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Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

Stephen Strasburg ends club-record scoreless streak, still gets win over Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals qualified for the playoffs in three of the previous five years, yet injuries have limited Stephen Strasburg to just one postseason start in that span. Left largely without the All-Star right-hander, Washington lost the opening series each time.

If Strasburg keeps up his current level, postseason failures may become a thing of the past.

Strasburg ended his club-record scoreless streak at 35 innings, but two home runs from Ryan Zimmerman helped the NL Cy Young Award contender win his fourth consecutive start as Washington beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 on Sunday night.

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Strasburg (14-4) allowed a run in the second inning on Logan Forsythe's double, the first against him since Aug. 19. He struck out eight and combined with three relievers to toss a five-hitter.

"Stras' was awesome," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

The Nationals avoided a three-game sweep against the NL front-runners. Their slumbering offense came alive on Zimmerman's three-run shot in the sixth off reliever Ross Stripling (3-5), and Zimmerman and pinch-hitter Adam Lind homered in the eighth.

Los Angeles had lost 11 in a row and 16 of 17 before ripping off four consecutive wins, including the first two games this series. The Dodgers magic number to clinch the NL West dropped to four when second-place Arizona lost at San Francisco.

They dropped the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington last October with Strasburg sidelined after partially tearing the pronator tendon in his throwing arm.

"He pitched well. He competed," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Strasburg. "Really couldn't create much stress towards him or on him."

The Dodgers ended the series six games ahead of Washington in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

"Two very good ballclubs. Very similar, very balanced," Roberts continued. "I know they have the same respect for us as we do them."

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The Nationals would likely concede home-field if it means having Strasburg, whose only postseason start came in 2014.

Strasburg had two outs in the second before the streak ended. With Yasiel Puig on third base, Forsythe hit a drive deep to left-center field. Michael Taylor raced into the gap, caught up with the flight path and put his glove on the ball, but couldn't catch it. Puig easily scored for a 1-0 lead.

During the streak, Strasburg allowed 19 hits, walked five and had 42 strikeouts.

"It was going to happen eventually," Strasburg said of the streak ending. "So, just tried to minimize the damage."

Anthony Rendon hit an RBI double in the seventh for Washington, which had lost four of five.

Zimmerman's solo homer in the eighth matched his career high of 33 long balls.

Following a walk and single against Stripling, Zimmerman powered a drive deep to center field for a 3-1 lead.

"I challenged Zimmerman with a slider and it ended up being up-middle and, obviously, he got a hold of it," Stripling said.

Washington scored only two earned runs over the first 23 innings of the series before Zimmerman's first homer.

"We were getting shutout. Having trouble scoring runs. That was a big home run," Baker said.

Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings but was removed after walking back-to-back batters with two outs in the fifth.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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