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Williams reflects on stellar August, eyes strong finish

Nationals manager sits down with MLB.com to talk about the stretch run

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It has been a great month of August for the Nationals. They enter Friday's game against the Mariners with a 17-9 record during the month. It's helped that they recently went on a 10-game winning streak. Six of those victories came during their last at-bat.

With that in mind, MLB.com recently caught up with manager Matt Williams to talk about the Nationals and the status of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper.

MLB.com: The Nationals have had a nice run in August. Why is that?

Matt Williams: I think we had some come-from-behind victories, we really had good pitching performances. I think all of that contributed to a winning streak. But I think, overall, we have been playing well. August, so far, has been a good month. We hope to continue that. It's a combination of all of those things.

MLB.com: During the month of August, what is your most pleasant surprise?

Williams: What I'm most pleased with is their inability to give up because the baseball season is a grind. There is so many games, it's easy to say, "Today is not our day." But they have refused to do that. That is most gratifying because you know they are into it every day. You know that they are pulling as hard for one another and picking each other up. That's how you get to where you want to get to. That can't be forced. That has to be the team dynamic. The 10-game streak, that's craziness. It was a crazy 10 days.

MLB.com: Six of your 10 wins were last at-bat victories.

Williams: That does not happen very often. That's emblematic of them. Never give up. That's the pleasantness of it.

MLB.com: Based on what you have seen, especially during this run, does it tell you how far the Nationals can go in the postseason?

Williams: I don't think in those terms. We have five weeks or so of playing games to try to get to the postseason. I've been in enough postseasons to know that you can have the best team and it doesn't mean you are going to win. You can get a hot team, a bounce that can go somebody's way and it can turn a series. You just never know. Our primary goal is to play well for the next five weeks. We are in kind of a position where we could kind of control our destiny by playing well. If we get to the postseason, then we want to be playing well at that point.

We've talked about it: 103 victories [with the Giants] in 1993 and going home. I can't go there. My brain will not let me go there. We just need to play well until the end of the season and see where we are at. Hopefully, we are at the top and we can go to the postseason.

MLB.com: It also helps that the team is healthy?

Williams: Yes, but we are missing a big piece. We are still missing Ryan Zimmerman. Bryce [Harper] is getting back to form. He is feeling stronger. We are able to rest some guys a little bit, which we will continue to do going into September.

MLB.com: How do you think Bryce has been doing since he has been back?

Williams: He is doing fine. Anytime you have an injury to an extremity, it's magnified even more. The fact that it's his top hand [thumb], that's the guide hand to the swing. It makes it more difficult. I think he is getting stronger. I think that's the biggest thing. It's started to get to the point where he is not thinking about it. He doesn't have to think about it in his swing or make any adjustments to any of it. He is getting back into the flow of games. When you miss two months, it's not easy to come back. We saw that with Zim. We saw it with Wilson Ramos. It took them a while to get back. Most of all, I think it's about strength.

MLB.com: In your heart of hearts, will you have a postseason run with Zimmerman?

Williams: We hope. I believe he will be back by the end of the season. That time frame, I don't know when that date is. But I believe he will be back by the end of the season. How many games that will be, I don't know. But I know he is working hard to get back. I know there is so much you can do with the hamstring injury he has. But you asked me in my heart? I'll say yes. Ryan will be back and be on our team before we get done with the season.

MLB.com: How is Zimmerman doing now?

Williams: He is doing fine. It's a long process. The last thing we want at this point is for him to rush back and hurt it again. We don't want that. He is baby stepping it. He is making progress every day. He is going through the protocol, which was established for him. He is doing the things he needs to do, while allowing the hamstring to heal. It's not easy to heal that muscle.

MLB.com: As you approach the end of the season, what is your biggest concern about this team?

Williams: Just that we continue to live through our DNA [which means being aggressive], push forward and demand that we play well. It's important. At this point in the season, guys are tired. Little things creep up. You have a nick here and a nick there. But we have to push through that. We have to continue to stay with our plan. I don't think we'll have an issue doing that. I'm not concerned about much other than we do that and that is in all aspects. If we can do that, then we have a chance.

MLB.com: When are you going to do your Babe Ruth impersonation?

Williams: I'm not exactly sure. I think it's important right now that we concentrate on the task at hand. But I do live to my word, so at some point, it will happen. I just don't know when. We are wondering if we can get an authentic uniform. I'm not going to gain 30 pounds in the next 10 days. So we may have to make arrangements to get a prop in that regard. It will happen at some point. When, I don't know.

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Nationals extend affiliation with Class A Auburn

Agreement with New York-Penn League club runs through 2016 season

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Nationals extend affiliation with Class A Auburn

NEW YORK -- The Nationals on Thursday announced the signing of a two-year player development contract extension through the 2016 season with the Auburn Doubledays of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

The Nats began their relationship with Auburn in October 2010, with the Doubledays having gone 184-187 (.495) during that stretch, including division championships in '11 and '12. Auburn is often the first stop for many players as they start their ascent through Washington's Minor League system. Players such as right-hander Lucas Giolito and third baseman Anthony Rendon have played for Auburn.

The Auburn Doubledays were formed in 1957, and they began play in the New York-Penn League the following season. Prior to aligning with the Nationals, Auburn served as the short-season affiliate of the Blue Jays from 2001-10. The Doubledays reside in the New York-Penn League's six-team Pickney Division with Batavia, Jamestown, Mahoning Valley, State College and Williamsport.

"We are proud to continue our association with the Auburn Doubledays," general manager Mike Rizzo said in a release. "They have been a quality partner of ours for several years now, and we look forward to our ongoing partnership."

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Sweep at hands of Phillies cools down Nats

Fister loses back-to-back games for the first time this season

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Sweep at hands of Phillies cools down Nats play video for Sweep at hands of Phillies cools down Nats

PHILADELPHIA -- All it took to pop the bubble of baseball's hottest team was a trip to Philly.

The first-place Nationals entered a three-game series with the last-place Phillies having won 12 of their last 13, but after Wednesday night's 8-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park put the finishing touches on Philadelphia's sweep, the Nationals were left scratching their heads.

To make matters worse for the Nats, the Braves survived a late threat by the Mets on Wednesday to win, 3-2, moving them to within 6 1/2 games of first in the National League East.

The same philosophy that pervaded the clubhouse following each of the wins during the Nationals' 12-1 stretch was once again present following Wednesday night's loss.

"It's the same approach that we'll always take," manager Matt Williams said. "Today's over with. Nothing we can do about it now other than look forward to the next one."

"Win or lose, you gotta turn the page," center fielder Denard Span said. "Have short-term memory. You can't get too high or too low."

"You have to have amnesia," starter Doug Fister said. "You have to forget about it. You have to move on."

Players on the current Nationals roster entered Wednesday night with a .298 batting average against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. They also had a .378 on-base percentage, 14 homers, 39 RBIs and a 40/34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 289 combined at-bats against the right-hander. Toss in Kendrick's first-inning woes this season (10.00 ERA), and the Nats were chomping at the bit to hack their way to a win.

Things went according to plan in the top of the first. Span singled to lead off the game and Anthony Rendon brought him home on his 32nd double of the season. Rendon scored three batters later on an Ian Desmond single.

