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Nats take national stage tonight

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Nats take national stage tonight

When ESPN announced over the winter it would be televising the first Sunday Night Baseball game at Nationals Park since the place opened in 2008, naturally the execs at the Worldwide Leader expected this game would feature the first-place Nationals shooting for their eighth-straight win over the last-place Phillies. Right? Right?

The Nationals couldn't have asked for better timing to unveil their 18-9 club to a nationwide audience. Sure, they'd love to have Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche in the lineup. Then again, the current group has successfully put 40 men on base the last two days. Not wanting to tinker with perfection, Davey Johnson will go with the same lineup tonight, even though left-hander Cole Hamels is on the mound for Philadelphia.

Jordan Zimmermann, meanwhile, gets the start for the Nationals. Here's hoping the right-hander (often the forgotten man of this rotation) gets some well-deserved national attention.

Lots of updates to come, so please check the live game thread on Nats Insider...

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
TV: ESPN
Radio: WWXT (92.7 FM), WWXX (94.3 FM), WTEM (980 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), WNEW (1580 AM), XM 89
Weather: Partly cloudy, 69 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF

NATIONALS (18-9)
SS Ian Desmond
3B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Bryce Harper
RF Jayson Werth
1B Chad Tracy
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
RHP Jordan Zimmermann

PHILLIES (13-15)
SS Jimmy Rollins
LF Juan Pierre
CF Shane Victorino
RF Hunter Pence
1B Laynce Nix
C Carlos Ruiz
3B Placido Polanco
2B Pete Orr
LHP Cole Hamels

UMPIRES
HP Andy Fletcher, 1B D.J. Reyburn, 2B Rob Drake, 3B Sam Holbrook

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Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

Max Scherzer takes the next step toward returning to the mound for the Nationals

BALTIMORE -- Max Scherzer emerged from the visitor's dugout about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday and walked to left field. A bullpen catcher, director of athletic training, Paul Lessard, and a couple of other watchful eyes went with him.

Scherzer progressively backed up while throwing in the outfield. By the end, he was roughly 90 feet from the catcher and throwing with clear effort.

The nightly news will not lead with the development. However, it's progress for Scherzer. Manager Davey Martinez said Scherzer came out of the session -- a little further apart, a little more intense than Tuesday's version -- feeling well. 

So, what's next? Thursday, Scherzer could throw a "light" bullpen session in Atlanta. that will determine if he pitches Sunday. Scherzer (mid-back strain) is first eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Saturday.

The Nationals have their rotation for the series against Atlanta otherwise set: Stephen Strasburg on Thursday, Patrick Corbin on Friday, and Anibal Sanchez on Saturday. If Scherzer can't pitch Sunday, Austin Voth would be on the turn. 

Washington entered play Wednesday night six games behind first-place Atlanta, which lost Wednesday afternoon to Milwaukee. The Braves lost two of three to the Brewers, dropping a series for the first time since time June 4-6. Washington can creep as close as 5 1/2 games back before the four-game series begins.

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Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

After being placed on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, Max Scherzer is supposed to come off of the IL by Saturday in time for the Nationals' third game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

When he will actually pitch, is another question.

On Tuesday, Scherzer reportedly told manager Davey Martinez he's feeling "a lot better." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo followed up those comments during his spot on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"If he’s capable of pitching he will," Rizzo said.

Rizzo told the Junkies that he will find out more information about Scherzer's status prior to Wednesday's final game against the Baltimore Orioles. He said he, in conjunction with the Nationals' medical personnel, made the decision to place Scherzer on the 10-day IL.

“He was incapable of pitching the way Max Scherzer pitches so we all decided to put him on the IL," Rizzo said.

Scherzer was scheduled to start against the Braves this weekend, but the decision will depend on how Scherzer feels.

‘We’re still in July," Rizzo said. "Guarantee you this: If this is September and we needed this win, you couldn’t keep Max off the mound. Sometimes I have to be the adult in the room and just say, ‘sorry, buddy, not this time.”

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