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Strasburg steps up as Nats take 1st game of doubleheader in Philly


Strasburg steps up as Nats take 1st game of doubleheader in Philly

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With uncertainty surrounding the second game of Sunday's doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, especially on the pitching front, nothing was more important to the Nationals than a strong start from Stephen Strasburg in the opener. Which is exactly what they got.

Strasburg again looked like his old self, tossing seven innings of 2-run ball, striking out nine along the way. His ability to give the Nationals one extra inning despite a rising pitch count also made a big difference on a day when relievers needed to be saved as much as possible for whatever still awaited.

A Nats lineup bolstered by the return of both Denard Span and Bryce Harper from minor ailments supported Strasburg with three runs. Span doubled in the fifth, took third on Jeff Francoeur's comical error and scored on Danny Espinosa's sacrifice fly. Michael Taylor then drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI double in the sixth, with the Nats tacking on another via a passed ball.

The back end of the bullpen then sealed the deal, with Matt Thornton and David Carpenter combining to record three outs in the eighth and Drew Storen recording his 23rd save in 25 tries with a scoreless ninth. So it was that the Nationals won their eighth straight game, a streak that will be on the line only minutes from now when Game 2 of the traditional doubleheader gets underway.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The more he plays, the better Taylor's at-bats get. He went 2-for-4 today, singling in the third and then roping an RBI double down the left-field line in the sixth for the go-ahead run. The rookie outfielder has done well hitting in the 8-spot, not always the easiest role for a young hitter. The biggest difference: Taylor has cut down on his strikeouts, eliminating a lot of bad at-bats and giving himself more opportunities to make solid contact. The results have been positive; Taylor is now hitting .254 with 27 RBI, which actually ranks fourth on the team.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This is the Stephen Strasburg we all knew. We just hadn't seen him in awhile. Healthy and confident on the mound, Strasburg went right after the Phillies lineup. He relied again on his fastball for the most part, but mixed in more curveballs and changeups today. The changeup was especially sharp, possibly sharper than it's been any other time this season. Perhaps the most significant thing Strasburg did, though, was re-take the mound for the seventh inning on 96 pitches. He might normally have been pulled prior to that, but with another game still to play today, Matt Williams needed to push his starter a bit. Strasburg responded by retiring the side, striking out the last two batters he faced and wrapping up an impressive, 113-pitch outing. In two starts now since coming off the DL, he has thrown 12 innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out 15. His ERA has dropped from 6.55 to 5.49.

KEY STAT: Dan Uggla now has a pair of 3-hit games this season (today, plus the April 28 comeback victory in Atlanta). He hadn't had any previous to that since 2012.

UP NEXT: Don't go anywhere, because Game 2 starts in only 30 minutes. The Nats still haven't announce their starter, but it'll be either Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan against Phillies right-hander Severino Gonzalez. [UPDATE: Roark will start the second game]

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.


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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

Following a dicey matchup between the Nats and Braves Friday night which featured a heated argument between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are getting a much-needed opportunity to regroup.

The Washington Nationals' official Twitter account announced that Saturday evening's matchup will be postponed due to inclement weather just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals had planned to host "JMU Night" at the ballpark as a part of their "College Day" series, and due to more forecasted inclement weather Sunday, the Nationals decided to call the game off sooner rather than later.

The Nationals have yet to announce when the game will be made up.

If Sunday's game is played as scheduled, Max Scherzer will start.

This post will be updated when more information regarding a makeup date has been announced.