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2nd time has been charm for Moore

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2nd time has been charm for Moore

Just about every ballplayer, upon getting promoted to make his big-league debut, tries to insist the game is no different at this higher level of competition than it was at every previous level.

It's not always as easy as it sounds, though, as Tyler Moore found out last month when he first joined the Nationals.

"Yeah, exactly. It is the same game, but also there's a lot of stuff that comes with that game, too," Moore said. "There's a lot more fans. The stadiums are bigger. It makes your adrenaline get up a little more. You just have to learn how to calm yourself down and realize it is a game, and I play the best when I'm calm."

These days, Moore is feeling plenty calm with his surroundings. After struggling during his first big-league stint, he has returned and reasserted himself as a potent offensive player.

After hitting .158 (3-for-19) with seven strikeouts in his first 12 games -- which prompted a demotion to Class AAA Syracuse -- Moore is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with only two strikeouts in six games since rejoining the big-league roster.

"It was of course disappointing to be optioned to Syracuse but at the same time they had to make a move," he said. "I just went down to the minor leagues and got some at-bats and got some repetition back. And then I came back up here and I've had a lot more at-bats than my previous time up here. That helped me a lot, getting more at-bats and seeing more pitches to get back in a rhythm."

Moore has indeed found himself in Davey Johnson's lineup more regularly this time around. He's become a mainstay presence against left-handed starters, either in left field or at first base (where he's playing tonight against Rays lefty Matt Moore).

Johnson sees a different player during this stint, one who appears more comfortable with his surroundings and who has learned how to adapt to more sporadic playing time.

"Just getting over probably a little bit of nervousness," Johnson said. "It's very difficult for a young player who's used to playing every day to get into a rhythm where you feel real confident about seeing the ball and the strike zone. ... In the big leagues, you sometimes try to take the same approach as if you were playing every day."

Another difference has been Moore's approach at the plate; he's not falling behind in the count as much and being forced into using defensive swings (which may in part explain the drop in his strikeout rate).

"I think he came back feeling like he needed to be a little more aggressive," Johnson said of Moore, who crushed 71 home runs over his last 1,121 minor-league at-bats. "He has a great stroke. I love his stroke. He's short to the ball, uses the whole field. He's quiet up there. Once you have some results, it just locks you into that same approach."

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Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Starter A.J. Cole made it 5 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon, which is pretty good considering that's how much Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg combined to pitch against the Rockies less than two weeks ago. Gio Gonzalez also only made it three innings in that series due to a rain delay.

And in the time since, the Nats' bullpen has been battered around by all sorts of elements including injuries and short outings from starters. The Nationals' next off-day on Thursday, Sept. 1 can't come soon enough to put them out of their current 20 games in 20 days misery.

Cole's outing, by all accounts, could have been a lot worse. But unfortunately for the Nationals, Saturday's game went to extra innings, forcing manager Dusty Baker to do some things he wouldn't normally prefer to do. Like, use the newly acquired Marc Rzepczynski for 2 1/3 innings. Or, to go to Mark Melancon for the third straight game. Or, to leave Yusmeiro Petit on the mound in the 11th even when it was clear he just didn't have it.

For Petit, in particular, Baker felt like he had no other choice, even after the right-hander served up a two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon.

"We felt badly for Yusmeiro because we had to leave him in there, he was our last pitcher we didn't have [Koda] Glover and we were trying to stay away from [Mark] Melancon because that was his third day in a row and we didn't have [Shawn] Kelley. We were down to our last player, we had no more players on the bench and that was our last player, I don't know who was going to pitch if he didn't get out of that inning. He took one for the team so to speak," Baker said.

Petit's inning got off on a sour note with an error by Anthony Rendon at third base. It was one of two errors committed by the Nationals on Saturday. One was by Rzepczynski in the seventh and that one helped lead to a run. Rzepczynski also messed up fielding a bunt in the ninth. Cole also allowed a run on a wild pitch during an intentional walk.

It was a rough day for the Nats, who were plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes. That has been a theme lately and the Nationals hope it ends soon.

“We address it daily, but you cant harp on it. Like I said the other day these things go in streaks," Baker said. "Tony is sure handed over there. We haven’t seen Rzepczynski. He just threw that ball over the head. They bunted on us twice a couple of times and got hits on us. We just have to continue to work.”

The Nats have now made 14 errors in their last nine games. It's been bizarre to watch and it has some at a loss for words.

“Can’t call it. I don’t know. One of those things," left fielder Jayson Werth said.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

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Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper explains 10th inning ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike'

Bryce Harper is not one to back down when it comes to arguments with umpires, even after he's been ejected from a game and has time to cool down and collect his thoughts.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that on Saturday after he was tossed in the 10th inning of the Nats' loss to the Colorado Rockies, Harper referred to home plate umpire Mark Winters' called strike three as a "mistake." 

Here is Harper, in detail, on the call that led to him throwing his helmet to the ground and confronting Winters, who immediately sent him to the showers:

"You're in a game like that, 4-4 in the 10th, you get to a 2-2 count. He throws a pitch off the plate which they said was a strike, which was a ball. I was reading it all the way in. If you look at the tape, I was looking down at the ball the whole way into the glove and it was just, you know, it was off the plate. I could possibly see one more pitch and maybe hit a homer or a double or walk. I could even strike out. But I just wanted to see that last pitch and I never got there. It just shouldn't happen. Just bad [call] there. It's not a strike," he said.

"You don't want an umpire to make a mistake in that big of a situation. That's just not good. I wanted to see that last pitch. We could have possibly not played the 11th or the 12th or whatever. I mean, getting on base with [Anthony] Rendon behind me would have been huge as well, possibly could have stolen second, a ball hit to the ride side and you never know."

On if Harper regretted his actions, he did concede it was not a good time to be tossed, given the game was tied and the Nats had a chance to beat the Rockies.

"I know we had a short bench. I think going into it you don't ever want to get ejected," he said.

Manager Dusty Baker didn't offer a harsh assessment to Harper's ejection. He basically described it as just part of the game.

"Everybody blows up from time to time," he said. "These things happen. Especially it happens this time of year tempers are short. It’s hot, played a lot of games, been around the same people for a long period of time. This is the time of year when tempers do flare up.”

Outfielder Jayson Werth was brief in his comments on Harper. But did note how this isn't the first time for the reigning MVP. Harper has now been ejected from eight games in his career.

"I’ve been kicked out of one game my whole career. Bryce, on the other hand, has been kicked out of multiple," he said.

[RELATED: Harper ejected after arguing balls and strikes]

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Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

Nationals tap Lucas Giolito to start Sunday against Colorado Rockies

The Nationals have chosen right-hander Lucas Giolito to start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, as their revolving door of rookies making spot starts continues.

Giolito, 22, last pitched for the Nationals on July 24 against the San Diego Padres. He has made three big league starts this season with six earned runs allowed on 12 hits and nine walks in 11 total innings. 

Giolito has faced the Padres once and the Mets twice. On Sunday, he will see a lineup that is much more formidable in the Rockies.

"I’m hoping he throws up a gem against a very tough lineup," manager Dusty Baker said.

Since his last MLB start, Giolito has pitched five times for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He gave up nine earned runs in 22 2/3 innings during that stretch.

A former 16th overall pick, Giolito is ranked by many outlets as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He is the top prospect overall in the Nationals minor league system.

Giolito made his MLB debut against the New York Mets on June 28.