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Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

NEW YORK -- Bryce Harper got off to a loud start, tagging a longtime nemesis. Way later, he enjoyed another trot home.

Harper homered early, then doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the 11th inning on a bases-loaded walk by Jeurys Familia, sending the Washington Nationals over the ailing New York Mets 4-3 Friday night for their fifth straight win.

"I think every game against them means a lot," Harper said.

This was the first of 19 meetings this season between the teams that have traded the NL East title the last three years.

"That would've been a big win for them," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It didn't take you long to see they were banged up and in trouble.

On a foggy night, Familia again had trouble finding the strike zone. He forced home a run with a walk to Trea Turner as the Mets lost for the sixth time in seven games. New York fell to 1-3 in extra innings early this season.

Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Travis d'Arnaud didn't start for the Mets because of injuries, on the same day they put first baseman Lucas Duda and infielder Wilmer Flores on the disabled list.

Plus, Matt Harvey wound up pitching when scheduled starter Jacob deGrom was scratched with a stiff neck. The Mets employed pitcher Zack Wheeler to pinch hit -- he doubled -- and another starter, Robert Gsellman, to pinch run.

"You've got to play with what you have, and I think we're doing the best we can right now," Harvey said.

Harper hit his seventh homer, lining a two-run drive in the first. He was 1 for 26 in his career against Harvey before connecting.

Did Harper think the law of averages was on his side?

"Never know," he said. "Might get dominated your whole life by one guy."

Harper is doing the dominating now. Bouncing back from a down year, the 2015 NL MVP is 12 for 19 (.632) with five home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs in his last five games.

Harper used his legs to set up the tiebreaking tally.

The Nationals, the top-hitting team in the major leagues, hadn't gotten a hit since Jose Lobaton's leadoff homer in the fifth when Harper sliced a one-out double in the 11th.

After Daniel Murphy was intentionally walked by Josh Smoker (0-1), Familia relieved. On Thursday night, Familia -- who led the majors with 51 saves last year -- made his season debut after a 15-game domestic violence suspension and labored through 30 pitches, walking two.

This time, he bounced a wild pitch to Anthony Rendon and Harper hustled into third, the safe call standing up on replay. Rendon wound up walking on a full-count pitch and Turner, activated from the disabled list before the game, walked on four pitches.

"This isn't a perfect world where you can pick the perfect spot," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He just didn't throw the ball over the plate, which is very uncharacteristic for him."

Enny Romero (1-0) got the win, and Shawn Kelley earned his third save.

Mets leadoff man Michael Conforto homered on Tanner Roark's first pitch of the game. Slumping Curtis Granderson hit an RBI single in the fourth and lined his first homer of the season in the sixth, tying it at 3.

Injured outfielder Jayson Werth sat out for Washington, catcher Matt Wieters got a day off and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman entered in the ninth. Murphy was back in the lineup after missing a game with tightness in his right leg.

Harvey pitched four-hit ball for seven innings. He hit Wilmer Difo, the second batter of the game, in the helmet with a 94 mph fastball. Difo stayed in, and Harper followed with his home run.

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Nationals' Yan Gomes hopes MLB umpires have their own section of the plane when flying with teams

Nationals' Yan Gomes hopes MLB umpires have their own section of the plane when flying with teams

With the start of the 2020 MLB season just nine days away, league officials are still considering a plethora of ideas for how to best ensure the safety of those involved in putting on games.

That includes the umpiring crews, who reportedly saw 11 umpires opt out of the season Tuesday in order to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. According to Los Angeles Angels Joe Maddon, one of the measures MLB is considering is allowing umpires to fly with teams in order to limit the amount of travel and therefore possible exposure to the virus.

Nationals catcher Yan Gomes isn’t opposed to the idea, though he does recognize that there is some potential for a few awkward moments on the plane.

“I mean that could be a good thing from a safety standpoint and that could be a really weird and awkward deal if something happens in that game,” Gomes said. “I think we’re gonna have to be very cautious with that, putting them in one little section of the plane and hopefully not having to interact very much with players.

