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Strasburg rocked as Nats fall 14-6 to Diamondbacks

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Strasburg rocked as Nats fall 14-6 to Diamondbacks

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Stephen Strasburg took the mound Tuesday night at Chase Field with even more eyes focused on him than usual, everyone wondering if he would bounce back from last week's abbreviated start that saw the right-hander wincing after several pitches, or whether there was any cause for lingering concern. Very quickly, it became clear Strasburg wasn't going to put questions about him to rest.

The right-hander was roughed up by the Diamondbacks, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in only 3 1/3 innings. He served up homers to Ender Inciarte and Mark Trumbo, couldn't field a routine bunt and couldn't command any of his pitches. There was no wincing apparent this time, but Strasburg's second straight abbreviated outing did little to quash any concerns about him.

This one didn't prove to be much of a game, because the Nationals' lineup did little against Arizona right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, aside from Bryce Harper (who went 2-for-3 with another home run). The Nats' bullpen didn't help matters, either, with Sammy Solis and Matt Grace combining to give up six more runs. The real pitching star, as it turned out, was Clint Robinson, who became the first position player in Nats history (2005-present) to pitch and recorded a scoreless eighth featuring an 81-mph fastball. That at least brought some levity to an otherwise disconsolate Nationals dugout.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: It meant very little in this game, and possibly even in the bigger picture, but Harper's sixth-inning homer was a sight to see nonetheless. De La Rosa threw him a changeup down and away, and Harper sort of waved his bat at it, not even following through all the way. Yet somehow he pulled it roughly 380 feet to right-center field for his 12th homer of the season, his seventh in six games. It was a stunning display of the kid's raw power, and further evidence that what he's doing right now is only the beginning of what is still to come.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: There's plenty of debate right now from those trying to figure out what's wrong with Strasburg, whether he's hurt or whether he doesn't have the mental makeup to pitch through adversity. Truthfully, his struggles probably boil down to this: Poor mechanics and poor command. Strasburg has admitted he's having trouble with his alignment as he releases the ball, his plant foot veering too far to the right. That leads to command issues, especially with his fastball. And that fastball (which doesn't move very much) is eminently hittable right now. The end result isn't pretty: Strasburg now owns a 6.00 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 50 hits allowed in 36 innings this season. He also has reached the seventh inning only once in seven starts so far. All of that is a real concern.

KEY STAT: The Nationals' regular 5-man rotation now sports a 3.62 ERA. Remove Strasburg and that number drops to 3.10.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up with a Wednesday matinee at Chase Field. Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 3.62) faces Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 5.85) at 3:40 p.m. EDT.

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND 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.