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Turner thrilled after first career homer

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Turner thrilled after first career homer

ATLANTA — The jokes were flying around the Nationals’ clubhouse Tuesday night, with teammates taking every opportunity they could to turn Trea Turner’s first career homer into an excuse to make fun of his boyish looks and physique.

“For 135 pounds soaking wet, he hit that ball a long way,” Ian Desmond cracked.

“He might look like he’s 15, but he can play at this level,” Tanner Roark added.

Indeed, Turner doesn’t appear at first glance like someone capable of hitting a major-league pitch 392 feet to left-center field. But there he was, doing just that, in the top of the sixth of the Nationals’ 2-1 loss to the Braves.

The Nationals’ dugout, which sometimes gives a rookie the silent treatment after he hits his first big-league homer, erupted with excitement and mobbed Turner after he rounded the bases.

“It’s always fun for me, because I don’t hit very many,” he said. “I enjoyed every second of it.”

Turner, listed as 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, may build his offensive game mostly around contact and speed, but he’s not completely devoid of power potential. He hit five homers in 321 plate appearances with Padres’ minor-league affiliates last season, and he hit eight in 500 plate appearances before his promotion this season.

Perhaps more important than that, the 22-year-old has shown an ability at every level of the game to find his hitting stroke after a brief, sluggish start. He did that at both Class AA Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse this summer, and he’s now doing it with the Nationals. After going 1-for-11 to begin his career, he now has six hits in his last 13 at-bats.

“Just getting comfortable with the surroundings,” Turner explained for this pattern. “Getting some first things out of the way. First hit. First home run. First defensive play. Whatever it may be. But getting them out of the way, it relaxes you and lets you settle in. When you get there, you’re always pressing and you always want to do well, and regardless if you try to or not you probably press a little bit more than you should. You’ve just got to relax and adjust.”

HARPER SETS FRANCHISE WALK RECORD
Bryce Harper drew his 124th walk of the season during Tuesday’s game, establishing a new franchise record. Ken Singleton, who walked 123 times for the Expos in 1973, held that mark for 42 years.

“Definitely that was one of my goals, to get on base,” Harper said. “In spring training this year, to see as many pitches as I can, to walk as much as I can. If you’re getting on base, you’re helping your team win ballgames. That’s definitely something I want to do for the next couple years of my career and see where I’m at.”

Harper, who leads the majors with a .466 on-base percentage, also leads the NL with a .334 batting average. But that lead has been slipping the last few days, with the young star in a mini-slump (he’s 3 for his last 22). Miami’s Dee Gordon now lurks right behind him with a .332 batting average.

A batting title may not be first on Harper’s to-do list, but he acknowledged it is one of several feats he’s pursuing during this final week of the season.

“I mean, definitely being out of it and not being able to be in the playoffs this year, it’s definitely tough. But then you look back and try to get going and try to get those personal things,” he said. “That’s definitely something I want to get. I think walks will help that. If I can keep drawing walks, doing what I can. If I just keep — not doing what I’m doing right now, because that ain’t working — hopefully doing what I’ve been doing the last couple months and try to get locked back into that. I really want to get those four RBIs [to reach 100]. That’s something I really want to do. Hopefully I can do that and see where we’re at.”

DESMOND MUM ON BUNT ATTEMPT
For the second time in a week, Ian Desmond was asked to put down a sacrifice bunt with a man on second, nobody out and the Nationals trailing by a run late. And for the second time, he couldn’t get the job done, leaving the ball right in front of the plate to leave his teammate out at third base.

That scenario happened Thursday night in Washington, when Desmond bunted against the Orioles’ Brad Brach in the bottom of the eighth. And it happened here Tuesday night when he bunted against the Braves’ Arodys Vizcaino in the top of the ninth.

Making this latest once worse: Desmond didn’t immediately run out of the batter’s box after making contact, leading to an easy, 2-5-4 double play for Atlanta. Afterward, he explained it not as a lack of hustle but as an awareness of the location of Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

“The ball hit down and went up,” Desmond said. “I didn’t want to take off prematurely and run into him and get called for interference. So I kinda waited for him to clear the path and took off.”

Manager Matt Williams, who has come under criticism for several instances in which he has called for bunts late in games that weren’t executed, said the rationale this time was to get the tying runner to third base with one out and a red-hot Matt den Dekker at the plate.

“We’ve got a chance there to get guys to second and third, and then a grounder or a flyball or whatever ties it,” Williams said. “Desi was out there early enough, it just bounced straight down and straight up to the catcher in fair territory.”

Desmond has attempted nine sacrifice bunts this season, more than he attempted the last three years combined. He has been successful six times.

