Nats look for four-game sweep vs. Astros - 8:05 p.m.

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Nats look for four-game sweep vs. Astros - 8:05 p.m.

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Jordan Zimmermann tries to pitch the Nats to a sweep at Minute Maid Park.
It hasn't come as easy as they would have liked, but the Nationals have done just enough to win the first three games of this series in Houston and put themselves in position for a four-game sweep tonight. Really, you can't ask for anything more than that.

Jordan Zimmermann gets the ball for the finale at Minute Maid Park, hoping to create a new streak of six-inning starts after he went only five last week for the first time this season. He'll be opposed by Lucas Harrell, a pretty good right-hander who has a chance to earn his 10th win tonight -- fairly impressive considering the team he plays for has only won 36 total games in 2012.

After a rough game last night that included a couple of confrontations with plate umpire Angel Hernandez and an ill-advised throw from center field in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper is not expected to be in the Nationals' lineup. Probably a good time for the 19-year-old to take a physical and mental break.

I'm not in Houston, but I am en route to Phoenix as we speak for this weekend's series against the Diamondbacks. Enjoy tonight's game and the conversation...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at HOUSTON ASTROS
Where: Minute Maid Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 184
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS (68-43)

2B Steve Lombardozzi
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki
RHP Jordan Zimmermann

ASTROS (36-76)

2B Jose Altuve
SS Marwin Gonzalez
RF Steve Pearce
CF Justin Maxwell
3B Brett Wallace
LF J.D. Martinez
1B Scott Moore
C Chris Snyder
RHP Lucas Harrell

UMPIRES

HP Ed Hickox
1B Chris Conroy
2B Mark Carlson
3B Angel Hernandez

Scherzer rebounds as Nats complete sweep of Cardinals

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Scherzer rebounds as Nats complete sweep of Cardinals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium: 

How it happened: Apparently all the Nationals and Max Scherzer needed to break out of their early season slump was to play on the road against a team that won 100 games the year before. 

Just like the Nationals' bats did in the two days prior, Scherzer found his groove in St. Louis on Sunday with seven shutout innings and zero walks in his best start of the season. The Nats' lineup got to Cardinals phenom Carlos Martinez late in his outing and Clint Robinson, Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey homered as the Nats beat St. Louis 6-1 to secure their first sweep of the Cardinals since 2007 and their first ever sweep at Busch Stadium.

What it means: The Nats have considerable momentum with a three-game winning streak and a club record 17-7 start as they head to Kansas City to face the Royals. Playing the defending champs looked much more daunting before this weekend than it does now, as the Nats head to K.C. once again looking like one of the best teams in baseball.

Scherzer bounces back: Seeing Scherzer turn things around is a very positive sign for the Nationals who were waiting for their ace to fall in line with the rest of their rotation. Scherzer finally overcame his first inning woes to set the tone for a strong start overall. He escaped the first inning without allowing a run for just the second time in six starts this season. He ended up going seven shutout frames with nine strikeouts, zero walks and four hits allowed on 105 pitches. The right-hander dropped his season ERA all the way down to 3.55 as he now turns his attention to the Cubs whom he'll face in his next start at Wrigley Field.

Martinez cracks late: Martinez was locked in from the very first pitch and didn't allow a hit until Scherzer singled (one of his two hits on Sunday) with two outs in the third. Martinez was firing 98 mile per hour heat with a dazzling curveball to complement. The right-hander finally gave up a run in the sixth on a Matt den Dekker single and then served up back-to-back bombs to Robinson and Espinosa in the seventh. It took three times through their order, but the Nats figured out Martinez on this particular day. Espinosa, by the way, has two homers in his last three games.

Harper gets a Golden Sombrero: Mired in his first real slump of the season, Bryce Harper had major trouble against Martinez and the Cardinals. The Nats' slugger went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Sunday and is now hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Harper has just one hit in his last five games (17 ABs) and is now hitting .272 on the season. Harper hasn't struck out four times in a game since he was a rookie on Aug. 21, 2012.

Robinson's homer much-needed: Robinson earned a bench spot out of spring training after a breakout campaign in 2015, but the first baseman has been slow to heat up this season so far. He was just 1-for-21 on the year before his seventh inning homer. The homer, though, could be just what Robinson needs to get going. It was a two-run shot and it came off one of the NL's hottest pitchers.

Up next: The Nationals move on to Kansas City to take on the defending World Series champions in three games at Kauffman Stadium. Monday night is an 8:15 p.m. first pitch with Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42) and Edinson Volquez (3-1, 3.34) set to start.

Wilson Ramos returns to Nationals, Severino sent to minors

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Wilson Ramos returns to Nationals, Severino sent to minors

Catcher Wilson Ramos has returned to the Nationals after spending five days on MLB's bereavement list due to the death of his grandfather Jesus Campos. Catcher Pedro Severino was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Ramos.

Ramos, 28, returns to the Nats with a .316 average, two homers and eight RBI in 15 games this season. He has the second-best average on the team this season behind second baseman Daniel Murphy.

Ramos left the Nationals on April 26 after hearing of his grandfather's death. The Nationals' lineup struggled initially with Ramos out, but has since recovered to score 11 runs in their first two games at the St. Louis Cardinals. Ramos is not in the lineup Sunday as the Nats aim for a sweep.

Jose Lobaton has been filling in most for Ramos and on Monday Gio Gonzalez is set to pitch. Lobaton has caught Gonzalez exclusively so far this season.

Ramos caught Gonzalez 11 times last season out of 30 total starts. The combo produced a 4.52 ERA in 61 2/3 innings. Gonzalez held a 3.39 mark in 114 innings with Lobaton.

Gio has worked mostly with Lobaton since the catcher was acquired by the Nats before the 2014 season, but has been very good with both catchers in his career. He holds a career 3.25 ERA and .241 BAA with Lobaton and a 3.42 ERA and .247 BAA with Ramos.

NL East: Marlins' Stanton hit scoreboard with HR at Brewers' stadium

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NL East: Marlins' Stanton hit scoreboard with HR at Brewers' stadium

Giancarlo Stanton blasted a 462-foot homer on Saturday at Miller Park, the second-longest home run any player has hit so far this season.

This particular shot bounced off the massive scoreboard in center field in Milwaukee. Stanton knew he had it as soon as it left the bat. 

According to MLB's StatCast, the ball left Stanton's bat at a speed of 116.8 miles per hour. The only homer hit this season with an exit velocity of 117 or higher was by Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies.

Check out Stanton's bomb: