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Nats thrived in Desmond's absence

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Nats thrived in Desmond's absence

They survived without Michael Morse for two months. They made do without Jayson Werth for three months. And they held it together without Drew Storen for 3 12 months.

But when Ian Desmond succumbed to a torn oblique muscle four weeks ago, it appeared the Nationals had finally sustained an injury that could not easily be overcome.

Turns out the Nats didn't just overcome Desmond's stint on the disabled list. They played their best baseball of the season in spite of it, going 19-6 since their All-Star shortstop last appeared on the field during the July 21 doubleheader against the Braves.

And their reward for it all? It appears they'll be getting Desmond back on the field sooner than anyone expected.

After a week's worth of full workouts with the club while it was on the road in Arizona and San Francisco, Desmond is all but ready to return. He's scheduled to get at-bats against Chien-Ming Wang today in a simulated game, and barring any major setbacks, the Nationals plan to activate him off the DL before tomorrow night's series opener against the Mets.

It would be stunning recovery for a player widely expected to miss at least six weeks when he was first shut down. Desmond won't appear in any minor-league rehab games or get any at-bats against live pitching other than Wang's simulated game, but he and the Nationals are convinced he'll be able to make a seamless transition back into the lineup.

There's no debating Desmond's significance to this team and the difference he should make as soon as he returns. But there's also no debating how well the Nationals held up over the last four weeks without the heart and soul of their infield.

Danny Espinosa, a natural shortstop who had become a top-flight second baseman in the big leagues, transferred back to his old position and showed no signs of rust, proving quite adept at playing shortstop in the big leagues over a prolonged stretch. He also picked up his performance at the plate, hitting .288 with five homers, 16 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage over the last 25 games.

And Steve Lombardozzi, who was beginning to make a name for himself as a rookie utilityman, ably took over everyday duties at second base and hit .308 with a .351 on-base percentage and six extra-base hits.

It's enough to make you wonder why the Nationals feel the need to rush Desmond back so soon. Sure, he was missed and his return will make them even better, but it's not like the Nationals suffered in any real tangible way without their starting shortstop.

Desmond's return also bumps Lombardozzi to the bench just as he's begun to find a consistent stroke at the plate as an everyday player. Manager Davey Johnson says he will continue to find ways to get the versatile rookie into his lineup, but obviously he won't get as much playing time as he had over the last month.

The Nationals feel like it's worth the challenge in order to get Desmond back. And over the long haul, they'll benefit from his return.

But the Nats had better hope Desmond picks right up where he left off four weeks ago. Because the last thing the best (and hottest) team in baseball needs right now is anything that might tinker with a formula that has been wildly successful.

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What to eat at the 2018 MLB All-Star FanFest

What to eat at the 2018 MLB All-Star FanFest

Before we begin, let's make one thing clear: if you're going to the MLB All-Star Game FanFest to eat, you're already doing something wrong.

There isn't really any good food there, but there are some interesting options. You can, of course, get a bunch of fried food and traditional ballpark fare. But you also have some more intriguing options, if you're feeling adventurous.

You could get what one concession stand claims to be an "Old City Style Philly Cheese Steak," some jerk chicken, various subs or even sushi, among other things.

But you're in D.C. for the day, and you only want to spend $40 on lunch for you and your date so you can still go out for what's sure to be an overpriced dinner.

The safest bet is to go to the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog stand and grab a pair of hot dogs for $7 each. There's a reason Joey Chestnut can eat 74 of these babies in 10 minutes. Having only spent $14 on your main course, you've still got money left over for drinks and a desert.

If you're over 21, there's a whole corner of the convention hall set up with a selection of adult beverages ranging between $6 and $7. If you're not, there's some fresh-squeezed lemonade at a nearby stand for only $5 — unless you want a large, that's $8.

Whatever you choose, it's time to head to the Dippin' Dots stand for dessert. They don't call it the ice cream of the future for nothing. This $6, five-ounce cup of ice cream pellets (it's better than it sounds) will soak up the rest of your lunch budget.

Riskier (and also more expensive) options include a $12 jerk, pineapple or curry chicken bowl or a variety of rice bowls from Hanaro Sushi for $15 apiece. Either of these choices will likely eliminate dessert from your meal, but who really wants dessert with lunch anyway?

When all is said and done, you're probably not getting a gourmet meal out of this experience, but you can at least enjoy a not-bad meal while you explore some of the interesting things about baseball.

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2018 MLB All-Star Game: How to watch, starting lineups, full rosters

2018 MLB All-Star Game: How to watch, starting lineups, full rosters

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game is finally here.

The Midsummer Classic returns to the nation's capital today for the first time in almost 50 years. This is also the first time the Washington Nationals have hosted the All-Star Game, and the first time in over 30 years that the Nationals franchise has hosted it when they were the Montreal Expos. 

