reds. The Nationals arrived in Cincinnati as one of the hottest teams in baseball, while the Reds had lost 10 of their previous 11 games. So, what happened?

Well, it's tough to make too much of three games in a long season, but the weekend may have highlighted some things that could be concerning in the short-term.

For one, the Nationals are dealing with a significant amount of injuries. The disabled list is now a crowded group with Stephen Strasburg joining Doug Fister, Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper also missed Saturday's game with a sore back. Take all those names out of the mix and the Nats look like a much different team.

Denard Span was also removed from Sunday's game in the eighth inning with a sore right knee, as Matt Williams revealed to reporters afterwards. It sounds minor, but it's something to watch.

With all the injuries they've had this season, it's a wonder how the Nationals have been so good at scoring runs. Even after scoring nine runs in three games this weekend, the Nats remain atop the NL in run production. The Reds, meanwhile, are 26th in baseball with a 4.24 team ERA. And that's after putting on a solid pitching display against the Nats.

Given the Nationals' otherwise very impressive track record, offense shouldn't be too much of a worry. And Rendon seems like he's close to returning, which will be a huge boost.

The weekend sweep also showed some cracks in the Nats' bullpen, however. It was a series to forget for the Nats' pitching staff as a whole, but the bullpen in particular gave up 14 runs in 11 2/3 innings.

Casey Janssen, Aaron Barrett and Matt Grace got the worst of it against the Reds. Janssen gave up four earned runs on four hits and two walks in the eighth inning on Saturday. Barrett gave up two runs in 1/3 of an inning pitched on Sunday. And Grace allowed four runs on three hits and two walks without retiring a batter in the seventh inning on Sunday.

Janssen is just getting started this season, but Barrett now sports a 5.19 ERA through 25 games this year and Grace has a 5.25 ERA through 17 appearances. All three figure to play big roles on the Nats' pitching staff this year and will certainly hope to be better moving forward.

The Nationals should be fine in the long-run and are returning home at a convenient time. They begin a series with the 23-29 Toronto Blue Jays at Nats Park on Monday.

The Blue Jays are also a team with a poor pitching staff, much like the Reds, and sit 28th in baseball with a 4.59 ERA. Seeing them for three straight games could help get the offense back going.

The Blue Jays are, though, the best scoring team in baseball. They average 5.15 runs per game hold a .768 team OPS. Only three Nats players - Harper, Span and Danny Espinosa - have been better this season individually. That could provide a big test for a banged up rotation and a struggling relief staff.

Fortunately for the Nationals, the Mets failed to take advantage this weekend. New York lost two of three to the 20-31 Miami Marlins while the Nats were in Cincy. Up next for the Mets is a West Coast road trip through San Diego and Arizona.

The Nationals remain in first place and still look like the best team in the NL East by a good margin, despite the sweep. The Reds series may have pointed out a few concerns, but it's likely just a minor wakeup call for a team that was cruising for the previous five weeks.

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Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats put Scherzer-Strasburg scuffle aside to split Braves series

Bryce Harper homered, Max Scherzer struck out seven in six innings and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday.

Anthony Rendon also had two hits and drove in two runs for Washington, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and helping the Nationals earn a split of the series after Saturday's game was rained out. Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each had three hits.

Two days after a heated exchange with teammate Stephen Strasburg during Friday's 8-5 loss, Scherzer (13-5) allowed two runs and eight hits in his third straight win. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched six or more innings in his last 19 starts.

Kelvin Herrera got five outs for his first save with Washington.

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 55 minutes by rain, and another downpour stopped play for almost 100 minutes between the sixth and seventh innings.

Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz (7-6) gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Harper singled in Eaton to give Washington a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Matt Adams added another RBI single in the seventh, and Harper added a solo drive in the eighth for his 24th homer.

Scherzer was staked to an early 3-0 lead and then got some help from his defense.

Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the third with a drive off the wall in center, but he was thrown out by Harper while trying for a double. With a runner on first in the fifth, Freddie Freeman's blast to right was chased down by Eaton on the warning track.

Then in the seventh, Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Dansby Swanson of extra bases with one runner on.

Washington got off to a fast start with three runs in the first. Rendon drove in Eaton and Harper with a triple down the right-field line, and then scored on Soto's groundout.

Swanson drove in Atlanta's runs with a groundout in the second and a single in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies, who left Friday's game with right hamstring tightness, got the day off.

Nationals: RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) experienced extended soreness after throwing off the mound Friday. An MRI Saturday revealed a stress reaction, comparable to a bone bruise, in the bridge of his foot and he is wearing a walking boot. ... RHP Koda Glover (right shoulder tendinitis) was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) pitches the opener of a two-game series in Miami on Monday. He already has beaten the Marlins twice this season, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72 ERA) opens a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday night. He is 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine career starts versus the Brewers.

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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.

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