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Nats open with a dud

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Nats open with a dud

As much as Davey Johnson would like to count on baseball's best pitching staff to lead the way on a nightly basis, the Nationals manager knows it takes more than that to beat a high-powered opponent like the Yankees.

"Knowing you have good pitching is one thing," Johnson said. "But when you play the American League East division, you have to have offense. ... You've got to score a lot to win."

Johnson said this Friday afternoon, about 2 12 hours before his Nationals took the field for the most-anticipated series in the team's brief history. And by night's end, after the Yankees had thumped the home club 7-2 before a sellout crowd of 41,406, the veteran skipper looked mighty prescient.

Sure, there were some pitching miscues along the way, from Gio Gonzalez racking up too many pitches early to relievers Brad Lidge and Michael Gonzalez giving up four runs in a span of three minutes and turning a tight ballgame into a blowout.

But it's tough to ignore the lack of punch from a Nationals lineup that couldn't make the most of two early opportunities and then barely gave itself any more chances the rest of the night.

"We had opportunities, and we just didn't capitalize," Johnson said. "We had men on base early in the ballgame. The right guys up. Just didn't deliver. That's baseball."

The overflow crowd -- the majority of which surprisingly was in place by first pitch -- was primed to explode in the first inning when Gonzalez set the Yankees down in order and when his teammates threatened to score with two on, one out and the heart of the lineup at the plate. But back-to-back strikeouts by Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse killed that potential rally and killed the buzz inside the ballpark.

Two innings later, the scenario nearly repeated itself. With the bases loaded and one out, Morse did deliver an RBI single. But Ian Desmond immediately grounded the first pitch he saw from right-hander Phil Hughes (a 75-mph curveball down in the zone) to short for a tailor-made, 6-4-3 double play that killed another potential rally.

"I feel like I hit curveballs pretty well," said Desmond, who does have a .407 average this season when he puts the first pitch of an at-bat in play. "Just caught it a little out front."

The Nationals only trailed 2-1 at that point, but little did they know they wouldn't have another legitimate scoring opportunity until the ninth, at which point the deficit had grown to six runs.

From Desmond's double-play grounder in the third through LaRoche's strikeout in the eighth, the Nationals put just one man on base against Hughes and relievers Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada.

"When you throw 94, 95 and you can put it wherever you want, it's tough," Ryan Zimmerman said of Hughes. "He did a good job of that."

Complicating matters for the Nationals was the status of their starting pitcher. Though Gonzalez put up solid numbers, striking out eight while allowing just two runs through six innings, he needed an excess of pitches to battle his way through the early portion of the game, leaving him unable to go as deep as his manager would have preferred.

With his pitch count sitting at 107, Gonzalez was allowed to take the mound for the seventh. But his leash was short.

"He was real adamant he wanted to go out in the seventh," Johnson said. "And I wanted him out there. But we're down in the ballgame. I'm not going to take him to his maximum pitches. I was going to go hitter-by-hitter with him."

Turns out Gonzalez only got to face one hitter before getting yanked. Andruw Jones' leadoff single brought Johnson out of the dugout and Lidge out of the bullpen.

"I felt like I could've kept going," said Gonzalez, who has thrown as many as 115 pitches this season. "I felt strong. My arm felt great."

Entrusted with the ball in a one-run game, Lidge immediately put himself into a jam. He let pinch-runner Dewayne Wise steal second without a throw and then walked Russell Martin on eight pitches. Jayson Nix's sacrifice bunt forced the Nationals to intentionally walk Robinson Cano, and that loaded the bases for Derek Jeter.

Lidge's goal in that situation: Get Jeter to hit a groundball to the left side of the infield. And he got exactly that. Except the ball was placed ever-so-perfectly between short and third, just out of Zimmerman's reach and just deep enough in the hole to induce a long, low throw from Desmond that scooted past LaRoche at first base and ultimately allowed two runs to score.

"When I look back on it now, it's kind of frustrating," Lidge said. "Because all of a sudden, you're out of the game. What just happened? I think Martin had a good at-bat, and then after that it was just like ... You can't control results a lot of times. You can control what you do pitching-wise, but sometimes you throw the pitch you want and it doesn't work."

Following the seeing-eye Jeter single, Lidge was removed in favor of Michael Gonzalez, who immediately served up a two-run double to Curtis Granderson. And all of a sudden, a 2-1 deficit was a 6-1 deficit and many Nationals fans among the overflow crowd began heading for the exits.

Thus, the Nationals' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt and this highly anticipated series kicked off with a dud of a ballgame from the surprise NL East leaders.

"I think tonight maybe we were a little flat," Lidge said. "We did such a good job on the road trip that we're coming out expecting to win every single game. And that's great. That's the expectations that you want. But I think we just had one of those nights where a lot of groundballs just kind of fell in, hits that weren't really hit that well dropped in and as a result of that they scored some runs. You have to tip your hat to them sometimes."

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Jose Urena throws 1st complete game, Marlins rout Nationals 12-1

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Jose Urena throws 1st complete game, Marlins rout Nationals 12-1

WASHINGTON -- Jose Urena's previous start ended after one very heated pitch.

On Sunday, he went the distance.

Urena made the most of his borrowed time, pitching a two-hitter for his first complete game in the majors and leading the Miami Marlins over the Washington Nationals 12-1 on Sunday.