Asked about his comfort level being asked to do that in this particular situation, the soon-to-be-free agent sighed and changed the subject.

“We’ve been down this road so many times,” Desmond said, “we should probably talk about something else.”

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Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- Ross Stripling struck out a career-high nine in six innings, Max Muncy drove in two runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

The Nationals suffered a potentially significant injury when Howie Kendrick went to the ground after catching Muncy's sacrifice fly to deep left in the eighth. Kendrick, who's hitting a team-leading .303, put no weight on his right leg and was taken off the field on a cart:

Stripling (1-1) struck out the side in the first inning and then fanned the final five batters he faced, getting Bryce Harper during each of those stretches, in the longest and best of his four starts this season. He allowed one run on four hits, walking none.

Stripling made 11 relief appearances, allowing one run in 15 1/3 innings, before moving into the Dodgers' rotation.

Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe had two hits apiece for Los Angeles, which won its second straight after losing nine of its previous 10.

The Nationals lost for the first time since May 9. Washington had not played a full game since Sunday night in Arizona because of rain that has lingered over the Mid-Atlantic. One game against the Yankees was suspended in the sixth inning and another was postponed, and Friday's game against Los Angeles also was washed out.

Pederson led off the game with a triple off Tanner Roark (2-4) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yasmani Grandal. Forsythe doubled in the second, breaking an 0-for-12 skid that stretched to April 14 and included a 26-game stint on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He singled in the fifth and scored on a grounder by Cody Bellinger.

Harper wore eyeglasses with clear plastic frames during his first at-bat, when he struck out swinging. He ditched the specs his second time up and drove in the Nationals' only run with a single to center.

Roark allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

J.T. Chargois worked the seventh, Josh Fields pitched the eighth and Kenley Jansen threw a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

Muncy, who struck out looking his first two at-bats, drove in the Dodgers' third run with a double in the sixth. His deep flyball to left in the eighth scored Justin Turner.

OTHER NATS NEWS:

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- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

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USA TODAY Sports

Well-rested Nationals welcome the slumping Dodgers for a weekend series

WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Dodgers travel to Washington on Friday to take on a Nationals team that was rolling before rain idled them for most of the week.

On Thursday, the Dodgers snapped a six-game losing streak with one of their best games of the season.

Justin Turner, who returned from the disabled list this week, tied a career high with five RBIs and Kenta Maeda threw eight scoreless innings in a 7-0 win over the Miami Marlins. Turner provided a three-run double in the third inning and a two-run double in the fourth.

"As a collective group, we've done a good job of getting people on base -- we just haven't had that timely hit," Matt Kemp told the Los Angeles Times. "We got one of our best hitters back, and he had a big day for us today. I think it relaxed everybody, and you saw some good things today."

Building on that momentum won't be easy on Friday as the Dodgers (17-26) face a well-rested Nationals team that has won 13 of its last 15 games and starter Max Scherzer (7-1, 1.69).

Washington (24-18) has played 5 1/2 innings of baseball since Monday due to rain in the Washington area.

Scherzer had been slated to pitch against the Yankees Wednesday on normal rest. The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Scherzer is making a strong case for No. 3.

He has won six straight decisions and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any start. Scherzer leads the majors with 14 strikeouts per nine innings and has held opponents to a .116 batting average in four home starts this season.

"I think what separates Max is his competitiveness, the fire and energy that he pitches with, almost imposing his will at times on hitters. He's just in attack mode all the time," closer Sean Doolittle told the Washington Post.

Ross Stripling (0-1, 2.20 ERA), filling the injured Clayton Kershaw's spot in the rotation, pitches for Los Angeles. He is 0-1 lifetime in two games against Washington with a 21.60 ERA.

In his last start, he left with the lead after allowing two runs on six hits, with a career-high seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to the Reds. Stripling batted in the fifth and was lifted in the sixth, only to watch the bullpen lose the lead in that inning.

"This was the first time Ross pitched into the sixth inning," manager Dave Roberts told mlb.com. "Up to 79 pitches, more than he's ever thrown, got a guy (JT Chargois) you're comfortable getting (Eugenio) Suarez out and it just didn't work out. We just didn't get it done."

Washington's light week was a gift for the back of the Nationals bullpen, including Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler and closer Doolittle, all of whom are on pace for career highs in appearances.

"Take 'em all," Kintzler told the Washington Post regarding the days off. "We need 'em."

Somebody who will be getting more days off than they want is catcher Matt Wieters, who had surgery Wednesday to repair his left hamstring, a procedure that could keep him out at least until the latter part of the season.

Backup Pedro Severino is hitting .274 with a .386 on-base percentage.

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