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Turner's big day leads Nats over Braves, eliminates Atlanta in NL East

Turner's big day leads Nats over Braves, eliminates Atlanta in NL East

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Needing a boost on offense after scoring just two runs in their previous two games, and with five of their regular starters out of the lineup, the Nats got a spark from a place that has become a familiar source of energy over the last month-plus: the top of their lineup. More specifically, they got a lift from Trea Turner, who despite being a rookie has emerged as one of their most dangerous and consistent players.

Turner did what Turner does. He got three hits, one a double and one a two-run homer. That led the charge for a Nats' lineup that saw an all-around effort from a host of back-ups beyond their young center fielder.

Chris Heisey mashed a three-run homer in the third inning, the same frame as Turner's. Ben Revere doubled and scored. Jose Lobaton had two hits and a run. Brian Goodwin singled and Clint Robinson walked. Those guys filled in for Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and others and all of them contributed to the win.

Max Scherzer didn't have his best stuff, but it didn't matter much against the lowly Braves. The Nats ace went seven innings with just two runs allowed. The two runs were both driven in by Braves second baseman Jace Peterson. Peterson landed an RBI double in the first inning and scored another on a fielder's choice grounder in the sixth.

The Braves got their third and fourth runs in the ninth off Mark Melancon. The first came on an infield single by Freddie Freeman, the second was on a Matt Kemp double-play groundball.

The Nationals bounced back from two consecutive losses to the Mets with Monday's win. With their loss, the Braves were officially eliminated from NL East contention.

What it means: The Nats moved to 80-57 on the year and 12-2 against the Braves. The Mets beat the Reds earlier in the day, so the Nats' lead in the NL East remains 8 1/2 games. They did, however, drop their magic number to 17.

Turner gets three hits: The NL Rookie of the Month for August just had his best game of September so far. Monday was the 23rd multi-hit game for Turner in 48 total outings, 45 of those starts. It was the eighth time he's had three hits or more. Turner has hits in 36 of 44 games since the All-Star break. The Nats will certainly take that from their leadoff hitter.

Scherzer continues recent tear: Scherzer allowed seven hits and two walks, but limited the damage several times to put in another solid start. Scherzer has now allowed just four earned runs across 23 innings in his last three starts. The right-hander walked off the mound with a 2.88 ERA and earned his 16th win of the season. Scherzer ended up throwing 107 pitches despite pitching with a healthy lead for much of the game. He had 99 through six frames, but the Nats sent him back out for the seventh. It might have been unnecessary, but it worked out.

Heisey hits No. 9: Much like earlier this season, Heisey is back to hitting a lot of homers, especially for a bench player. He has home runs in each of the last three games he's started and in four of his last six. His nine homers on the season are the most he's clubbed since 2013 when he was with the Reds. No wonder manager Dusty Baker - who coached him in Cincinnati - wanted to keep Heisey on the roster. 

Heisey has homered once every 14 at-bats this season. That's best rate on the Nationals and, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, would rank second in baseball behind only Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo, who has hit a homer in every 12.7 AB this year.

Up next: The Nats and Braves continue their series with a 7:05 p.m. start on Tuesday night. Lefty Gio Gonzalez (10-9, 4.14) will square off with right-hander Williams Perez (2-2, 4.62).

[RELATED: Erick Fedde on facing Bryce Harper in Little League]

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Nationals hunt for ways to maintain Gerardo Parra’s mojo without him

Nationals hunt for ways to maintain Gerardo Parra’s mojo without him

As much as technology has been the enemy in baseball in recent weeks, the Nationals hope it becomes an aid to keep last year’s vibe cooking.

Aníbal Sánchez tested it out at Winterfest, the 2020 group’s first large assembling, in order to import Gerardo Parra’s beaming bubbliness. There he was on FaceTime, giggling, smiling and with a sore but colorful forearm.

He won’t be in West Palm Beach at the team’s spring training facility. He won’t be on the 25-man roster. He won’t be on the field at Nationals Park this year -- probably. Throwing out the first pitch is something he’s interested in. But logistics are not on his side.

Parra is off to Japan after an immediate offer from the Yomiuri Giants following the World Series. He circled back with Mike Rizzo first because he wanted to return. His conversation with Rizzo convinced him to take the offer in Japan -- more playing time, more money, more marketing -- though he still hopes to return to the major leagues before he is done with baseball.

“I love playing everyday,” Parra told NBC Sports Washington. “That’s more important for me.”

