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Nats 5, Reds 1: Scherzer takes no-hitter into 8th

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Nats 5, Reds 1: Scherzer takes no-hitter into 8th

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Given everything that has transpired over the last week — official elimination from the NL East race, the plunking of Manny Machado, the dugout brawl between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper — there seemed little reason to pay attention to what actually was going to take place on the field Monday afternoon at Nationals Park. A makeup game against the Reds, a last-place team that had to fly into town just to take part in this meaningless exercise of schedule integrity? Why even bother playing the game at all?

Because you simply never know what might happen at any given ballpark on any given afternoon. Like a no-hitter by a guy who had already thrown one earlier this summer.

Max Scherzer didn't quite pull off that feat, but he sure came close to etching his place in baseball lore with another performances for the ages. Three months after no-hitting the Pirates, the veteran right-hander carried another one into the eighth inning before falling five outs short of history. Tucker Barnhardt's sharp single to left in the top of the eighth put an end to that, with Scherzer ultimately letting a run score before departing at inning's end to a standing ovation.

Scherzer's teammates gave him plenty of support, both at the plate — Matt den Dekker and Wilson Ramos homered — and in the field — Tyler Moore and Trea Turner each made highlight-reel plays — and allowed the Nationals to cruise to an easy victory.

It may not have meant much in the big picture, but if nothing else it gave the Nationals and their fans a chance to enjoy a couple hours of actual success on the field and to take their minds briefly off the circus off the field.

MORE NATIONALS: WHY HARPER WAS PUNISHED FOR FIGHT WITH PAPELBON

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals sat several key regulars (Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth) and gave a few young guys a chance to play. Nobody took greater advantage of that than den Dekker, who had already been hot at the plate prior to this game and then only got hotter in this one. Den Dekker doubled in a run in the bottom of the fourth, putting the Nationals on the board. Two innings later, he launched an opposite-field homer to expand the lead to 4-0. That was den Dekker's fifth homer in limited playing time this season, his second in as many days. Over the last two days, he's 7-for-8 with 16 total bases.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Pitching in an admittedly unusual setting — a half-empty stadium on a late-September Monday afternoon against an opponent that had to fly into town strictly for this makeup game that had no bearing on the standings — Scherzer was all business. He issued a 2-out walk to Joey Votto in the top of the first but struck out a pair in the inning. He issued a leadoff walk to Barnhardt in the top of the third but got out of that jam, thanks in large part to Moore's diving catch in left-center. After that, the right-hander was lights out, retiring 14 in a row during one stretch. He even dialed up his fastball to 99 mph to strike out Votto in the top of the seventh. The base hit by Barnhardt in the eighth was no cheapie: a line drive to left field. But it couldn't completely spoil another dominant performance from Scherzer that brought back plenty of good memories from his dominant first half.

KEY STAT: Five pitchers in baseball history have thrown two no-hitters in the same season: Johnny Vander Meer (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Virgil Trucks (1952), Nolan Ryan (1973) and Roy Halladay (2010, including one in the NLDS).

UP NEXT: The Nationals hit the road for the season's final week, stopping first in Atlanta for a 3-game series. Tanner Roark gets the start against the Braves' Matt Wisler.

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Nationals CF Victor Robles closing in on a return to the lineup

Nationals CF Victor Robles closing in on a return to the lineup

He has not played since Game 2 of the National League Division Series when he pulled up because of a hamstring strain after crossing first base. The strain was described at the time as “mild.” Robles has been working toward a return since then.

“We're going to run him a little bit [Sunday],” Davey Martinez said Sunday on a conference call. “He's got to get some treatment, and then we'll see [Monday]. He'll participate in BP and do a little bit more running, and we'll see where we're at [Monday].

“I'm not going to anticipate anything until he comes in [Monday], but he's progressing, and hopefully he'll be ready [Monday].”

Michael A. Taylor replaced Robles in center field. He hit an important solo home run Saturday and is hitting .300 in the postseason. He also made a significant judgment error in the outfield which allowed the Cardinals’ lone Game 2 -- and series -- run to score.

Martinez made it sound like Taylor’s time as the starting center fielder is over when Robles is ready to return.

“Victor has been in center field all year, and he's played really well for us,” Martinez said. “When he's healthy, he'll get a chance to play. But like I said before, we want him to be at 100 percent. So until then, we'll see what happens here in the next day or so.”

Few other changes are expected Monday. Stephen Strasburg will start. Kurt Suzuki -- despite his lack of postseason hitting and trouble throwing out runners -- should be behind the plate.

Reliever Roenis Elías, who has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since Sept. 5, may be in the mix Monday because Patrick Corbin’s bullpen appearances are now on hold prior to his Game 4 start.

“Moving forward, Elias is going to have to get those big outs against the lefties here in the next couple days,” Martinez said.

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Harper-Dusty reunion? Baker reportedly interviewing for Phillies manager job

Harper-Dusty reunion? Baker reportedly interviewing for Phillies manager job

After the Washington Nationals won back-to-back NL East division titles from 2017-2018 but failed to make it past the NLDS in each of those seasons, they cut bait with manager Dusty Baker by electing not to re-sign him when his contract expired.

Baker now has a chance to return to a managerial role, as the Chicago Tribune is reporting that he’s earned an interview with the Philadelphia Phillies after they fired Gabe Kapler last week.

The Phillies of course employ the services of Bryce Harper, who played under Baker in Washington and has spoken highly of him in the past.

After the Nats let him go, Baker stepped away from baseball for a year before joining the San Francisco Giants as a special adviser to the CEO last season. The two-time All-Star outfielder has managed the Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals over parts of 22 seasons, amassing a career record of 1,863-1,636 (.532).

Of the 15 skippers with more wins in their managerial careers, 13 are in the Hall of Fame and one (Bruce Bochy) is a shoo-in to get there. The other is Gene Mauch, who joins Baker as the only two managers with at least 1,600 wins to never claim a World Series title.

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