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Solano catching on with Nats

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Solano catching on with Nats

Some Thursday morning leftovers and look-aheads as you get back to the grind following what hopefully was an enjoyable and safe Independence Day...

-- Jhonatan Solano was summoned to make his big-league debut five weeks ago, only after a string of injuries befell four players ahead of him on the Nationals' catching depth chart. These days, there's little reason to believe he'll be heading back to the minors anytime soon.

Solano has proven to be an unexpected surprise for the Nationals, a 26-year-old rookie who not only calls a good game behind the plate but has some legitimate skills at the plate.

With a homer and a single during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants, Solano raised his batting average to .393 (11-for-28). He's got two homers, three doubles, six RBI and an 1.128 OPS. Not bad for the Nationals' fifth-string catcher.

"I've said before, I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," manager Davey Johnson said. "From Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado ... I mean, all of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential. I've never been in an organization, and it's my fifth one, anywhere close to that."

The hilariously nicknamed "Onion" -- he traveled from his native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals on a bus with a bushel of onions on the seat next to him -- still isn't quite sure what to make of his good fortune. A career .251 hitter in the minors, he's taking pride in the fact he hasn't been overwhelmed by big-league pitching and that he's contributing to a first-place club.

"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," he said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like: 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"

The more Solano shows he can hold his own at this level, the more starts he's likely to get behind the plate. Johnson has wanted to gives Flores most rest and not burn out his starting catcher before season's end. With Solano establishing himself more and more, that shouldn't be a problem.

-- Chad Tracy began his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac last night and put together a couple of productive at-bats. The veteran corner infielder went 0-for-3 but delivered a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later drew a 10-pitch walk.

Tracy, who led the club with a .333 batting average and nine RBI as a pinch-hitter, has been out since late-May with a torn groin muscle. What initially was feared as a potential season-ending injury hasn't proven nearly as serious. Tracy figures spend the rest of the week on rehab but could be activated off the disabled list in time for the Nationals' second-half opener July 13 in Miami.

-- Don't adjust your eyeglasses or TV screens tonight when you check out the series final between the Nationals and Giants. Things might look a tad different, because both clubs will be wearing 1924 throwback uniforms, commemorating the only World Series championship in Washington baseball history.

The team uniforms won't be the only throwback elements to the game. The grounds crew, according to a Nationals press release, will be dressed in "full 1920s attire." The scoreboard will have a 1924 look to it, and traditional organ music will be played between innings. Also, the ceremonial first pitch will be performed with an actual ball from Game 6 of the '24 World Series and will be thrown from behind the first-base dugout as it used to be done.

-- Finally, here's your staggering fact of the day: When play begins around baseball today, the NL's two best records will belong to the Washington Nationals (47-32) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-36). Who had THAT predicted on Opening Day?

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Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- Ross Stripling struck out a career-high nine in six innings, Max Muncy drove in two runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

The Nationals suffered a potentially significant injury when Howie Kendrick went to the ground after catching Muncy's sacrifice fly to deep left in the eighth. Kendrick, who's hitting a team-leading .303, put no weight on his right leg and was taken off the field on a cart:

Stripling (1-1) struck out the side in the first inning and then fanned the final five batters he faced, getting Bryce Harper during each of those stretches, in the longest and best of his four starts this season. He allowed one run on four hits, walking none.

Stripling made 11 relief appearances, allowing one run in 15 1/3 innings, before moving into the Dodgers' rotation.

Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe had two hits apiece for Los Angeles, which won its second straight after losing nine of its previous 10.

The Nationals lost for the first time since May 9. Washington had not played a full game since Sunday night in Arizona because of rain that has lingered over the Mid-Atlantic. One game against the Yankees was suspended in the sixth inning and another was postponed, and Friday's game against Los Angeles also was washed out.

Pederson led off the game with a triple off Tanner Roark (2-4) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yasmani Grandal. Forsythe doubled in the second, breaking an 0-for-12 skid that stretched to April 14 and included a 26-game stint on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He singled in the fifth and scored on a grounder by Cody Bellinger.

Harper wore eyeglasses with clear plastic frames during his first at-bat, when he struck out swinging. He ditched the specs his second time up and drove in the Nationals' only run with a single to center.

Roark allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

J.T. Chargois worked the seventh, Josh Fields pitched the eighth and Kenley Jansen threw a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

Muncy, who struck out looking his first two at-bats, drove in the Dodgers' third run with a double in the sixth. His deep flyball to left in the eighth scored Justin Turner.

OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

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USA TODAY Sports

Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Dodgers travel to Washington on Friday to take on a Nationals team that was rolling before rain idled them for most of the week.

On Thursday, the Dodgers snapped a six-game losing streak with one of their best games of the season.

Justin Turner, who returned from the disabled list this week, tied a career high with five RBIs and Kenta Maeda threw eight scoreless innings in a 7-0 win over the Miami Marlins. Turner provided a three-run double in the third inning and a two-run double in the fourth.

"As a collective group, we've done a good job of getting people on base -- we just haven't had that timely hit," Matt Kemp told the Los Angeles Times. "We got one of our best hitters back, and he had a big day for us today. I think it relaxed everybody, and you saw some good things today."

Building on that momentum won't be easy on Friday as the Dodgers (17-26) face a well-rested Nationals team that has won 13 of its last 15 games and starter Max Scherzer (7-1, 1.69).

Washington (24-18) has played 5 1/2 innings of baseball since Monday due to rain in the Washington area.

Scherzer had been slated to pitch against the Yankees Wednesday on normal rest. The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer is making a strong case for No. 3.

He has won six straight decisions and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any start. Scherzer leads the majors with 14 strikeouts per nine innings and has held opponents to a .116 batting average in four home starts this season.

"I think what separates Max is his competitiveness, the fire and energy that he pitches with, almost imposing his will at times on hitters. He's just in attack mode all the time," closer Sean Doolittle told the Washington Post.

Ross Stripling (0-1, 2.20 ERA), filling the injured Clayton Kershaw's spot in the rotation, pitches for Los Angeles. He is 0-1 lifetime in two games against Washington with a 21.60 ERA.

In his last start, he left with the lead after allowing two runs on six hits, with a career-high seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to the Reds. Stripling batted in the fifth and was lifted in the sixth, only to watch the bullpen lose the lead in that inning.

"This was the first time Ross pitched into the sixth inning," manager Dave Roberts told mlb.com. "Up to 79 pitches, more than he's ever thrown, got a guy (JT Chargois) you're comfortable getting (Eugenio) Suarez out and it just didn't work out. We just didn't get it done."

Washington's light week was a gift for the back of the Nationals bullpen, including Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler and closer Doolittle, all of whom are on pace for career highs in appearances.

"Take 'em all," Kintzler told the Washington Post regarding the days off. "We need 'em."

Somebody who will be getting more days off than they want is catcher Matt Wieters, who had surgery Wednesday to repair his left hamstring, a procedure that could keep him out at least until the latter part of the season.

Backup Pedro Severino is hitting .274 with a .386 on-base percentage.

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