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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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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.