But the Phillies answered in the bottom half of the inning. Jimmy Rollins homered to halve the lead, and a blunder in the outfield translated into the tying run.

Span charged a softly hit liner by Ryan Howard but realized he wasn't going to get to it and pulled up. He was unable to get in front of it, and the ball made it all the way to the wall, allowing Chase Utley to score from first.

The Nats built a 4-2 lead thanks to an RBI single by Jayson Werth and a second-decker solo shot by Span.

"It's been some time, probably been about three or four years since I touched a ball like that," Span said. "As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone."

Fister had a stressful night ridden with baserunners through five, but he did well to keep the damage in check. In the sixth, however, the Phillies finally capitalized.

Domonic Brown hit an RBI double and pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore delivered the game's biggest blow -- a two-run homer -- to put the Phillies ahead 5-4.

Fister has allowed eight earned runs over his last two starts, raising his season ERA to 2.55. In each instance, he's been burned by the long ball -- the right-hander has surrendered four homers over his last two outings after allowing 11 in his first 18.

"It's just a matter of getting the ball down. That's the key to any sort of success. And it's going to be something that I really have to bear down on," Fister said.

It was the first time this season that Fister has registered consecutive losses. He surrendered five runs (four earned) on a season-high 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

"I let the guys down tonight with some bad pitches. That's what it comes down to," Fister said. "I didn't do my job. Starting pitcher is supposed to set the tone and be the example, and from first pitch, I didn't do that."

In the seventh, reliever Ross Detwiler's first two pitches resulted in two runs. Howard led off the inning with a single and Marlon Byrd padded Philly's cushion with a two-run homer to make it 7-4.

"I think it's going to be good for us to get an off-day tomorrow," Desmond said. "Everyone regroup and then go into the next series and forget about this one."

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LaRoche playing through minor back tightness

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PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche has been dealing with minor back tightness, an issue he said has caused him discomfort on and off for a few years.

"It just takes one thing like sitting in the wrong position," LaRoche said.

LaRoche said long flights -- like the one the Nationals will embark on after Wednesday's game as they fly to Seattle for a three-game series that begins on Friday -- don't give him as much trouble as long bus rides -- like the one the team took from Washington to Philadelphia for its current series with the Phillies.

"I can lay down there, it's different," LaRoche said about the flights.

Before getting a day of rest on Tuesday, LaRoche had played every inning in the month of August. LaRoche was in the lineup on Wednesday.

"He's held up well. We've tried to give him some days, and certainly the off-days mixed in there help," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "But he's been producing. He's playing well. His legs feel good. The little back issue is not a huge deal. He's had that before. Every once in a while it gets a little cranky."

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Nats, Mariners to clash in Interleague showdown

Rested Felix looking to return to form in matchup with Zimmermann

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After being unable to work into the seventh inning in his last two starts, American League Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez will try to return to form Friday when the Mariners open a three-game series against the National League-best Nationals at Safeco Field.

When Hernandez dropped a 4-2 decision to the Tigers on Aug. 16, it ended a Major League-record run of 16 consecutive starts in which he lasted at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer.

"Felix is fine. The zone was a little tight in Detroit," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Felix is fine."

Facing the Red Sox in his last start on Friday, Hernandez went 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs. All of them came in the sixth inning on a Yoenis Cespedes home run that nearly scraped the lights above Fenway Park's Green Monster.

Regardless, Hernandez (13-4, 2.07 ERA) is still 10-3 with a 1.82 ERA over his last 19 outings. He'll also have the benefit of working on six days' rest after McClendon opted to push back the right-hander's scheduled Wednesday start against the Rangers. Instead, spot starter Erasmo Ramirez was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and allowed a career-high 10 runs over three innings in Seattle's 12-4 loss at Safeco Field.

The defeat dropped the Mariners to 72-60, and they're now in a tie for the second spot in the American League Wild Card race after the Tigers walked off against the Yankees, 3-2, on Thursday.

Moving forward, McClendon's hope is the extra rest will give all his starting pitchers a boost for the final 30 games of the regular season.

"We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to get them all freshen up and give them all six or seven days this time of year," he said before Seattle dropped two of three to the last-place Rangers. "It just made sense."

The Nationals, meanwhile, saw their lead in the NL East drop to six games Thursday night after the Braves beat the Mets, 6-1. The sweep in Philadelphia marked the first time Washington lost three consecutive games since June 25-27.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (9-5, 2.93 ERA) will look to stop the skid on Friday night. He's 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five August starts.

Mariners: Saunders still trying to get healthy
McClendon thinks it will be at least a few more days before right fielder Michael Saunders is able to resume his rehab assignment.

Saunders has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique since July 11. His rehab stint with Tacoma was interrupted recently when he went on paternity leave, then again last week when he contracted a viral infection.

McClendon said Saunders has lost seven or eight pounds. There is no set timetable for his return.

Nationals: LaRoche coping with back pain
Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche has been dealing with minor back tightness, an issue he said has caused him discomfort on and off for a few years.

After being out of the starting lineup on Tuesday, LaRoche returned to the lineup on Wednesday, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the Nationals' 8-4 loss at Citizens Bank Park.

"He's held up well. We've tried to give him some days, and certainly the off-days mixed in there help," Nationals manager Matt Williams said Wednesday. "But he's been producing. He's playing well. His legs feel good. The little back issue is not a huge deal. He's had that before. Every once in a while it gets a little cranky."

Worth noting
• Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager hit his 20th home run of the year Wednesday, marking his third consecutive season of at least 20 home runs.

• After going 3-for-4 in Wednesday night's loss, Denard Span is now tied with Ryan Zimmerman for the second-most multihit games in a single season (50) in franchise history.

• McClendon will miss Friday's and Saturday's games while he is in Indiana attending his daughter Schenell's wedding. Bench coach Trent Jewett will serve as Seattle's interim skipper.

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Asdrubal makes smooth transition to NL

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PHILADELPHIA -- Since donning a Nationals uniform, Asdrubal Cabrera has had to make two significant adjustments: playing in the National League and playing second base.

So far, it's been a seamless transition for Cabrera, who spent his entire career with the Indians in the American League prior to arriving in Washington. After hitting .246 in 97 games for Cleveland earlier this season, Cabrera hit .273 in his first 22 games as a National.

"You look at a learning curve because he hasn't seen these guys a lot, being in the American League," manager Matt Williams said. "But he knows how to hit. He knows what to do. He'll get a feel for the pitcher and have a game plan that may change during the course of the game, depending what he's seeing. Depending on what he's seeing, and the veteran guys have that ability."

Cabrera logged 149 starts at second base in seven seasons with the Indians, but his last one came in 2009.

"Playing second base, there was some question of him being able to do that," Williams said, "but he's stepped right in and done it.

"I understand as an infielder that if you've been there as many games as he's been there, 150 over his career, then it takes a few days, but just step back in and find that feel again. But he can do it. He's done really well for us."

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On wrong side of overturned call, Nats fall in Philly

After Asdrubal ties it, Phils takes advantage of successful challenge

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PHILADELPHIA -- The three-run deficit the Nationals were facing by the seventh inning seemed more like a 30-run hole with Cole Hamels mowing down Washington hitters.

