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Suzuki arrives, Flores adjusts

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Suzuki arrives, Flores adjusts

Kurt Suzuki learned of his trade from the Athletics to the Nationals around 11 a.m. PDT Friday. His first reaction upon hearing the news?

"Get me on the first flight out," the 28-year-old catcher said. "I want to be there as soon as I can to help the team. I was really looking forward to this opportunity. This is a good situation for me."

Suzuki arrived in Washington late Friday night and this afternoon was strolling through the clubhouse at Nationals Park in a red curly W cap, shaking hands and meeting new teammates, coaches, clubhouse attendants and media members. All this before actually taking his position behind the plate for his Nationals debut at 7:05 p.m.

"It's been a whirlwind, for sure," he said.

Suzuki, who was dealt from Oakland in exchange for minor-league catcher David Freitas, immediately takes over as the Nationals' No. 1 catcher. The man he replaces, Jesus Flores, wasn't nearly as excited to learn of the trade and his subsequent relegation to a reserve role but cleared the air with manager Davey Johnson during a closed-door meeting this afternoon.

"I had a long conversation with Jesus, and we're alright," Johnson said. "We're good to go. ... We got an established catcher. Jesus was playing very well about three years ago before suffering a major shoulder injury. He's made great strides in coming back, but he's not quite where I know he can be. That was basically the conversation."

Though the Nationals announced the Suzuki trade around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Flores told reporters he hadn't been informed of the deal when asked for his reaction eight hours later at the conclusion of a doubleheader split with the Marlins.

"That's just part of the life we lead," Johnson said. "Midseason trades are obviously more difficult than offseason trades. But he's not going anywhere. His role has changed a little bit. Your role is predicated on performance. The better you play, the bigger the role you get. That's kind of the way baseball has been played ever since I can remember."

Suzuki has spent his entire, six-year career with the A's, and other than ex-teammate Gio Gonzalez, he's never caught anyone on the Nationals staff. He took a crash course on various pitchers' repertoires, particularly Jordan Zimmermann, who starts tonight's game.

"That's the most important thing: To build that relationship with the pitchers," he said. "That's what I take my pride in. It's going to definitely be a little bit of a work in progress, but I'm going to do everything I can to speed up the process. I think it'll be OK."

The Nationals want Suzuki -- who at the time of the trade led all qualifying AL catchers with a .996 fielding percentage and 38.3 percent caught stealing percentage -- to focus primarily on his defensive game for now, helping guide what has been baseball's best pitching staff this season through a pennant race.

"That's the one thing I'm really looking forward to, working with these pitchers, getting to know them," he said. "I had a great pitching staff in Oakland for a number of years, and to come here, these guys are incredibly talented. I've been watching them on TV and watching them pitch, and I'm really excited."

To clear space on the active roster for Suzuki, the Nationals optioned Sandy Leon to Class AAA Syracuse.

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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