Urena (4-12) was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball after hitting Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. on Wednesday. Urena was ejected from that start after throwing one fastball and appealed the penalty, keeping him eligible to play.

"I know what I did, and I know what kind of person I am and what kind of teammate," Urena said. "Just tried to execute my plan and go out there and have fun and show what I can do."

Urena, tied for the NL lead in hit batters, didn't plunk anyone on the Nationals, nor did he alter his approach. He struck out four, walked two and retired the last 16 batters. It was his first complete game in 74 big league starts.

"If you make a mistake you've got to pay," Urena said of Washington's lineup. "We tried to move their feet, make them uncomfortable at the plate. Try to attack the inside."

Right-hander Pablo Lopez was originally slated to start Sunday's game, but manager Don Mattingly opted to push him back to Tuesday and insert Urena.

The 26-year-old right-hander's next start would normally be scheduled for next weekend at home against the Braves. Urena could decide to drop the appeal, serve the suspension and miss that series -- after the game, he said he'll maintain the appeal.

Starlin Castro got a career-high five hits and scored three times. JT Riddle and J.T. Realmuto each homered and drove in three runs for Miami, with Riddle connecting for the second straight game. Isaac Galloway had three hits, including his first career homer.

It was the Marlins' first series win in Washington since 2014.

Trying to keep pace with the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, the third-place Nationals have now lost four of their last five against the last-place Marlins. The Nationals host the Phillies for three games beginning Tuesday night.

Gio Gonzalez (7-10) allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Over his last 13 starts, Gonzalez is 1-8 with 7.07 ERA.

"I think it was in all honesty an ugly game. And everybody saw it," manager Dave Martinez said. "Gio couldn't keep us in the game and it got ugly."

Leading 3-1, the Marlins broke it open with a five-run fifth. After Riddle's sacrifice fly, the Marlins loaded the bases and Rafael Ortega hit a bases-loaded, two-run double off the glove of a diving first baseman Matt Adams to end Gonzalez's afternoon.

Realmuto greeted reliever Greg Holland with a two-run single, making it 8-1.

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Bryce Harper drives in 3, Nationals snap skid, beat Cardinals 5-4

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Bryce Harper drives in 3, Nationals snap skid, beat Cardinals 5-4

ST. LOUIS -- Koda Glover rewarded his manager's faith.

Bryce Harper had three hits and drove in three runs, Glover earned the save in the first opportunity since Ryan Madson was placed on the disabled list, and the Washington Nationals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

The Nationals won for just the third time in their last 10 games and snapped the Cardinals' season-high, eight-game winning streak.

"We needed a win today," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "Get on that plane, have a nice happy flight and come back tomorrow and be at home and be ready."

Tanner Roark (8-12) gave up four runs, three earned, in six innings.

A beleaguered bullpen that had blown two leads to start the losing streak took care of the rest. Justin Miller pitched two scoreless innings before Glover closed it out.

"There's been a lot of changes (in the bullpen)," Miller said. "It's unfortunate, a couple of injuries and stuff like that, but I don't really look at it as I've got the seventh or eighth or anything like that. I'm just going out there just trying to do my job."

Glover took the loss in the series opener on Monday, giving up a game-ending homer to Paul DeJong.

"The first game of the series didn't go as I would have liked for it to have went," Glover said. "So to get put back in that situation or even a better situation to get a save, I'm happy with that outcome."

Harper drove in the game's first run with a double in the first and knocked in two more with a bases-loaded single in the fourth to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

A pair of errors helped the Nationals extend their lead to 5-1 in the fifth. St. Louis committed three errors in the game after committing just four total errors during the winning streak.

"A couple plays clearly we expect to make and will make and just didn't go our way for a little bit there," Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. "To the guys' credit they regrouped, settled down, and started playing back to the baseball they know they can play."

The Nationals had opportunities to pad the lead, leaving the bases loaded in the third and fifth while stranding nine runners in the first five innings.

"When you have an opportunity to put teams away you've got to do that," Martinez said. "Especially with how hot the Cardinals are playing right now. They're going to come back."

The Cardinals got within one in the sixth. After DeJong and Kolten Wong came up with back-to-back, two-out RBI hits, Harrison Bader hit a slow grounder to third. Anthony Rendon's throw to first got away from Ryan Zimmerman for an error, allowing Wong to score from second to cut the Nationals' lead to 5-4.

Just two of the four runs Luke Weaver (6-11) allowed in his 3 2/3 innings were earned. He gave up seven hits, including two to Roark, who scored both times.

Tyson Ross allowed one unearned run in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Bader homered in the third and Matt Carpenter walked twice to extend his on-base streak to a career-high 34 games.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson will have an MRI on his sore right wrist on Friday. RHP Joe Ross (right elbow surgery) threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings at Class A Potomac on Thursday and is hoping for a September return.

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (right shoulder strain) will begin a rehab Friday at Double-A Springfield. RHP Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation) threw two scoreless innings Thursday night at High-A Palm Beach.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (15-5, 2.19 ERA) will take the mound as the Nationals return home for a three-game series Friday night against the Miami Marlins and RHP Dan Straily (4-5, 4.42 ERA). Scherzer is 3-0 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts this season against the Marlins.

Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (6-6, 3.22 ERA) kicks off a three-game series Friday night as the Cardinals host the Milwaukee Brewers and RHP Freddy Peralta (5-3, 4.47 ERA). Flaherty struck out a career-high 13 batters in his last start against the Brewers on June 22.