After Bryce Harper stole the show on Monday night with a thrilling victory in the Home Run Derby, it's time for Max Scherzer, Sean Doolittle and the rest of the N.L. roster to join Harper as they take on the best players from the American League.

The 2018 MLB All-Star Game gets going at 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night and is broadcast on FOX.

Here's what to know about the 2018 MLB All-Star weekend.  

2018 MLB All-Star Game How to Watch 

Where: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C. 
When: 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 17th
TV channel: FOX
Live Stream: FOXsports.com
Announcers: Joe Buck (PbP), John Smoltz (Analyst), Ken Rosenthal (Reporter), Tom Verducci (Reporter)

2018 National League All-Star Roster

STARTING LINEUP
1. Javier Baez, 2B (Cubs)
2. Nolan Arenado, 3B (Rockies)
3. Paul Goldschmidt, DH (Diamondbacks)
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B (Braves)
5. Matt Kemp, LF (Dodgers)
6. Bryce Harper, CF (Nationals)
7. Nick Markakis, RF (Braves)
8. Brandon Crawford, SS (Giants)
9. Wilson Contreras, C (Cubs)
SP: Max Scherzer (Nationals)

RESERVES:
Yadier Molina, C (Cardinals); J.T. Realmuto, C (Marlins); Joey Votto, 1B (Reds); Jesus Aguilar, 1B (Brewers); Ozzie Albies, 2B (Braves); Scooter Gennett, 2B (Reds); Eugenio Suarez, 3B (Reds); Trevor Story, SS (Rockies), Charlie Blackmon, OF (Rockies), Lorenzo Cain, OF (Brewers); Christian Yelich, OF (Brewers)

STARTING PITCHERS:
Patrick Corbin, LH (Diamondbacks); Jacob deGrom, RH (Mets); Mike Foltynewicz, RH (Braves); Zack Greinke, RH (Diamondbacks); Aaron Nola, RH (Phillies); Ross Stripling, RH (Dodgers)

RELIEF PITCHERS:
Josh Hader, LH (Brewers); Brad Hand, LH (Padres); Kenley Jansen, RH (Dodgers); Jeremy Jeffress, RH (Brewers); Felipe Vazquez, LH (Pirates) 

INJURED/INACTIVE PLAYERS:
LH Sean Doolittle, LH (Nationals), Jon Lester, LH (Cubs); RH Miles Mikolas, RH Cardinals (inactive); Buster Posey, C (Giants)

2018 American League All-Star Roster

STARTING LINEUP
1. Mookie Betts, RF (Red Sox)
2. Jose Altuve, 2B (Astros)
3. Mike Trout, CF (Angels)
4. J.D. Martinez, DH (Red Sox)
5. Jose Ramirez, 3B (Indians)
6. Aaron Judge, LF (Yankees)
7. Manny Machado, SS (Orioles)
9. Salvador Perez, C (Royals)
SP: Chris Sale (Red Sox)

RESERVES:
Yan Gomes, C (Indians); Mitch Moreland, 1B (Red Sox); Jed Lowrie, 2B (Athletics); Alex Bregman, 3B (Astros), Francisco Lindor, SS (Indians); Jean Segura, SS (Mariners), Michael Brantley, OF (Indians); Shin-Soo Choo, OF (Rangers); Mitch Haniger, OF (Mariners); George Springer, OF (Astros); Nelson Cruz, OF (Mariners)

STARTING PITCHERS:
Trevor Bauer, RH (Indians);  Jose Berrios, RH (Twins); Gerrit Cole, RH (Astros); J.A. Happ, LH (Blue Jays); Charlie Morton, RH (Astros); Luis Severino, RH (Yankees); Blake Snell, LH (Rays)

RELIEF PITCHERS:
Edwin Diaz, RH (Mariners); Joe Jimenez, RH (Tigers); Craig Kimbrel, RH (Red Sox); Blake Treinen, RH (Athletics)

INJURED/INACTIVE PLAYERS:
Aroldis Chapman, LH (Yankees); Corey Kluber, RH (Indians); Wilson Ramos, C (Rays), Gleyber Torres, 2B (Yankees), Justin Verlander, RH (Astros)

All-Star Game History

— 89th annual MLB All-Star Game
— Series tied 43-43-2
— Last A.L. win: 2017 (2-1)
— Last N.L. win: 2012 (8-0)
— Longest ASG: 15 innings (1979 and 2008)
— First MVP: Maury Wills, SS Dodgers (1962)
— Most Recent MVP: Robinson Cano, 2B Mariners (2017)
— Most MVP awards by team: Orioles (6)

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