The Phillies' ace finally appeared mortal in the seventh, but after Asdrubal Cabrera's game-tying homer off Hamels in the eighth, the Nationals gave it right back and fell to the Phillies by a single run, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

"He had everything working. He had a good tempo going," Ian Desmond said. "But that's a testament to us, rattling off three runs -- that's a big homer by Cabby right there. But we don't stop. They got us tonight, but we'll come back tomorrow."

The loss marks the first time the Nats have dropped a series since Aug. 8-10, when they lost two out of three to Atlanta. They still hold a 7 1/2-game lead in the National League East with the Mets defeating the Braves.

A throwing error by Ian Desmond to begin the bottom of the eighth lent way to the game's winning run. Ben Revere was initially called out on the play, but the call was overturned after Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg challenged and the umpires ruled that Desmond's throw pulled Kevin Frandsen off first base. Revere stole second, was advanced to third on a flyout by Jimmy Rollins and was driven home on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz.

"I don't think it matters what I think," Frandsen said about the overturned call. "Replay showed what they thought. It's what we've got to live with. It's what I've got to live with, not being tall enough."

"I was sitting there trying to digest it," Desmond said. "I don't really think there was a whole lot else I could do. He hit the ball sharp to my backhand side, it was a little bit too close to backhand. Don't really have time to aim, so I just tried to get rid of it as quick as I could, make a good throw, you know. But he's safe by -- if he is safe -- by an inch at the most. But speed never goes in a slump and he used it right there."

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez negotiated the first four innings without fault, but one pitch in the fifth inning cost him. Grady Sizemore led off the fifth with a triple that hit off the base of the wall, just to the left of the 398-foot sign in right-center. Then, Freddy Galvis took a strike before connecting on a high fastball for his first homer of the season to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.

It was Galvis' third hit in 46 Major League at-bats this season. He entered the at-bat hitting .044.

"He just made good contact," Gonzalez said. "Ninety-four [mph] up and in, it's tough to get at least that much wood on it. He did his job."

Darin Ruf padded Philadelphia's lead with a solo blast in the bottom of the sixth before Gonzalez finished his night with a final line of three runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in six innings pitched.

"It's progress," Gonzalez said. "Obviously, everyone wants to go six, seven innings scoreless, eight innings scoreless. It's a team that you're going to have to be scrappy about. I've spent three seasons facing the same lineup, you know, different guys here and there, but it's a work in progress. ... You leave a ball up, they're going to hit it. That's baseball."

Washington put three of the first four batters on in the seventh to load the bases with one out. In the ensuing at-bats, Wilson Ramos and Frandsen each had RBI singles, but Danny Espinosa and Denard Span followed with outs to end the threat with three runners stranded on base.

The Nationals had additional chances earlier on Tuesday night. In the third inning, Gonzalez couldn't get a bunt down that would have advanced Frandsen -- who reached second on a single and a wild pitch -- to third base.

"We've got a man on second base and nobody out," manager Matt Williams said. "Gave [Gonzalez] the bunt sign, and he swung away. We have to make sure we do that.

"They did a good job of that tonight in the last inning of getting [a runner] to third. And that wins you games."

In the next inning, Jayson Werth singled with one out, but was called out at second on a force play. Galvis dropped the ball, but it was ruled to be dropped on the transfer. Then, Desmond was picked off first in what he believed to be a balk.

"As I'm over there and I'm taking off, I can see it," Desmond said. "I put my head down after I saw what thought I saw, thought I had a good read on it. I thought it was a balk."

The umpires, as they did many times on Tuesday night, thought differently.

"It's in their hands, and the way they call it is the way it goes," Desmond said.

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Nationals plan to let Roark keep pitching

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PHILADELPHIA -- After Monday night's outing, Tanner Roark moved further past his previous high for innings in a single season. In 2013, the right-hander threw 159 1/3 innings between Triple-A Syracuse and the Major League club, but his six-inning effort Monday night gave him 166 2/3 innings with the Nationals this season.

Roark, who has gone at least six innings in 20 of his 26 starts and has pitched seven or more in 12 outings, has a 12-8 record, a 2.81 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in 2014.

"We are in the business of winning games and we're going to continue to give him the ball and have him pitch for us because he's been really, really good," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "But we have to keep on eye where he gets to and how many innings he gets to."

Williams said the 27-year-old's workload is being monitored, but he won't be skipped in the rotation at any point.

"Because he's in uncharted territory and he's never been here before, we'll try to, within the game or within his start, try to help him out if we can," Williams said. "But geez, if he's 75 pitches through seven and we're in a tight game, there's no reason just to take him out because he's pitched well to get there. So we want to give him that chance.

"There may be situations like that if we have a lead, a good lead and he's through seven, we may not send him out in the eighth. So that's what I mean. Not necessarily skipping him, but being mindful of where he's at, innings-wise, pitch-count-wise. And if those situations arise, then look at potentially getting him out of a game if we're ahead and if we're comfortable in that regard. In that regard, too, we also have to be mindful of the back of our bullpen, which is important, too."

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Severino, Rivero among Nats' AFL-bound prospects

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Severino, Rivero among Nats' AFL-bound prospects play video for Severino, Rivero among Nats' AFL-bound prospects

PHILADELPHIA -- The Arizona Fall League announced its preliminary rosters for the 2014 season on Tuesday, and seven players in the Nationals' organization will head west to compete in the six-week league that begins its season on Tuesday, Oct. 7.

"Approximately 60 percent of our players will reach the Major Leagues," AFL director Steve Cobb said. "We want fans to know top young professional talent still will be playing baseball in October and November in Arizona."

Left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero, the Nats' No. 17 prospect, and catcher Pedro Severino (No. 12) are among the AFL-bound prospects. Rivero has thrown 49 innings and made 13 starts in the Minors this season, compiling a 3.49 ERA and a 42/17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Severino, meanwhile, has logged 89 games and 274 at-bats with Class A Advanced Potomac in 2014 and has a .248 batting average with eight homers and 31 RBIs.

Other Nats pitching prospects on the AFL team include lefty Matt Grace, righty Neil Holland and righty Derek Self. Second baseman Tony Renda (No. 18) and catcher Spencer Keiboom round out the Nationals' representatives.

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Phils score go-ahead run after winning challenge

Revere creates decisive tally after reaching on overturned call, the second of the game

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Phils score go-ahead run after winning challenge play video for Phils score go-ahead run after winning challenge

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies won their second challenge of Tuesday's night's 4-3 victory over the Nationals in the eighth inning, which led to the go-ahead run scoring.

With the game tied at 3, Ben Revere led off the eighth inning with a grounder to short. Ian Desmond's throw was high, but first-base umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled that Kevin Frandsen held the bag with his right foot. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg challenged the out call, and after a review of just under three minutes, the umpires ruled that the throw pulled Frandsen off the bag and called Revere safe.

"It is what it is," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "We can see it one way, it doesn't mean that they're going to see it the same. They made the decision."

"I don't think it matters what I think," Frandsen said. "Replay showed what they thought. It's what we've got to live with. It's what I've got to live with -- not being tall enough."

"I was pretty sure I was safe, but I knew it was close," Revere said. "I kind of snuck a look into the dugout, like, 'We should try it.' It was a tough play; he had to rush it."

Desmond was charged with an error on the throw.

"I thought it was a base hit, actually," said Sandberg. "That was a tough play, for a guy that's chasing a batting title. That was bang-bang. It was an easy one to look at, and obviously a big play in the game."

