Dunn enjoying baseball again

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Dunn enjoying baseball again

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For all his accomplishments in the big leagues -- all the towering home runs and all the walks -- Adam Dunn's resume over the last decade had two disturbing entries: zero All-Star Games, zero postseason appearances.

And after suffering through the worst season of his life in 2011, there was legitimate reason to wonder whether the former Nationals slugger would ever get back to the Midsummer Classic, or whether he'd ever get to experience the postseason with a White Sox franchise that seemed to be falling apart.

Well, Dunn managed to cross that first item off his list, earning a spot on the AL's All-Star roster 10 years after he made his one and only appearance in the game with the Reds. And with the White Sox currently holding a three-game lead in the AL Central, he might just get to cross off that second item as well in a couple of months.

"Obviously I feel a little better this year than I did last year," he said. "The good news is, last year is still over, and this year we've still got a whole half to go."

As consistent an offensive player as there was in baseball -- he averaged 40 homers, 101 RBI and 107 walks from 2004-10 -- Dunn wound up in Chicago last season after the Nationals decided not to match the White Sox's four-year, 56 million contract offer. The move was criticized in Washington at the time, though that criticism dwindled after the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to an eight-year, 126 million deal and especially after Dunn slogged his way through a disastrous debut season in the AL.

In 122 games last year, the DHfirst baseman hit a paltry .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBI and 177 strikeouts. The crowds at U.S. Cellular Field routinely showered him with boos when he stepped to the plate.

"I don't blame them," he said. "I would've booed me, too. Seriously."

Few knew what to expect out of Dunn (or the White Sox, who went 79-83) this season, but each has enjoyed a renaissance. Dunn already has 25 homers and 64 RBI in 84 games, though his .208 batting average barely sits above the Mendoza Line. And, of course, he leads the league both in walks (68) and strikeouts (134).

Those power numbers were enough to earn Dunn a ticket to Kansas City for tonight's All-Star Game, where he'll look across the field and find three guys wearing the uniform of the first-place Nationals.

Will that be a bittersweet moment for Dunn, who lost 196 in two seasons in Washington but always insisted he wanted to be part of the franchise's eventual turnaround?

"No," he said. "I really enjoyed my time there. I really enjoyed the people. There's no hard feelings. Some of my good buddies still play on the team. I love Mike Rizzo. I love the Lerners. Everybody's great over there, and I wish them nothing but the best. And you saw it coming. You just didn't know how early it was going to be. I'm happy for them."

Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

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Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out nine including seven of eight in one stretch and the Washington Nationals got home runs from Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Taylor's second leadoff homer of the year ended a 22-inning scoreless drought for the Nationals. Espinosa's first of the season was a two-run shot that capped a four-run fourth against Mike Leake (0-3).

Strasburg (4-0) gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings with one walk. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings his last three outings. Jonathan Papelbon earned his eighth save in nine chances for Washington, which is 5-0 in Strasburg's starts.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off Blake Treinen in the eighth for St. Louis, who are 18-9 against Washington the last five seasons.

Leake, who got a five-year, $80 million free agent deal, gave up five runs in seven innings and has a 5.83 ERA.

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth had an RBI apiece in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

C Wilson Ramos (bereavement list) could return this weekend after leaving following the death of his grandfather. Manager Dusty Baker said the team would be patient, adding "death has no season."

UP NEXT

Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.24) is holding opponents to a .198 average, among the league's best. Joe Ross (2-0, 0.54) was among just five NL starters to not allow a homer, with a minimum of 20 innings.

RELATED: NATS SEE TOUGH ROAD TRIP AS GOOD TEST FOR WHERE THEY'RE AT

Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

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Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

Nats (14-7) vs. Cardinals (12-10) at Busch Stadium

The Nationals will look to bounce back after getting swept by the Phillies as they head to St. Louis for a series with the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) will take the mound for Washington looking to continue his impressive start to the 2016 season. Strasburg has never started a season 4-0.

The Cardinals will turn to Mike Leake who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts this saeson.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stepehen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Jeed Gyorko
SS Aledmys Diaz
C Eric Fryer
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here.

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

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USA Today Sports Images

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

There is a significant contrast in the quality of teams the Nationals have faced thus far this season through 21 games and the caliber of clubs they are about to see on their upcoming 10-game road trip. It's a major scheduling quirk and as of Friday morning, the Nats are standing right on the middle of it.

Behind them is the second-easiest schedule in baseball to this point based on opponents win percentage. And up ahead are three teams that finished among the four best records in baseball last season. The worst team they will play coming up on this road swing based on their 2015 regular season record is the Kansas City Royals. They led the American League with 95 wins and later won the World Series.

The trip begins in St. Louis against a Cardinals team that led baseball with 100 wins last season. And the journey closes with the Chicago Cubs, a 97-win team that reached the NL Championship Series.

It's an unusually difficult road trip, to say the least.

“It’s one of the tougher trips I think I’ve probably ever been on," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,'" manager Dusty Baker said. "It's going to be a test."

The Cardinals and Cubs boast the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball right now. The Cards have a +48 run differential and the Cubs - who have the best record in baseball at 16-5 - are +74. 

The Cubs and Royals rank in the top 10 in MLB in team ERA, the Cubs are second only to the Nats in baseball in the category. The Royals have the seventh-best bullpen ERA and everyone knows they can play defense.

All three teams will present challenges and, if you ask some members of the Nats, that could be a good thing.

"This is going to be a test to see -- a barometer to see how good we are right now," Baker said. "We're not full-forces yet, we haven't been and we've done pretty well, because Ben Revere, one of our igniters, is getting ready… but it's going to be exciting."

"You enjoy the challenge," Zimmerman added. "I think you get to see what we’re really made of. Go out and play three really, really good teams and I think the guys in here are excited for it.”

The Nationals are going to learn a lot about themselves over the next 10 days, that's for sure.