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Zimmerman and Turner homer, Scherzer wins No. 18 as Nats beat Marlins

Zimmerman and Turner homer, Scherzer wins No. 18 as Nats beat Marlins

MIAMI (AP) -- Max Scherzer strengthened his case for the NL Cy Young Award.

Scherzer pitched 6 2/3 innings to tie for the National League victory lead with 18, helping the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 8-3 on Wednesday night.

"When we needed shut-down innings I was able to go out there and put up zeroes when we really needed it and it helped get the offense going," Scherzer said.

Scherzer (18-7) allowed three runs and struck out eight to push his major league-leading total to 267. He's tied for with Chicago's Jon Lester for the most wins in the NL.

"He should be in strong consideration for a Cy Young," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I talked to him earlier and I gave him a number and said let's win six or seven of them and he said, `I want to win all of them.' That's the attitude you want and that's the attitude that he carries and the guys love playing behind him."

Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer and Trea Turner also homered for the Nationals.

"We got some good offensive days out of some guys especially after our offense was a little sleepy the last couple of days," Baker said.

Washington ended a four-game losing streak and lowered their magic number to two to win the NL East over the New York Mets with a chance to clinch on Friday at Pittsburgh.

"I've never been a part of anything like this, but it's exciting," Turner said. "Every game means something even down the stretch playing for home-field advantage or whatever it may be. It's exciting and I enjoy it."

Tom Koehler (9-12) allowed four runs -- three earned -- in four innings for the Marlins. They had won three in a row to stay in contention for the second wild card spot.

"It kind of leaves us in the same spot," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It would've been nice if we could have won and cut a game off. Hopefully the Dodgers win tonight."

Christian Yelich hit a solo home run and Derek Dietrich hit a two-run homer to chase Scherzer in the seventh and cut it to 6-3.

Prior to the home runs allowed by Yelich and Dietrich, Scherzer had only allowed two hits.

"Obviously there in the seventh-of course I'm frustrated about that," Scherzer said. "You can't walk away from an outing like that feeling great when you give up two home runs especially when your last pitch is a home run. But you'll beat yourself up and drive yourself crazy if you try to sit here every single start worrying about the negatives. This start had way more positives and that's what I'm going to focus on."

Wilson Ramos had an RBI double and scored on a sacrifice fly in the eighth to extend the Nationals' lead to 8-3.

Washington scored its first run when Koehler's pick-off throw to second went into centerfield and Yelich was unable to field it cleanly allowing Danny Espinosa to score.

Zimmerman's three-run homer, his 15th, to left field gave the Nationals a 4-0 lead in the fourth.

"You can't really afford to spot Max a 4-0 lead," Koehler said. "More times than not he gets four runs, he's not going to give it back."

Jayson Werth had an RBI single and Turner hit his 12th home run for a 6-0 advantage.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the lineup after starting and homering in the last two games. "Medical says he felt he needed a day so we gave a day," Mattingly said. ... LHP Adam Conley (finger) pitched a three-inning simulation game Wednesday with hopes of returning to the team before the season ends.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.48) will take the mound on Friday in Pittsburgh against RHP Jameson Tailon (4-4, 3.39) to begin a three-game series against the Pirates in the final road trip of the season. Gonzalez has allowed six runs in two of his last three starts.

Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (4-7, 5.59) will start Thursday's game against Atlanta RHP Josh Collmenter (2-0, 4.61). Urena allowed seven runs in two innings in his last start at Philadelphia.

[RELATED: Looking at Nationals' chances for postseason awards]

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Juan Soto stays hot at the plate

The Washington Nationals are roughly a week and a half away from Opening Day, so players are rounding into form for the start of the season.

Here are the latest news and notes from Spring Training.

Players Notes:

Young outfielder Juan Soto went yard again, taking Hector Santiago deep in the first inning sunday against the Mets. His third home run boosted his Spring Training average to .400.

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor received good news on his MRI, and tweeted out that he did some hitting, throwing, and running in a pool Sunday.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in five innings against the Mets. He gave up six hits, and also struck out six, and now has 19 strikeouts in 15.2 innings this spring.

Injuries: 

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, but should be ready for Opening Day

OF Michael A. Taylor: Knee, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Monday 3/18: Nationals vs. Marlins, 1:05 p.m., FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches

Monday 3/18: Nationals @ Mets, 1:10 p.m., First Data Field

Tuesday 3/19: Nationals @ Braves, 1:10 p.m., Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports

News update courtesy of Rotoworld

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Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg is, in fact, happy to be here

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A jovial guy looking strikingly like Stephen Strasburg was at Strasburg’s locker Sunday afternoon. Beard a bit long, hair on top a bit shorter.