"I don't really think there was a whole lot else I could do," Desmond said. "He hit the ball sharp to my backhand side, it was a little bit too close to backhand. Don't really have time to aim, so I just tried to get rid of it as quick as I could, make a good throw, you know. But he's safe by -- if he is safe -- by an inch at the most. But speed never goes in a slump and he used it right there.

"Beyond making a lower throw, I don't really think there was anything I could do differently. I didn't really have a whole lot of time to aim. Just tried to get a good throw off within an inch difference."

Revere stole second -- his 39th steal of the season -- and Jimmy Rollins followed with a fly ball to right field that moved Revere to third. Carlos Ruiz followed with a sacrifice fly to center, and Revere trotted home with the go-ahead run.

"I wanted to take off early," Revere said. "I thought they might pitch out, but when I figured they were going after [Rollins], I had to get that stolen base. Jimmy came up big, getting me over."

Sandberg won his first challenge early in the game. With two outs in the first inning, Anthony Rendon hit a dribbler in the hole between third and short. Third baseman Andres Blanco charged it and fired to Darin Ruf at first base, where Rendon was called safe.

The ruling on the field was Ruf had come off the base while stretching to make the catch, but upon review, it was revealed that he kept his foot on the bag while extending. The call on the field was overturned, and Rendon was ruled out, ending the inning.

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Souza named International League MVP, top rookie

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Souza named International League MVP, top rookie play video for Souza named International League MVP, top rookie

PHILADELPHIA -- Before his callup to the big leagues on Aug. 3, outfield prospect Steven Souza Jr. was lighting up the International League with Triple-A Syracuse. On Tuesday, it was announced that his efforts -- which included league leading marks for batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.435) and slugging percentage (.601) -- earned him the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year honors.

Souza, who is the first Chiefs player to win both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season, also hit 18 homers, drove in 70 runs and swiped 24 bases. The Nationals' No. 5 prospect is currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury at Class A Advanced Potomac, and seems poised to be added back to the Nats' roster when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

The 25-year-old's historical season coincided with Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr. earning International League Manager of the Year honors.

"I just think he took a major step forward," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Him and certainly Michael Taylor took major steps this year. And that's gratifying to see. It speaks to our player development guys. Certainly the managers, Billy Gardner, who was the Manager of the Year, congratulations to him as well. It just speaks to the way they help these kids get to where they want to get to. So they've both been in the big leagues this year. They're both close to being here on an everyday basis. And we're happy for them. It takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of dedication by a lot of folks to have guys that are named MVPs and Rookies of the Year and things like that."

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Nats held in check by Burnett, fall to Phillies

Club strikes out 12 times in Philadelphia right-hander's seven innings

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Nats held in check by Burnett, fall to Phillies play video for Nats held in check by Burnett, fall to Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- On the heels of a homestand that featured nine wins and just one loss, Nationals manager Matt Williams reiterated the age-old notion that success in sports necessitates a short-term memory.

That's especially true in the middle of a playoff push.

"That's kind of our M.O. anyway, regardless of who we're playing or what happened yesterday," Williams said. "These guys do a good job of just shutting that down and appreciating it if we win but focusing on today."

A 3-2 series-opening loss to the last-place Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park is one that the Nats should have no problem forgetting, being that they still hold a comfortable 7 1/2-game lead in the National League East.

Even still, Phillies starter A.J. Burnett made sure this one stung. The 37-year-old righty stifled the Nats for 12 strikeouts, commanding the zone and helping to limit a team that accumulated 18 hits on Sunday to just six on Monday.

"That's the first time I've felt like me in a long time," Burnett said. "I wish I could have found that little glitch two months ago."

"Think back in the day he was 96, 97 [mph]. So I think he's still got a little bit in the tank. When he wants it, he gets 95 [mph] in there," Bryce Harper said of Burnett. "He just pitches and hits the corners. He's got that front-door sinker that's pretty deadly. He knows how to pitch, so you just have to tip your cap. He was pretty dang good out there."

Leadoff doubles in both the seventh and eighth innings presented Washington with chances to cut into the lead, but in both instances, the runner never advanced past second.

After Ian Desmond's double in the seventh, Harper, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa flied out on three consecutive pitches.

"He gave me a pitch I could actually hammer a little bit," Harper said. "I think I just missed that pitch from putting it about 10 rows deep. Wish I could have got him over on that, but I saw a pitch I could drive and tried to drive it out of the ballpark."

"We wanted Harp to hit the ball to the right side. He was laying on a fastball and hit it in the air to left," Williams said. "The objective there is to hit the ball to his pull side, on the ground -- worst-case scenario. But he was just late on a heater."

The Phillies were fortunate to score in the top of the fourth. Ryan Howard, who worked an 11-pitch walk in the first, missed a homer by a couple of feet with one out in the inning, and settled for a double. Domonic Brown singled to plate Howard on a play in which second baseman Espinosa couldn't get the glove down low enough on a tailor-made double-play grounder.

Philly struck again in the fifth when Cody Asche connected on solo shot off starter Tanner Roark.

"It was a changeup but it didn't change," Roark said. "It was just a BP fastball. It was right down the middle, thigh high. He got me."

The Nats returned the favor in the next inning on a solo shot courtesy of Anthony Rendon, his 17th of the year. But Carlos Ruiz's homer in the seventh against left-hander Jerry Blevins, whom Williams believed to be the prudent option considering the recent workload the back end of Washington's bullpen has endured, proved to be the decisive blow.

Right-handers have hit .249 against Blevins in his career, but they have fared much better in 2014, accruing a .308 mark.

"It was a bad pitch, mistake. Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't. He got all of it," Blevins said. "Track record shows that I'm better than what's going out there. And I don't feel like I'm pitching as bad as it looks."

"We've gone to the well quite a bit with our back-end guys. What we can't do is pitch them every day," Williams said. "The key to that inning I think is him getting behind to Ruiz and him seeing a lot of pitches. Other than that one pitch, he pitched perfectly fine in the inning."

For his part, Roark delivered another solid outing. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out two in his six innings of work to tally his 17th quality start in 26 chances this season.

Ramos brought the Nationals within a run by homering off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning, but unlike so many times during their most recent winning stretch, Washington couldn't complete the comeback. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-hit and singled in the following at-bat, but Nate Schierholtz hit a hard grounder that Jimmy Rollins fielded up the middle for a forceout to end the game.

"You never know exactly how the game's going to unfold and you can never say, 'Oh, here we go again,'" Williams said. "We just gotta try to put the at-bats together. Asdrubal put one together, Nate hit one hard. If that ball gets through, you never know where we're at."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

With tight right side feeling better, Asdrubal pinch-hits

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With tight right side feeling better, Asdrubal pinch-hits play video for With tight right side feeling better, Asdrubal pinch-hits

PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera had a full workout prior to the Nats-Phillies series opener on Monday as he looked to get past the tightness in the right side of his rib cage that forced him to leave Sunday's contest against the Giants before the eighth inning. He sustained the injury after hitting a grounder to short in the bottom of the seventh.

"He did some early hits and he came out of that fine," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "And so we're going to put him through the full workout today -- take grounders and run and make sure. We want to give him a day to make sure that he's OK for tomorrow potentially."

