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Without Strasburg, Nats turn to Jackson for Game 3

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Without Strasburg, Nats turn to Jackson for Game 3

WASHINGTON (AP) Stephen Strasburg joined his teammates for an off-day workout at Nationals Park on Tuesday, red socks pulled nearly up to his knees while tossing baseballs in the outfield a day before the first postseason game in the nation's capital in 79 years.

That's about the extent of activity these days for Strasburg as the Washington Nationals carry on without their acknowledged ace, shut down a month ago.

The NL East champions' opponent right now, the St. Louis Cardinals, are very much counting on their returning ace, Chris Carpenter, who has pitched only 17 innings all year. Carpenter will be on the mound Wednesday afternoon for Game 3 of the NL division series, facing Washington's Edwin Jackson. The best-of-five series is tied at 1.

The 37-year-old Carpenter had surgery in July for a nerve problem that left his throwing arm and much of the right side of his body numb. He came back on Sept. 21, and is 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts.

``Everybody knows that it wasn't supposed to happen,'' Carpenter said about the prospect of pitching at all in 2012. ``I put a lot of work into it, to hopefully have this opportunity. I didn't know if I was going to have this opportunity or not - and fortunately, I do.''

He is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in the postseason for his career.

That includes going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA last year while helping St. Louis win the World Series; he beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 for the title.

``Him winning the World Series last year or whenever isn't going to do anything for him tomorrow,'' Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. ``He's a great pitcher, and nobody's taking anything away from him in that aspect, but tomorrow we're going to go out there with our plan and try and do what we've done all year.''

Which was good enough to own the best record in the major leagues at 98-64.

Strasburg played a key role up until his final start, a three-inning outing on Sept. 7. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA with 197 strikeouts in 159 1-3 innings.

General manager Mike Rizzo made quite clear all season that his prized right-hander's innings would be limited in his first full season back from Sept. 3, 2010, reconstructive elbow surgery.

``I bet the kid has to be going crazy, being in the situation where he is,'' said Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, who hit two of his team's four homers Monday in Game 2. ``He pitched all regular season, and right now he's not available for them.''

Unable to put Strasburg on the mound now, the Nationals used playoff rookies Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in Games 1 and 2.

``The starting pitching, we showed a little inexperience there,'' manager Davey Johnson said. ``I mean, not going right after hitters - and also not pitching.''

Washington now needs to rebound from that 12-4 loss in Game 2 at St. Louis, although the Nationals prefer to focus on having taken one of their two road games at the outset of the series.

Going up against Carpenter will be his former teammate Jackson, the only starting pitcher on Washington's roster who ever had participated in a playoff game before this season. He was a member of the Cardinals' championship club in 2011, and his overall postseason mark is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA.

He went 10-11 this season, but Washington's record in Jackson's starts was only 12-19.

``It's high expectations on me. I have high expectations on myself, as well,'' the right-hander said. ``This is one of those games where you go out and you try to lead by example.''

That's certainly the sort of thing the Cardinals expect from Carpenter, who won the 2005 Cy Young Award and helped St. Louis win a title the following year.

His mere presence on the diamond Wednesday is a big deal to his teammates.

``I saw that first hand, all the time he spent in the training room and weight room and getting back to the point, and you can't help but feed off that,'' said Cardinals center field John Jay, who made a spectacular wall-crashing catch in Game 2. ``Especially a guy (who's) been there before. It would have been easy for him, as someone who has two rings and he's made his money in this game, to say `You know what? I'll be back next year.' But he wanted to be out there for us.''

Strasburg would certainly prefer to still be pitching for Washington.

But Rizzo said Tuesday ``there's no sense of thinking'' about that possibility at this point.

``We love the pitching staff we have. It's the best pitching staff in major league baseball, with and without Stephen,'' Rizzo continued, standing near the red-white-and-blue postseason logo painted on his ballpark's grass for the first time, ``and these are the guys that we have in the playoff series, and we're going to go forward with them.''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.

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

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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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