“That’s an interesting thing but if it’s something to keep everything safe from the game’s standpoint I think we can make that adjustment. I think everything [including] traveling and everything is going to be pretty unique this year and why not add umpires in there too?”

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Without any umpires at Nationals Park for the first few weeks of training camp, Gomes and fellow backstop Kurt Suzuki have had to act as the team’s umpires during intrasquad games.

“It’s been super tough so I think I respect them even more,” Gomes said. “From my angle, I’m over here trying to frame balls and then I tend to forget what pitch it was. I don’t know. I haven’t had too many people complain but I think I’ve done an OK job and I think Kurt is a little tighter than I think I am.

“The first day, I made some tough calls for our own pitching staff and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna give it at least a couple balls for these guys because I don’t want—the rollover innings are probably the toughest thing.’”

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An umpire crew will be reporting to D.C. in advance of their first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday. There’s going to be no way for catchers and umpires to avoid breaking social distancing guidelines when they stand in front of each other once games begin, but even so, Gomes isn’t worried about it.

“There’s really no concern level,” Gomes said. “Everyone here is doing a really good job on the testing and everything. It’s really just a matter of everyone staying safe and not do those silly, try-to-joke-around touches. I think we’re just going to have to be careful with that.”

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Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

July 14, 2020 was supposed to be a day for celebrating the best players in Major League Baseball. The 2020 MLB All-Star Game, set to take place that evening at Dodger Stadium, had the promise of putting some of the biggest names on display such as Mookie Betts in his new LA threads, Gerrit Cole still fresh off signing a $324 million deal last winter and Mike Trout from only a few miles down the road.

However, the coronavirus pandemic had other plans. MLB suspended spring training on March 12 and spent three months on hold before ultimately settling on a 60-game season that begins July 23. As a result, there will be no All-Star Game for the first time since 1945.

The Nationals, coming off their first World Series title in franchise history, have plenty of stars who would’ve merited consideration. Even with 2019 NL MVP candidate Anthony Rendon departing for the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, there’s no shortage of talent in D.C.

Here are the players that stood the best chance of representing the Nationals in this year’s All-Star Game.

The favorites

SP Max Scherzer

Name value alone could’ve gotten him in if fans could vote on pitchers, but even a 35-year-old Scherzer can’t be counted out of making another run at the NL Cy Young.

SP Stephen Strasburg,

The reigning World Series MVP is already a three-time All-Star and coming off an offseason in which he signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to return to Washington.

LF Juan Soto

Making his first All-Star team would seem like something of a formality for Soto, who has already established himself as one of the game’s best young stars.

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Needed a career year

SP Patrick Corbin

Corbin was given the Warren Spahn Award for the best left-hander in baseball last season and is no stranger to the Midsummer Classic. If he could’ve avoided the infrequent implosion (five starts of 5+ runs allowed in 2019) on the mound, he stood a good chance of posting numbers worthy of a selection.

RP Sean Doolittle

With Will Harris and Daniel Hudson in the fold, Doolittle wouldn’t have been relied on as much as he was last season. By getting more rest and still handling closer duties for a contending team, Doolittle certainly would’ve been in the running.

SS Trea Turner

No broken finger holding him back, Turner had a chance to show he can help replace some of Rendon’s production in what would’ve been his age-27 season. Shortstop is a deep position in the NL (Trevor Story, Javier Báez, Fernando Tatís Jr., Corey Seager) but Turner has to make it one of these years, right?

2B Starlin Castro

Castro may not be the first player who comes to mind when you hear “four-time All-Star” but that’s what happens when a young, healthy infielder plays every day during a rebuild. However, coming off a 2019 second half in which he hit .302 with 16 home runs, Castro came to D.C. looking to show he’s developed into a different kind of player.

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If he made the leap

CF Victor Robles

Though it’s a bit of a long shot considering his struggles at the plate as a rookie, Robles has always displayed the tools that make coaches dream of what he can become. As he gains a few more pounds—Robles is one of the strongest players on the team—and improves his plate discipline, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.

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