Cabrera proved he was OK when he got a chance to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Monday night's 3-2 loss. He singled on a grounder to right field to put any lingering doubts about the injury to rest.

"I wanted to stay away from him if at all possible tonight to give him a day to make sure," Williams said. "But we knew after batting practice. He went through a full BP and swung from both sides and had no issues. So he should be good to go."

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Nationals get safe call at second overturned

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Nationals get safe call at second overturned play video for Nationals get safe call at second overturned

PHILADELPHIA -- Vying for an insurance run in a one-run game in the seventh inning, the Phillies' Domonic Brown hit a soft liner in front of Bryce Harper in left field. Brown busted out of the box and tried to stretch the hit into a double. He beat Harper's throw to the bag and was called safe on the field, but appeared to come off the base as he popped up after his slide.

Nationals manager Matt Williams quickly left the dugout to challenge the call, and after a review that lasted just over two minutes, the ruling on the field was overturned as the replay revealed that Brown came off the base and Danny Espinosa was there to get him with the tag for the inning's first out.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Astros, Nats set to make Spring Training site proposal

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Astros, Nats set to make Spring Training site proposal

HOUSTON -- Representatives from the Astros and the Nationals will present a proposed joint Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Palm Beach County Tourism Development Council on Sept. 11 and Palm Beach County Commissioners on Sept. 23.

The Astros have been trying for more than a year to get a new complex built that they would share with another club, and the formal presentation is a big step. The Astros' lease in Kissimmee, Fla., expires at the end of 2016, and the Astros would like to begin construction on a new spring site by January.

The Palm Beach Post reported the teams will ask for $3 million a year in hotel tax money to help for the proposed $140 million facility, which would be located at Haverhill Road and 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

In a joint statement, the Astros and Nationals said:

"The Astros and Nationals are finalizing a joint presentation in support of a proposed sports complex that will enable the Major League Clubs to co-locate our Spring Training facilities in West Palm Beach. Our projections show that the economic impact created by the activities at the new complex will be in excess of $100 million each year.

"We have a strong desire to make Palm Beach County our home for Spring Training and help re-establish the east coast of Florida as a hub for Major League Baseball's Spring Training activities and create a complex for community and national sporting events throughout the year."

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Rivero, Skole star in Double-A Harrisburg's win

Lefty tosses six scoreless innings; infielder scores three runs, collects three RBIs

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Rivero, Skole star in Double-A Harrisburg's win play video for Rivero, Skole star in Double-A Harrisburg's win

Left-hander Felipe Rivero threw six scoreless innings and infielder Matt Skole scored or drove in all five runs Monday for Double-A Harrisburg, leading the Senators to a 5-3 victory at New Hampshire.

Rivero, the Nationals' No. 17 prospect, struck out five batters, walked none and held the Fisher Cats to three hits. It was his second straight scoreless start and extended his shutout streak to 12 innings.

Skole, the Nationals' No. 6 prospect, saw to it that Rivero had plenty of run support. He went 3-for-4 with a walk and a home run. He scored three times and drove in three runs.

After scoring lone runs in the second and fourth innings, Skole gave Harrisburg breathing room with a three-run home run in the fifth inning. By that time, Rivero was in a groove. He needed just 63 pitches to get through his longest start of the season.

With the victory, Rivero improved to 2-6 with a 4.38 ERA for the Senators this season. He has struck out 30 batters and walked 16 in 39 innings. An arm injury forced him onto the disabled list for three months earlier this season and has limited him to nine starts at Double-A.

After missing almost all of last year with his own injury problems, Skole has stayed healthy this season. In 125 games for the Senators, the 25-year old is hitting .242/.352/.392 with 12 home runs.

While Skole has mostly played first base this season, he spent the early part of his career as a third baseman and has not completely given the position up. He played third base Monday, his 27th game at the position this season. He also committed an error, his seventh as a third baseman, compared with eight in 94 games at first base.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Souza progressing on rehab assignment

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Souza progressing on rehab assignment play video for Souza progressing on rehab assignment

PHILADELPHIA -- Nats outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is three games into his rehab assignment as he recovers from a right shoulder strain that he suffered on Aug. 8 after crashing into the outfield wall while attempting to rob Freddie Freeman of a homer. He has been on the disabled list since Aug. 10, and an MRI showed no structural damage.

After beginning his rehab assignment with one game at Class A Hagerstown on Thursday, Souza was moved up to Class A Advanced Potomac for two games over the weekend.

"He played three. He's doing the normal progression," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He's getting his ABs. Any time you're off, though, you have to make sure you get that timing back. So that's where he's at. The time frame, we don't know yet. We want him to do well and want him to make sure that his timing's good and his swing feels good. And when that time is, we'll call him back."

Through his first 12 at-bats in the big leagues, the 25-year-old has just one hit.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Nationals pile on runs in comeback victory

Six-run sixth, five-run eighth help Washington pad NL East lead

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Nationals pile on runs in comeback victory play video for Nationals pile on runs in comeback victory

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals showed Sunday afternoon that they don't have that give-up mentality. They were down by five runs, but scored six in the sixth inning and downed the Giants, 14-6, at Nationals Park.

When he allowed a solo home run to Ian Desmond in the sixth inning, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong left the game with a 6-3 lead, but San Francisco's bullpen couldn't stop the Nationals on this day. Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt entered the game and couldn't get anybody out. It didn't help that his sinker didn't show up.

Bryce Harper started things with a double. After Asdrubal Cabrera reached base on an infield single, Jose Lobaton was at the plate when Harper scored on a wild pitch, while Cabrera advanced to second.

Seconds later, Lobaton singled to left field, sending Cabrera home to make it a 6-5 game. Scott Hairston, pinch-hitting for right-hander Craig Stammen, doubled down the left-field line, sending Lobaton home to tie the game.

"Son of a gun, you just wanted an out anywhere and we couldn't get it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

"I take full responsibility for that game," Affeldt said.

After Denard Span reached base on an infield single, right-hander Jean Machi entered the game and quickly picked off Span for the first out of the inning. But Machi didn't fare any better than Affeldt.

After Anthony Rendon reached base on a walk, Jayson Werth singled up the middle, scoring Hairston and giving Washington a 7-6 lead. Adam LaRoche then added to the lead when he singled to left field, scoring Rendon. The Nats ended up with eight hits in the inning, the most they've had in an inning this season.

"Collectively as a team, we are confident, no matter what the score is," Hairston said. "We saw that today. We got down early, 5-0. [The Giants are] a good ballclub. We didn't throw any at-bats away. ... This team keeps on battling. It's a lot of fun, especially when we string a couple of big innings like that in the game."

The character of the Nationals spoke volumes during the game, according to manager Matt Williams.

"They don't quit. They don't stop fighting. They feel it's important to apply pressure even if we are down," the skipper said. "Get some guys out there with opportunities. They did that again today. We did it by bunching base hits together. That will help you along the way. Homers happen, but the fact that they bunched base hits together says something about the approach and how they go about it."

Left-hander Javier Lopez was on the mound in the seventh when Lobaton scored on a single by Span. The Nationals then tacked on five more runs in the eighth against Juan Gutierrez, including two-run homers by Harper and Danny Espinosa.

"It's unbelievable," Harper said. "Like I said before, we have a lot of heart. We want to win every single game. ... We had a great crowd today and they pushed us through."