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

So, a void exists among the team’s ministers of fun. Parra’s scooter is parked somewhere else, its horn finally silent and wheels stopped. His body is across the globe, which makes the Nationals wonder how his aura can persist in the clubhouse. If you can’t explain it, and can’t intentionally manufacture it, how do you bottle it? Such is the complication of chemistry.

“I talked to Aníbal: please don’t lose the emotion, don’t lose the good feelings we have right now in the clubhouse because that’s good for me,” Parra said. “I think that’s more important to me. We worked a lot to do that. Don’t lose that. That’s the only thing I want to say to my teammates because that’s good when you come into the clubhouse and feel everybody happy and feel like a family.

“I put alerts in my phone because when those guys win I want to wake up or be ready and happy in that moment. I want to be there, too. The FaceTime. I want to be there. I’ll be ready for that.”

Strapped to his left forearm no matter his location is a forever reminder of 2020. Parra’s tattoo commemorating the World Series win and his accompanying “Baby Shark” cultural pop took 11 hours to sink into his skin. The effort is replete with the World Series trophy and smiley face wearing his preferred tinted glasses. His former teammates sent the image around to each other. The idea was hatched once the Nationals made the playoffs: Parra declared then he would receive the tattoo if they won the World Series.

“A whole forearm tat,” Max Scherzer said. “That’s pretty aggressive.”

“That’s aggressive,” Trea Turner said.

“It looks really cool,” Sean Doolittle said.

The tattoo’s existence reminds of Parra’s all-in approach. He wasn’t cheery half the time, or only when things were going well. His ecstatic-to-be-here vibe was close to perpetual. A slump at the plate temporarily dented it. A conversation with Davey Martinez brought it back to life. Now, it’s gone.

“I think it’s important we brought so many of those [other] guys back because I think our biggest strength last year might have been the chemistry in the clubhouse,” Doolittle said. “Last year was so special because everything in the clubhouse came together so organically. It wasn’t like Parra chose “Baby Shark” because he thought the fans would latch on to it and it would become a thing. He was just doing his own thing because he wanted to change his luck.”

Doolittle’s reference of a nearly full roster repeat came up when others addressed the topic of Parra’s absence. Sánchez referenced it. Scherzer referenced it. On and on.

“The core of this team’s still back,” Scherzer said. “And we can all look each other in the eyes and know when it counts, we can all count on each other and we’re a bunch of winners. I think [the chemistry] is just going to breed itself. We’re going to face a tremendous amount of challenges this year coming into it, but it’s going to be what it takes in the clubhouse to respond to it. And that’s what we play the game for. It’s going to be a challenge and we’re up for it.”

Even Parra agrees. He will be watching from Japan while 14 hours in the future, and talking on Sánchez’s phone, and continuing to counter modern concepts in baseball. Math despised the Nationals for much of last season. Yet, they won the World Series and attribute much of the outcome to chemistry, an unpalatable concept to a computer.

“I don’t think the guys will lose that,” Parra said. “Because other guys on that team love winning. When you have a guy play baseball to win, the guy he can’t lose that. I promise you these guys to the playoffs again too because these guys have a great heart.”

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Gerardo Parra wants to throw out the first pitch on Nationals Opening Day

Gerardo Parra wants to throw out the first pitch on Nationals Opening Day

April 2nd, 2020 is a big day for Nationals fans everywhere.

It's the home opener against the Mets, players will get their World Series rings and the fans will be able to watch the Nats hang the first championship banner in franchise history.

How could a day like that get any better? Maybe if Gerardo Parra, better known as "Baby Shark," threw out the first pitch. Luckily enough, Parra is most definitely down. 

"I want to throw the first pitch," Parra said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington. "I'm working, but it's not in my hands. I want to talk to the Japan team, but like I say, I don't want to say no because you never know."

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

Right after the World Series ended, Parra said he received an offer from the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He ultimately signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a $3 million vesting option for 2021. His options to come back and play in the MLB were slim. 

Parra galvanized an entire locker room and fan base during the Nationals' improbable run to a World Series title. He added a level of weird to the team that hadn't been present before, so much so that there are actual videos of Stephen Strasburg dancing with Parra in the clubhouse. 

He only spent a short time in DC, but Parra quickly became a Nationals legend among the fans. Hopefully, we'll be able to see him throw the first pitch before he embarks on a career overseas. 

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