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Nationals dominate late game with early runs

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Nationals dominate late game with early runs

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After sweeping the Braves to complete a impressive homestand, the Nationals headed west, hoping their red-hot bats would continue to show up in the hot, dry, desert air. Did it ever. The Nats blasted Josh Collmenter out of Chase Field, piling up 10 runs in the game's first two innings to take a commanding lead on the Diamondbacks that was never in doubt.

Denard Span sent Collmenter's second pitch of the night over the right-field fence to get things started. Ryan Zimmerman launched a 3-run homer later in the first inning. Wilson Ramos later cleared the bases with a double in the second to pile on. Bryce Harper didn't even homer, but his impact was still felt; he came with a couple feet of the right-field foul pole in the first inning, then singled home a run in the second. And Yunel Escobar, only seven days after a 5-for-5 night in D.C., did it again, the cherry on top of this blowout.

Handed a 10-0 lead, Max Scherzer had the luxury of going right after Arizona's hitters without fear of suffering any major damage. The right-hander cruised, tossing seven innings of 1-run ball to earn his third win of the season.

Thus the Nationals extended their winning streak to a season-high five games. They've won 11 of their last 13 and thanks to the Mets' loss in Chicago now trail in the NL East by a mere 2 1/2 games.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: There were plenty of candidates in this one, from Zimmerman's towering 3-run homer in the first to Ramos' 14-game hitting streak. But this night (as several over the last month) belonged to Escobar. For the second time in a week, the veteran infielder went 5-for-5, each one of them singles. In the process, he becomes the first player in Nats history with a pair of 5-hit games in the same season. He nearly had a chance to become the first D.C. major-leaguer with a 6-hit game since 1944, but the Nationals couldn't get him back to the plate in the ninth.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Yes, it's much easier to pitch with a 10-run lead than without a 10-run lead. But not every pitcher is good at attacking hitters in that situation and making sure the opposition doesn't even sniff the possibility of a comeback. So don't discount Scherzer's performance in this game. He was in complete control from the get-go, retiring the first six batters he faced on 21 pitches and completing four scoreless innings on 40 pitches (31 strikes). The Diamondbacks did get to him in the sixth on Jordan Pacheco's solo homer, but that was a minor hiccup on an otherwise sparkling night for Scherzer, who continues to pitch like a true ace.

KEY STAT: In the span of 40 minutes Monday night, Collmenter's ERA rose from 3.40 to 5.27.

UP NEXT: Stephen Strasburg makes his return to the mound Tuesday night, his first start since experiencing discomfort underneath his shoulder blade against the Marlins. He'll face right-hander Rubby De La Rosa at 9:40 p.m. EDT.

RELATED: Solis adjusting nicely to new role in Nats pen

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.