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Nats win as Strasburg dominates in return to the mound

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Nats win as Strasburg dominates in return to the mound

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The sight of Stephen Strasburg taking the mound this season has produced plenty of emotions, unfortunately far too many of them negative after four months of struggles, injuries and some downright bizarre outings. But by the end of this night, after Strasburg had thoroughly dominated the Rockies in his return from the disabled list, there is as much reason to be optimistic about the right-hander as there has been in a very long time.

Strasburg was brilliant in his first start since suffering an oblique strain on July 4. He tossed seven innings of 1-run ball, scattering three hits while striking out 12 and failing to walk anybody. He even notched three hits at the plate for the first time in his career. And when he departed after the seventh, a crowd of 37,115 rose to give him his loudest ovation of a trying season.

Strasburg was the recipient of plenty of of run support, with the Nationals scoring in the second, third, fifth and seventh innings, RBI coming from up and down the lineup. And thanks to the Mets actually losing a ballgame for the first time in nine days, the Nats ended the night down only 1 1/2 games in the NL East.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: As they did Friday night, the Nationals got big hits from everybody in the heart of their lineup. And the biggest one came from Wilson Ramos. With two on and one out in the bottom of the second, Ramos stayed back on a breaking ball and roped it to deep right-center. By the time the Rockies retrieved it, both Clint Robinson and Ian Desmond had come around to score and Ramos had coasted into second base with a big double. Slowly but surely, the Nats catcher is coming of a long slump at the plate, and he's doing it with hits exactly like that: to center and right fields.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: If there were any fears about Strasburg in his first start in five weeks, he very quickly put those to rest. Despite allowing a leadoff double to Charlie Blackmon, he buckled right down and got out of the first inning with some electric pitches. And by night's end, he had authored one of the best starts of his career: 7 innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball, with 12 strikeout and zero walks. It's the sixth time Strasburg has recorded double-digit strikeouts without issuing a walk in his career. And he even went 3-for-3 at the plate after going 0-for-16 prior to this game. It was everything the Nats could have wanted in Strasburg's return, and it will only leave the right-hander with sky-high confidence moving forward.

KEY STAT: Ryan Zimmerman has driven in a run in each of his last six games. Zimmerman already holds the club record with an RBI in nine straight games in 2012.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up at 1:35 p.m. Sunday when Max Scherzer (11-8, 2.31) seeks his first win at Nationals Park since his June 20 no-hitter. Lefty Yohan Flande (2-1, 3.54) starts for the Rockies.

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Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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