The reliable Washington bullpen did its part, with Stammen, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano combining to allow one run in the final five innings. The Nationals also moved eight games ahead of the Braves in the National League East race. Atlanta lost to the Reds, 5-3, at Great American Ball Park.

Although the Nationals won the game, there has to be some concern about right-hander Stephen Strasburg. After having two solid outings in which he allowed one earned run in 15 innings, Strasburg took a step back Sunday, pitching four innings and allowing five runs on eight hits.

Strasburg had problems keeping the ball down as he allowed solo home runs to Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa in the first two innings. The Giants then added three more runs in the third inning. Michael Morse highlighted the scoring with an RBI double.

"I was making dumb pitches. On a 3-2 pitch, I have to execute a better pitch there to Blanco. The same with Ishikawa on the 1-2 pitch," Strasburg said. "You want to challenge them, but at the same time you have to focus on hitting your spots. I really wasn't doing that today."

But, starting with Stammen, the bullpen stopped the bleeding as the Nationals won their 75th game of the season.

"The Giants have a good lineup. They got to Stras a little bit. He didn't have his 'A' game today. But that's the way it is. That's our job as a bullpen and that is to pick the starter up. We pitched five good innings," Stammen said.

By going 9-1 during the homestand, the Nationals had the second-winningest homestand of more than six games in their history. It was second only to a 12-1 homestand in 2005.

"It was a great homestand. I never experienced anything like it and I think it's safe to say nobody has. It's a lot of fun," Hairston said. "When you are confident and you have guys that are at the top of the lineup like Denard and Anthony, I think through and through, top to bottom, we have a really good lineup that has a good understanding about having a quality at-bat. We have a pitching staff that is going to keep us in the ballgame. It creates more confidence."

With that said, does Hairston believe the Nationals have won the division?

"No," Hairston said. "It's only Aug. 24. We'll just keep grinding them out. We'll handle our business. Whatever Atlanta does, it's up to them."

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Harper continues power surge with homer vs. Giants

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Harper continues power surge with homer vs. Giants play video for Harper continues power surge with homer vs. Giants

WASHINGTON -- In the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, Giants reliever Juan Gutierrez delivered a first-pitch four-seam fastball to Bryce Harper. The ball was letter-high and just a shade inside. Harper turned his hips, connected with the barrel of the bat and sent a line drive screaming down the right-field line.

As Harper watched from the batter's box, the ball clanked off the yellow foul pole for a home run, giving the Nationals a six-run lead in an eventual 14-6 victory in the series finale against San Francisco.

It was the 21-year-old's fourth home run in his past 17 games. Before that stretch, Harper had three home runs all season, though he missed 57 games with a torn left thumb ligament earlier in the year.

The recent power surge from Harper hasn't been a result of increased focus on long balls, according to manager Matt Williams. The first-year skipper said Harper's opposite-field double off left-hander Jeremy Affedlt in the sixth was much more indicative of the reason for Harper's recent success.

"He's hit a lot of balls back through the middle in recent days, which tells me that he's seeing it and staying back," Williams said. "It's funny how those come when you're hitting the ball back through the middle. ... If he hits a ball through the middle consistently, he'll get pitches to hit where he can pull it and be able to hit a ball over the fence."

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Thornton thriving with Nats by throwing strikes

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Thornton thriving with Nats by throwing strikes play video for Thornton thriving with Nats by throwing strikes

WASHINGTON -- Nationals reliever Matt Thornton entered in the top of the ninth inning Saturday night against the Giants with a comfortable four-run lead. But back-to-back singles from Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse to open the frame prompted pitching coach Steve McCatty to visit the veteran lefty on the mound.

After a short discussion, Thornton refocused and needed just four more pitches to end the inning. He forced Joe Panik into a 6-3 double play and Andrew Susac into a flyout to center, clinching a 6-2 victory for the Nationals.

Thornton's ability to respond Saturday illustrated the 37-year-old's enhanced approach in 2014.

In 2013 with the White Sox and Red Sox, Thornton surrendered 15 walks over 43 1/3 innings. But more importantly, eight of those 15 walks ended up scoring later in the frame -- a number that impelled Thornton to question the way he was attacking hitters.

Quite simply, he needed to throw more strikes and use his high-90s fastballs to go right after hitters. And this season, the left-hander has issued only six walks in 31 innings, all of which came in a Yankees uniform before the Nationals traded for him via waivers earlier this month.

"Last year, I learned a pretty valuable lesson reiterating how bad walks hurt you," Thornton said. "One of my goals this year is to throw strikes no matter what the situation was to make them put the ball in play."

As a result, Thornton has thrived during his brief stint in Washington. Entering Sunday's action, the left-hander had retired 20 of 25 batters he'd faced as a National.

On top of his altered mindset, Thornton said manager Matt Williams has also aided his success significantly. During his time in Chicago, Boston and New York, Thornton was used primarily as a lefty specialist, largely because of his weak splits against right-handed batters. But in Washington, Williams has used Thornton less as a situational reliever and more as a full-inning one.

Only nine of Thornton's 46 appearances for the Yankees this season lasted one inning or more. By contrast, six of his eight appearances for the Nationals entering Sunday lasted a full inning.

"Any time you're a competitive person ... and people start telling you that you can't face a certain batter or you're on your way out, it kind of motivates you and pushes you to go out and execute," Thornton said, "and continue to show that you can throw a full inning."

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Cabrera day to day with rib-cage tightness

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Cabrera day to day with rib-cage tightness play video for Cabrera day to day with rib-cage tightness

WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera left Sunday's 14-6 win over the Giants before the eighth inning because of tightness in the right side of his rib cage. He suffered the injury while connecting on a ground ball to shortstop in the bottom of the seventh, and Danny Espinosa replaced him for the final two frames.

Manager Matt Williams said Cabrera is day to day moving forward, as the Nationals embark on a nine-game road trip that includes series at the Mariners and Dodgers. Cabrera said he doesn't expect to miss any games, but it depends on how he feels Monday morning before the Nationals open a series in Philadelphia.

"We didn't want to take any chances in that situation," Williams said after Sunday's game. "We'll have to see how Asdrubal is when he wakes up tomorrow when we get him to the ballpark. Just a little bit of tightness, so we want to be cautious in that regard."

If the injury does force Cabrera to miss time, Espinosa will likely receive starts at second base over the next week, as could utility man Kevin Frandsen.

Espinosa was in a starting role at second base earlier this season when Ryan Zimmerman was sidelined for 44 games with a right thumb fracture, but he struggled mightily from the plate and saw his season average dip close to .200. So when Zimmerman went down again in late July with a Grade 3 right hamstring strain, the Nationals opted to trade for the veteran Cabrera instead of returning Espinosa to the starting lineup.

Even so, during August, the switch-hitting Espinosa has gotten spot starts against lefties because of his solid splits from the right side of the plate -- he's hitting .298 as a righty and .183 as a lefty.

Now, there's a chance Espinosa will have to resume full-time starting duties, which he said he's continued to prepare for on a daily basis by upping the velocity on the pitching machine in the cage, among another things.

"The role this year has been when guys get hurt, being in there every day," Espinosa said. "And if not, just have to keep your head up and keep grinding and keep doing what you can to maintain your swing and maintain game speed."

