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Nats hold on in Strasburg's gem

Nats hold on in Strasburg's gem

Stephen Strasburg may have had the worst start of his career just five days ago in Miami, but there were certainly no residual effects on Sunday in Washingtons 4-3 victory over the Cardinals. The Nationals ace did not earn the win, but he set his team up with six scoreless innings in what will be one of his final outings of the 2012 season.

Strasburg was razor sharp with nine strikeouts and set down a formidable St. Louis lineup, the offense of a team that currently holds a wild card spot and could be the Nationals first round matchup if both clubs make the postseason. His dominance of a possible playoff foe perhaps further sets in the fact he will be absent for whatever happens, but at this point Strasburg and his teammates have to keep their mind on the task at hand.

Im just focused on the next start. Thats all I can really focus on right now, Strasburg said.

Im in it with these guys and we still got a long way to go but Im going to fight with them until the end.

The task today was to bounce back from that disastrous, five-earned run outing against the Marlins. Strasburg said he met with catcher Kurt Suzuki, pitching coach Steve McCatty, and even Gio Gonzalez in between the starts to figure out how to fix what went wrong.

I just really wanted to go out there and use all my pitches, not necessarily use one like I did last outing. And it seemed to work a lot better, he said.

Obviously the last outing he hit a little speed bump, but he does a good job. For a younger guy he is really mature and confident in himself. He knew he was going to go out there and do well today and you guys saw the Strasburg that you guys are used to seeing, Suzuki said.

Suzuki helped Strasburg both behind the plate and with his bat. In the fourth inning he broke the then-scoreless game with a solo home run off Jake Westbrook, a line drive that landed in the front row of seats in left field. He then put the Nats up by two in the sixth with an RBI single that scored Ian Desmond.

Both Suzuki and manager Davey Johnson acknowledged some changes were made to his swing since he arrived in D.C.

Thats what we have really been doing is really take the effort out of the swing. Just kind of be nice and easy, free and easy, which the less tension you have it is going to be a lot quicker, Suzuki said.

I thought when he first got here, he actually had a little bigger swing, he was swinging up on the ball, a little longer swing. Rick Ecksteins done a good job, Johnson said.

Suzuki also played a role in an important defensive play to end the top of the fourth. After a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error (he had two in the game), Strasburg walked David Freese on a wild pitch to put men on first and third. Bryan Anderson flied to right and Bryce Harper threw a bullet to home to get him out. The throw was well in time for a tag, but Suzuki had to step off the plate and make an agile move turning around to make the out. The double play ended the inning and brought the crowd of 31,096 out of their seats.

The Cardinals were able to break through in the seventh inning after Strasburg had been pulled. Sean Burnett came in and retired the first two batters swiftly, but unraveled after a two-out single to Pete Kozma. David Descalso came up next and pulled a ball into the Nats bullpen for a two-run, game-tying homer.

He made a bad pitch today, got behind, his control has not been as sharp., Johnson said.

This is a pretty tough ballclub. Theyve got left-handers hitting left-handed pitching. Just cant make mistakes. I thought he was better today except for that one pitch.

Burnett has allowed four earned runs in his last 5.1 innings, including two consecutive blown saves. After the game Johnson was asked if perhaps he was being used too much.

I might give him a couple days off to regroup. Sometimes you catch a hot-hitting club, but hes been exceptional. Im not worried about overpitching him.

The Nationals regrouped in the next frame to take another two-run lead. Michael Morse and Chad Tracy each singled with two-outs off reliever Lance Lynn, with rookie Eury Perez replacing Morse as the runner. Perez stole third which, according to Davey was not authorized, and then Desmond batted him home with a single. Danny Espinosa was up next and scored Tracy with a line drive to center field.

St. Louis would score another run in the eighth with consecutive doubles by Tony Cruz and David Freese, but closer Tyler Clippard shut the door in the ninth for his 29th save of the season.

The Nationals took their third game of four against the Cardinals and won their 81st on the season. That total matches the club record since moving to Washington that was set in 2005. The 2005 team got number 81 on September 28, the 159th game of the season. They still have 29 games left this season to improve on that number. They are on pace for about 99 wins after Sunday's game.

It was a balanced win for the Nationals, no doubt about it. Their ace pitched a classic gem, they overcame a game-tying home run with a seventh inning rally, and saw their ever-reliable closer seal the win in the ninth. The fact it came against a potential playoff opponent does bring significance, they even admit it.

Everybody feels thats a heck of a ballclub over there, everybodys a little more amped up, Johnson said. But all these games are big games, and when you play a really good opponent thats in the hunt, you sense it.

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2018 MLB Home Run Derby: Bracket, time, odds and how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB Home Run Derby: Bracket, time, odds and how to watch

The Home Run Derby is officially here! Monday night, Nationals Park will host one of the most anticipated events of the All-Star Week, where the best sluggers in baseball will see how many dingers they can rack up as they face off against each other.

Everyone loves a good home-run show, so before the derby kicks off, here's what you need to know about it, from the start time to the TV channel to the lineup – which, of course, includes Bryce Harper in his second Home Run Derby with a slight home-field advantage.

Eight players have been seeded against each other, and despite the unusual lack of star power in this year's lineup — including missing Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge — this should still be a good show.

There are seven players from the National League and just one from the American League, and the Nats' home-town hero could reasonably win. Harper is the only player participating this year who has previously played in a Home Run Derby, after finishing second in 2013 to Yoenis Cespedes.

So before the Derby starts, here's what you need to know.

HOW TO WATCH

What: 2018 MLB Home Run Derby

Where: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Stream online: Watch ESPN

LINEUP AND SEEDS ( *NL, #AL)

The seeding for this year's bracket was determined based on the number of home runs each player had accumulated by the end of last Tuesday's games, and any ties were broken by the number of total home runs dating back to June 15. Anyone whose home run total going into the derby is different from that at the deadline is noted.

1. Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers*

Batting average: .298

2018 HRs: 24 (23 at deadline)

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals*

Batting average: .214

2018 HRs: 23 (22 at deadline)

3. Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers*

Batting average: .271

2018 HRs: 22 (21 at deadline)

4. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros#

Batting average: .288

2018 HRs: 20 (19 at deadline)

5. Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs*

Batting average: .249

2018 HRs: 18 (17 at deadline)

6. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs*

Batting average: .292

2018 HRs: 19 (17 at deadline)

7. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves*

Batting average: .315

2018 HRs: 16 

8. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies*

Batting average: .252

2018 HRs: 14

THE BRACKET


THE FORMAT

There are three rounds through the bracket with a single-elimination one-on-one format, with the lower seed batting first.

Each player will have four minutes per round, and each batter is allowed one 45-second timeout in the first round and semifinals, plus two timeouts in the final round of 45 seconds and 30 seconds. If a player hits a home run that equals or exceeds 440 feet, an additional 30 seconds will be added to the clock.

However, if the second batter passes the first batter's total, the round ends, and he will be declared the winner. 

Should there be a tie, players will compete in a 60-second swing-off with no timeouts allowed. If that ends and there is still a tie, they will have three-swing swing-offs until there is a winner.

ODDS

Per OddsShark.com, Mr. Bryce Harper has the best odds to win the 2018 MLB Home Run Derby, followed by Kyle Schwarder,  Javier Baez and Jesus Aguilar. Here's the breakdown.

Harper +225

Schwarber +350

Baez +500

Aguilar +500

Muncy +650

Freeman +750

Hoskins +900

Bregman +1000

LAST YEAR'S RESULTS

New York Yankees' slugger Aaron Judge is the defending Home Run Derby champ, but he opted not to participate this year.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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