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Rizzo gives his side of Papelbon/Harper punishments

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Rizzo gives his side of Papelbon/Harper punishments

Mike Rizzo further justified the Nationals' decision to suspend Jonathan Papelbon four games and bench Bryce Harper one game Monday evening, citing the disparity in punishments between the two players as "equitable" given their roles in Sunday's dugout fight.

"You could see, by the type of discipline we placed on both players, which we thought was weighed the most," the Nationals general manager said after Monday's home finale against the Reds. "We felt that they were both equal and equitable ways to handle the situation."

Rizzo clearly placed the lion's share of blame for the incident on Papelbon, who instigated the matter by chirping at Harper for not running hard down the first-base line on an eighth-inning popup, then proceeded to grab his teammate by the neck and slam him against the dugout bench and back wall. But he also cited Harper for playing a part in the fracas, responding to Papelbon's verbal barbs with his own words that perhaps prompted the closer to turn physical.

"He was involved in a dugout fight with Jonathan Papelbon; that was the reason," Rizzo said. "He was involved in it. And you could see by how we weighted the disciplinary actions who we felt was more at fault than the other."

Rizzo did offer a passionate defense of Harper's hustle, both on the play in question and throughout his MVP-caliber season.

"I love the way Bryce Harper plays," the GM said. "I've got no problem with his effort level, with the way he hustles. It is the job of the veteran players to point out when they think you're not playing the game right. Pap must've felt that he wasn't, and he called him on it. It takes a guy with some guts to call a player out nowadays. But Harp plays the game the right way. I have no problem with the way he plays. Wasn't it just the other day people were telling us he plays too hard and we have to calm him down and not let him run so hard?"

Rizzo said he spoke to Papelbon via phone on Monday, informing him of the club's decision. The veteran reliever won't be joining the Nationals on their season-ending road trip but will apparently meet with team officials sometime shortly after that.

"He was upset with the suspension, and we discussed about the nature of the incident and how I felt that it was an unacceptable way to handle yourself as a Washington National," Rizzo said. "We parted amicably, and I left it with: We will see him shortly after the season."

Rizzo wouldn't delve into specifics about Papelbon's future with the organization beyond this year, other than to acknowledge more decisions will have to be made sometime soon.

"He's under contract," the GM said. "We're going to evaluate every moving part that we have after the season, and we'll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015."

Rizzo admitted he was surprised when Papelbon was allowed to re-take the mound for the ninth inning, just minutes after the fight, but understood why manager Matt Williams didn't immediately realize the severity of the incident.

"I thought it was odd," Rizzo said. "But there's a lot of things going on in the dugout at the time. Matt missed it. He owned up to it. He said it was his fault, if he had known he wouldn't have put him back in. His job is to manage that area in the dugout. And he made a mistake."

Asked if he was bothered by the fact no other coaches explained to Williams what exactly happened in that moment, Rizzo replied: "There's plenty of mistakes to go around in the issue, yes."

The Nationals knew of Papelbon's reputation when they acquired him July 28, but Rizzo said he was confident in the background work he and others in the organization did that the combustible reliever would fit in well in Washington.

"We did a lot of due diligence, like we do with every player that we acquire at the trade deadline or the draft or anything," he said. "We talked to a lot of his teammates, a lot of teammates he had in Boston. He's one of those guys that maybe irritates you if he's on the other team. But he's a good teammate that wants to win. He's a competitive guy."

Has Papelbon lived up to that description?

"I think for the most part he has fit into the clubhouse culture fine," Rizzo said. "You can ask the players in there. I think they respect what he's done in the game and the way he prepares and goes about his business. I'm not going to judge his entire body, his whole career, by this one incident. It was unfortunate and unacceptable. And I think the suspension says that."

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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.