In his first at-bat Sunday after replacing Cabrera, which came from the right side of the plate, Espinosa scooted a ground-ball single up the middle. Perhaps more importantly, in his second at-bat, the second baseman crushed a left-handed two-run home run over the right-center-field fence.

It marked Espinosa's first extra-base hit from the left side of the plate since July 21.

"I've done it before so I know I can do it." Espinosa said of his lefty batting. "I know it's there."

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

With new life, Zimmermann gets win for Nationals

Righty allows first-inning homer, then shuts down Giants after DC rally

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With new life, Zimmermann gets win for Nationals play video for With new life, Zimmermann gets win for Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Maybe Saturday was the start of a new winning streak for the Nationals. A day after watching their 10-game winning streak come to an end, the Nationals came back and downed the Giants, 6-2, at Nationals Park.

Jordan Zimmermann (9-5) started for Washington and got off to a slow start in the first inning. After Angel Pagan led off with a double, Hunter Pence drilled an 0-2 pitch over the center-field bleachers to give San Francisco a 2-0 lead. It was amazing that Pence could even hit that ball out of the park. The pitch was neck-high and outside.

"There is only one guy that is going to hit that pitch and that's [Pence]. I threw it right where I wanted it -- 0-2 -- up and by his shoulders. It beats me how he hit it that far." Zimmermann said.

Manager Matt Williams said he had never seen a home run hit like that before.

"That's hard to do and to get on top enough to drive it," Williams said. "He takes the head of the bat to the baseball. He can hit it anywhere within the ballpark [or] hit it out of the ballpark. I've never seen anything like that."

But Washington immediately tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the inning off right-hander Tim Lincecum, who has had problems beating the Nats ever since he entered the league in 2007. He had a 6.08 ERA against Washington entering the game and the problems continued. He lasted 2 2/3 innings, which was the second-shortest outing of his career.

After Denard Span led off with a triple and Anthony Rendon followed with a walk, Jayson Werth singled to right field, scoring Span. Adam LaRoche was next and he hit into a double play, but Rendon scored on the play to make it a 2-2 game.

"The Giants scored 10 runs last night and to jump out 2-0, I think it was real important to bounce back with two runs of our own," Span said.

It was all Washington after that as the team added three more runs against Lincecum in the second inning. Werth highlighted the scoring with an RBI single, which made it a 5-2 game.

"I think it was a really good approach today -- middle of the diamond. Jayson had a couple of perfect base hits with guys in scoring position," Williams said. "He didn't try to do too much."

The Nationals scored their last run of the game off Lincecum in the third inning when Asdrubal Cabrera hit his second home run as a member of the Nationals, a solo shot over the left-center-field wall.

"My mechanics haven't been repeating themselves," Lincecum said. "And maybe I've been overdoing it, trying to think about what I need to do, instead of letting my body be athletic. ... I just didn't do it out there today."

Giants reliever Yusmeiro Petit replaced Lincecum in the third and stopped the bleeding, holding the Nationals scoreless for 4 1/3 innings.

Zimmermann settled down after the first inning and pitched eight innings, allowing the two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts. The Giants had other chances to score more than the two runs off Zimmermann. In the fourth inning, San Francisco had runners on first and second with no outs, but Michael Morse struck out and Joe Panik hit into a double play to end the threat.

Two innings later, San Francisco had runners at the corners with two outs, but Morse struck out for the second time to end the threat.

"I had a good fastball. I was locating in and out. The slider was there. I mixed a curveball the second and third time through the lineup," Zimmermann said. "I started throwing more curveballs. The last two innings, I mixed in a few changeups and got some ground balls. Overall, [catcher] Willie [Ramos] and I were on the same page and the defense played great."

Williams said it was important to bounce back and win a game after the 10-game winning streak was broken Friday.

"It's important to go out and compete and play well every day," Williams said. "It would be easy for a team to say, 'Oh, well, here we go after the top of the first.' But they answered and that says something about those guys. We play hard every day."

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Nats call up Schierholtz, option Taylor to Triple-A

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Nats call up Schierholtz, option Taylor to Triple-A play video for Nats call up Schierholtz, option Taylor to Triple-A

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals selected the contract of outfielder Nate Schierholtz on Saturday and optioned prospect Michael Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse.

Schierholtz signed a Minor League contract with the organization Monday before arriving in Syracuse on Tuesday. The left-handed slugger went 3-for-19 with a home run and four RBIs in four games for the Chiefs.

Schierholtz will help fill the hole in the Nationals' bench created when fellow lefty Nate McLouth underwent season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week.

"He's got some ABs under his belt," manager Matt Williams said of Schierholtz. "We've been so right-handed dominant off the bench, it gives us an opportunity to have a lefty later in the game."

Taylor received his first shot in the Majors after injuries to McLouth and Steven Souza Jr. The outfielder played in just four games for Triple-A Syracuse before the Nationals called him up. Nonetheless, he had a sensational debut, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs on Aug. 12 at the Mets.

But Taylor's inexperience became apparent over the next 10 days, as he delivered just one hit in 14 at-bats.

"Michael will go back and play a little bit," Williams said. "We'll see how that goes in September."

Schierholtz had a career-best season with the Cubs in 2013, when he hit .251 with 21 home runs and 68 RBIs, but he tapered off in Chicago this year. In 99 games, Schierholtz compiled a .192 average with six home runs in 313 at-bats before the Cubs designated him for assignment Aug. 6.

"I had a couple weeks back at home, which isn't ideal to any player," Schierholtz said. "But I feel like, at this point in the season, you get back into the swing of things pretty quick."

As a World Series champion with the Giants in 2010, Schierholtz flourished in a bench role, largely because he was able to "pick the brains" of seasoned veterans. The outfielder said his success as a pinch-hitter also stems from the win-at-all-costs mentality he takes into those at-bats.

"When that's your job, it's kind of like going to war with a pitcher," Schierholtz said. "You only get one shot."

Despite a limited number of games at Triple-A this past week, Schierholtz said he feels ready to start contributing at the big league level.

And it doesn't hurt that he's joining a team that just wrapped up a franchise-record-tying 10-game winning streak.

"For me, it's just an exciting opportunity to get back to a winning atmosphere. And that's what it's all about," Schierholtz said. "I'm just excited for a fresh start here. I've kind of put the first half behind me and I'm ready to start in a winning environment."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Nationals wishing good health for Fister

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Nationals wishing good health for Fister play video for Nationals wishing good health for Fister

WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Doug Fister announced after Friday's 10 -3 loss to the Giants that he had skin cancer removed from his neck earlier in the week.

Fister also said the procedure had nothing to do with Friday's outing in which he allowed four runs in six innings. In fact, in that same game, Fister singled to center field and tried to break up a double play in the third inning.

According to manager Matt Williams, Fister is not expected to miss any starts and will pitch Wednesday against the Phillies.

"[Fister] knew about the skin cancer for some time," Williams said. "He took care of it. It's a fairly common occurrence. Because it's on his neck and he is on television, people noticed [the scar on his neck]. From all indications, everything was taken care of. He certainly will have further tests to make sure everything is good."

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said he didn't know about Fister's circumstances until he was approached by a member of the media Saturday afternoon.

"Doug is tough, obviously. He loves pitching," Zimmerman said. "He threw well last night. Doug threw some pitches that he would like to have back, but he has been so consistent. He has been a leader in this clubhouse. He is a big part of our pitching staff. His energy is infectious is the best way to put it."