Turns out, it was actually Strasburg, who is including a touch of humor and more frequent smiles in recent post-pitching conversations with reporters. It may not last. But, for now, there is a veteran pitcher pleased with progress in place of an often dour competitor who grapples with his perfectionist self.

Strasburg threw 84 pitches against a recognizable New York Mets lineup Sunday. This was not an afternoon spent against late spring canned ham delivered via a split-squad game. Instead, the Mets rolled out several of the hitters Strasburg will see March 30 when he presumably takes the mound in Game 2 of the season opposite New York’s Noah Syndergaard.

“Fastball command was good,” Strasburg said. “Got really aggressive on it. But that’s OK, at this point. You don’t want to  -- you want to work on stuff, but at the same time, well aware we open up with them. So, you know, don’t want to be featuring everything you might be featuring later on.”

Other recent realizations have reminded Strasburg he is now 30 years old, entering season 10 and just generally a legit veteran. He looked down at first base Saturday and recognized Stubby Clapp, a former Olympic player with Canada. Clapp, 46, was coaching first base for St. Louis. Strasburg turned to Erick Fedde: “‘I faced that guy in the Olympics.”

How did a Sunday afternoon conversation with media arrive at Clapp? Because Strasburg decided to face the Mets. Both Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard were lined up to pitch against the Nationals on Sunday and Monday, respectively. DeGrom was announced as sick Sunday. Syndergaard won’t be pitching in the split-squad game Monday. Instead, they will both pitch a minor-league game. Basically, the Mets chose to have their top two pitchers avoid the first opponent of the season.

Strasburg didn’t bother with such gamesmanship -- beyond relying on his fastball often. Instead, he took the mound then noted his status in the division.

“I mean, I’m the longest-tenured pitcher in the NL East,” Strasburg said. “What’s another start against the Mets? I think it just comes down to execution for me and that’s the same thing for everybody.”

The quote carries weight on three levels: Strasburg, somehow, realizes he has been in the division longer than any other pitcher. And only one starter is close to him. Season six is in front of deGrom. Season five is next for Syndergaard. Max Scherzer is entering his fifth season in the division. Same with Aaron Nola in Philadelphia. It’s technically year nine for Julio Teheran. However, he made six appearances total in his first two years.

Strasburg’s statement also shows inherent confidence that scouting reports can’t counter him when he’s on. Last, a T-shirt worthy slogan -- “What’s another start against the Mets?” -- came from him, of all people.

He was pleased to get a look at the Mets close to the opener.

“You want to see if they’re making any tweaks to their approach or if they’re going to be the same type of hitter,” Strasburg said. “I think over the years, you kind of realize that guys have certain strengths and they’re going to stick to those strengths much like myself.”

So, five innings, six hits, three earned runs, six strikeouts and two walks. Four of those hits happened in the fifth and sixth innings when Strasburg primarily threw first-pitch fastballs down the middle. His work was done in the first four innings when he carved through the Mets. It all left him happy. For now.

Soto rolling along

The box score claims Juan Soto was 3-for-4 Sunday with two doubles and a home run. Not so inside Soto’s brain. He thought he beat out a grounder for an infield single though he was called out.

“In my mind, it’s 4-for-4,” Soto said with a smile.

Soto has hit a home run in three of his last four games. His spring OPS is 1.288 after 35 at-bats. It’s spring -- always a necessary caveat -- but the point here is nothing indicates a change for Soto. If anything, he might be a better all-around player because he is improved defensively and on the base paths. The hitting situation has not changed.

“I feel really comfortable at the plate, I’m seeing the ball really well,” Soto said. “Better than when I got here. I’m almost ready.”

Taylor takes a first -- small -- step

Michael A. Taylor’s MRI revealed a sprained left hip and knee. Sunday, a modest workout sent him to social media to express his pleasure.

Thankful for the good news on my MRI!! Feeling good after hitting, throwing and running (in the pool) today. #Nationals #SpringTraining #MLB

Manager Davey Martinez clarified Taylor took one-handed swings off the tee, threw “lightly” from about 90 feet and did run in the pool. Martinez also called it an expected “baseline” for the day. The explanation appeared targeted to calm takeaways from Taylor’s tweet.

“We'll see how he comes back and feels tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But for us, that's a good thing that he's feeling that good. We'll see where it takes us in the next couple of days.”

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