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Espinosa gets good news on shoulder

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Espinosa gets good news on shoulder

As he tried to swing at pitches during Sunday night's game in Atlanta, unable to generate any power or bat speed with his left shoulder, Danny Espinosa started fearing the worst.

"I thought it was a labrum tear," he said.

An MRI taken on Espinosa's shoulder on Monday, however, not only allayed those fears but left the Nationals second baseman as upbeat as he's been in a week. The actual diagnosis: a bone bruise in his shoulder's capsule, treated with a cortisone shot that may allow Espinosa to return to the lineup as soon as Wednesday.

"This is the best news that we could have gotten," he said. "If this was a rotator cuff tear or a labrum tear, it would have lingered the rest of the season. I would have had to have surgery in the offseason. This is the best. I didn't think there was going to be a bruise in there, but this was definitely the best news we could have gotten."

Espinosa said he believes he injured himself during the Nationals' Sept. 7 game against the Marlins when he dove for a ball at second base.

"When I came down, I could really tell I had over-extended my arm," he said. "And I felt something kind of pop, or something kind of jam. At the end of that inning, I grabbed my bat just to see if it was hurting or not. I took a swing. I could tell it was weak. I thought it would just eventually go away."

The feeling didn't go away, and Espinosa came to realize that weakness from preventing him from catching up to fastballs or driving the ball when he did make contact. After going 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts over the weekend in Atlanta, he finally told manager Davey Johnson he didn't think he should come up to bat again.

Espinosa's fears grew when he asked teammate Adam LaRoche about the torn labrum the veteran first baseman suffered last season and was told the sensation was similar.

But then came Monday's appointment with team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih, who diagnosed only a bone bruise in the shoulder capsule and administered a cortisone shot that immediately relieved the condition and allowed Espinosa to perform the simple daily tasks -- like putting on a shirt -- that had become painful.

"I definitely can go about a normal day and not wake up in the middle of the night and have pain going through my shoulder," he said. "So it feels like they got the right spot."

Espinosa was not in the Nationals' lineup for Tuesday night's game before it was postponed, and there's no guarantee yet he'll be cleared to play Wednesday. He must first take batting practice and experience no problems, but he's hoping he gets the green light.

"The doc said I could swing Wednesday," Espinosa said. "As long as I feel strong in swinging, it's kind of on what me and Davey think. It's just day-to-day."

Left fielder Michael Morse, meanwhile, was listed in the original lineup for Tuesday's game after missing the last four days with a bone bruise in his left wrist. Morse said rest has helped ease the pain but he wouldn't know for sure until he took a full round of batting practice.

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Dusty Baker on Nats clinching 2016 NL East title: 'I love this team'

Dusty Baker on Nats clinching 2016 NL East title: 'I love this team'

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jayson Werth's wide grin belied the fact that the Washington Nationals right fielder is an old hand at clubhouse celebrations, having played on eight division-winning teams during his 14-year big league career.

Werth's latest crown came Saturday night when the Nationals clinched their third National League East title in five years, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 behind 5 1/3 scoreless innings from rookie reliever Reynaldo Lopez.

"It's never gets old," Werth said. "Never."

Stephen Drew's two-run single capped a three-run first inning for the Nationals, who return to the postseason after a one-year absence. Their win ensured a playoff berth, and they won the division about 20 minutes later when the second-place New York Mets lost to Philadelphia.

"It's such a hard thing to accomplish," Werth said. "You spent six months trying to do it. It's why you go to spring training early, so you can do everything possible to put yourself in positon to win the division."

The Nationals won the division in Dusty Baker's first season as manager. He replaced Matt Williams, who fired following a 2015 season that began with high hopes of Washington reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

Baker had been out of the game for two years after being fired by the Cincinnati Reds following the 2013 season, four days after they lost to the Pirates in the NL wild card.

"That's what I came here for," Baker said, standing in a corner of the clubhouse and watching his players celebrate. "I'm telling you -- let these young men have a great time tonight, back to work tomorrow. First step in a four-step process. This step is the hardest to get. I'm just so happy for these guys. I love them. I love this team."

Lopez (4-3) came on to the start the bottom of the fourth inning with a 6-1 lead and allowed three hits while striking out five and walking one. He was removed a runner on first and one out in the ninth inning.

"He was really impressive," Werth said. "We still have some questions about our roster going into the postseason. He's a great talent and if he pitches like he did tonight he can really help us."

Marc Rzepczynski and Blake Treinen got one out each to end the game, and a pocket of Nationals' fans behind the visiting dugout cheered.

Joe Ross allowed one run and five hits over 2 2/3 innings in his second start since missing 2 months with right shoulder inflammation.

Drew's single came after Bryce Harper's sacrifice fly. Harper also drove in a run with a grounder during a three-run fourth that included three errors and increased the Nationals' lead to 6-1. Jayson Werth hit into a run-scoring forceout and Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly.

Wilson Ramos had three hits for the Nationals, and Drew and Werth added two each.

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Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in boating accident

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Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in boating accident

MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Marlins have announced the death of ace right-hander Jose Fernandez.

The U.S. Coast Guard says Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach early Sunday.

The Marlins did not immediately release details, other than releasing a statement confirming the death of one of the top pitchers in baseball.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.