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez said he is more concerned about Fister's health than with what he is doing on the mound.

"At the end of the day, last night's game did not matter as long as he felt fine," Gonzalez said. "That's all we care about. He has been a big part of so many great things we have accomplished this year. Last night, we just brushed [the game] under the rug. We just want a healthy Doug."

Fister is arguably the Nationals' best pitcher this season, going 12-4 with a 2.38 ERA in 19 starts. Right-hander Tanner Roark said Fister's work ethic is unbelievable.

"He is always in the weight room and running. Every time I always see him, he is back there working out," Roark said. "He is a huge asset to this team. The way he works, it's great for this offense as far as getting the team back in the dugout."

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Nats play it safe, end prospect Giolito's season

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito has been shut down for the remainder of the 2014 season as part of the organization's protocol regarding players rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, MLB.com confirmed Saturday.

Giolito, who is the Nationals' No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, underwent the surgery shortly after Washington selected the right-hander with the No. 16 pick in the 2012 Draft. After a full recovery, Giolito went 10-2 with a 2.20 ERA in 20 starts (98 innings) for Class A Hagerstown this season.

The Nationals have made similar moves in the past with pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery. In 2012, right-hander Stephen Strasburg was shut down after 159 1/3 innings despite the Nationals winning the National League East title. Similarly in 2011, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was shut down after 161 1/3 innings. Both moves came roughly two years after the pitchers underwent their respective surgeries.

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Fister slips up as Giants end Nationals' win streak

Righty allows pair of homers; bullpen unable to keep game close

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WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' 10-game winning streak came to an abrupt end as they lost to the Giants, 10-3, at Nationals Park on Friday night.

"It's one of those days," manager Matt Williams said. "It was kind of a clunker all around. We'll see if we can get them tomorrow."

Doug Fister has been Washington's most reliable starter, but not on this night. The right-hander was hurt by the long ball as he pitched six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. The game was also put in perspective as Fister announced that he had skin cancer removed from his neck a couple of days ago. He said he was OK and that the surgery had nothing to do with his so-so performance on the mound.

Fister was cruising and working fast until the fourth inning. With Washington leading, 1-0, Fister was able to get two quick outs, but then Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse reached base on consecutive singles. Joe Panik followed with a three-run homer over the center-field wall to give San Francisco a 3-1 lead. It was Panik's first career home run.

"I wasn't sharp. I left too many balls over the plate," Fister said. ["I threw] my best pitch. I threw it over the middle of the plate. He hit it well. That's his job. I didn't do mine."

Giants right-hander Tim Hudson, who has been a nemesis dating back to when the Nationals were the Montreal Expos, managed to pick up his 18th career victory against the organization. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs -- one earned -- and struck out three batters. It wasn't easy for Hudson, however.

In the bottom of the fourth, Jayson Werth made it a one-run game by hitting a solo home run over the left-field wall.

But San Francisco put the game out of reach starting in the sixth inning off Fister. With one out, Buster Posey swung at a 2-2 pitch and homered over the left-field wall to make it a 4-2 game.

"The whole day, I'm battling myself. It's a constant challenge for me to constantly keep the ball down and on the corners. It's something I have to do. If not, I have to pay for it," Fister said.

Still, the way the Nationals were coming back during their 10-game winning streak, they still thought there was a chance to win the game. But San Francisco scored two more runs in the eighth inning off left-hander Jerry Blevins, with Gregor Blanco and Panik coming home on a double by Travis Ishikawa.

"We knew we had to play our best ball to beat this club, especially against a team that's had so much mojo," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Giants then padded their lead with four more in the ninth off Ross Detwiler before the Nats got one back on a Wilson Ramos RBI double.

"When [the score was] 10-2, I said, 'OK, it's time to turn the page and try and start another streak, I guess," center fielder Denard Span said.

With the loss, the Nationals now find themselves six games ahead of the Braves in the National League East. Atlanta defeated the Reds, 3-1, in 12 innings at Great American Ball Park.

"We haven't had that feeling in a while, fortunately," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "Tough loss? No question. It 's the way we got beat. Other than that, looking back, it was an awesome stretch. That's what guys were talking about after the game. We start up a new one. It was frustrating. We are still in great position here for this time of the year. We have work to do. We kind of let one get away from us today. That's baseball."

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Strasburg armed and ready for stretch run

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WASHINGTON -- Two years ago this month, word started spreading that the Nationals were going to shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season. The team wanted to be cautious after Strasburg's Tommy John surgery in late 2010, and eventually shut him down Sept. 8, resulting in the right-hander missing the postseason.

At first, Strasburg was upset about being shut down, but he said Friday that the Nationals had his best interest at heart. It also helped that the club had a history of shutting down pitchers who had undergone elbow reconstruction. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, for example, was shut down after 161 1/3 innings in 2011.

"It seems like a long time ago that happened," Strasburg said. "It was tough at the time. Just seeing how prevalent injuries are these days, I'm convinced the Nationals had my best interest at heart. It's easy for an organization to go out there and just ride the young horse until it breaks. I think that is a testament to [general manager] Mike Rizzo and the ownership here. They want to see me have a long career and hopefully a long and successful career. If that happens, they are going to be happy, too."

In 2014, Strasburg is not on any limitations and there is a good chance he will play in the postseason this year. Entering Friday's opener vs. the Giants, the Nationals had the best record in the National League and were seven games ahead of the Braves in the NL East.

Strasburg is pleased that he is healthy and there are no distractions about being shut down.

"I feel great right now. My arm has felt great all year. My body is accustomed to the workload that it takes," Strasburg said. "I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm seeing good results, especially in recovery in between starts. I try to keep it the same and don't do anything stupid in between bad outings. I'll be sitting pretty well."

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Morse has fond memories of time with Nats

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WASHINGTON -- Giants outfielder Michael Morse returned to Nationals Park for the first time since the Nationals made him part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Mariners in January 2013.

Morse made his mark in Washington after general manager Mike Rizzo acquired him from the Mariners for outfielder Ryan Langerhans. Morse was the Nationals' MVP in 2011, when he hit .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs and became popular with the fans in Washington.

Morse's best moment in a Nationals uniform, he said, was helping the Nationals win their first division title in 2012.

"Whenever you get a chance to go the postseason, it helps a player out in his career," Morse said.

Morse arrived in the visiting locker room around 3:50 p.m. ET on Friday, and he admitted it was weird to be in the opponent's locker room.

"It's weird, and I hope to check it out more often," Morse said. "It feels good to be here. I have a lot of memories. I'm going to focus on winning right now. "

After the game, Morse planned to see his former teammates such as Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth.

"I will just wing it," Morse said on what he plans to do in DC.

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Fister OK after skin-cancer removal procedure

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WASHINGTON -- Nationals starter Doug Fister told the media Friday night that the stitches on the right side of his neck resulted from a skin-cancer removal procedure he underwent "a couple days ago."

Fister surrendered four earned runs over six innings in Washington's 10-3 loss to Giants -- the most runs he's allowed since June 15.

But the right-hander said after the game that the procedure and subsequent wound on his neck did not influence his performance, and he's "good" moving forward.

"It had no effect tonight," Fister said.

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