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Harper soaks in All-Star experience

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Harper soaks in All-Star experience

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As expected, once the door opened inside the club level at Arrowhead Stadium this afternoon for the media's 45-minute session with members of the NL All-Star team, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg immediately found themselves engulfed by reporters, microphones, cameras and other assorted oddities all looking to grab a minute with the Nationals' two young stars.

Sitting just to the right of his big-name teammates, Gio Gonzalez wasn't quite as big a draw, though the left-hander enjoyed the spotlight just as much.

"This is exciting," Gonzalez said. "You get an opportunity like this to have some fun, see some superstars out here, talk to them and pick their brains ... everyone's here enjoying this and embracing it."

There were, of course, plenty of attempts from media members to get Harper to chastise them for asking clown questions. Despite a whole lot of bizarre queries that qualified, Harper refrained from using the phrase that became a worldwide sensation last month.

Here are some highlights from the Nats' trio of All-Stars...

BRYCE HARPER
On his first impressions: "Being able to be around the guys that are the best players in baseball, it's pretty impressive coming in here. It's just a lot of fun being here, and it's only just getting started. Just being around these guys, I'm speechless. It's pretty unbelievable."

On what should be expected of him in tomorrow night's game: "I'm pretty terrible in All-Star Games. I don't know what they're going to see from me. Aflac All-American, I was 0-for-5 with four Ks. Under Armor All-American, I was like 0-for-5, 5 Ks. Last year in the Futures Game, I was like 0-for-5, 5 Ks. I'm just going to try to enjoy myself as much as I can and have as much fun as I can. Really just take it all in."

STEPHEN STRASBURG
On having multiple teammates alongside for the All-Star Game: "It's great being on a first-place team that can have more than one guy here. To be in this situation, where you have four guys, it's awesome."

On Gonzalez: "I've learned so much from him already, and I think he's learned a thing or two from me. We're a great combination. I'm excited we're going to be here for a while."

GIO GONZALEZ
On his teammates: "If it was up to me, I'd bring the whole team with us. Every single one of those guys deserves to be here."

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Roark and Turner lead the way as Nats hold on to top Giants

Roark and Turner lead the way as Nats hold on to top Giants

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night at AT&T Park.

How it happened: This Trea Turner and Bryce Harper combination at the top of the Nationals' lineup has potential.

Turner has been doing his part for over a week now, continuing to look like a player who can lead the Nats to new heights with his production from the leadoff spot. And on Thursday night in San Francisco, Harper followed the rookie's lead with a strong effort hitting behind him.

Turner went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run and a steal. After going hitless in his previous five games, Harper smoked an RBI double to score Turner from first in the top of the sixth. As Turner rounded third and charged home, his helmet flew off behind his head, a subtle ode to the man who drove him in.

Turner had one of three straight two-out RBI singles hit by the Nats in the top of the second inning alone. Danny Espinosa got the first to score Wilson Ramos. Tanner Roark then landed the second to score Ryan Zimmerman before Turner brought home Espinosa.

That sequence was the worst moment for Johnny Cueto, who lasted a season-low five innings. Roark, on the other hand, was surgical through seven innings of one-run ball. 

The Nats pitching staff hummed like a well-oiled machine until the bottom of the ninth inning when Jonathan Papelbon took over. He faced one batter - Brandon Crawford - who flew out - before manager Dusty Baker got Oliver Perez warming in his bullpen. Papelbon would stay in to allow two baserunners before getting the hook. That simply does not happen if he had not given up six earned runs in his previous two outings. Clearly the Nats do not have confidence in their closer at the moment.

Perez replaced Papelbon, but didn't finish the inning. He loaded the bases by walking Trevor Brown, then allowed a run on a Gregor Blanco infield grounder that was charged to Papelbon. Blanco hit a laser to Anthony Rendon, who bobbled it before throwing it to second, where Espinosa also bobbled it to botch the forceout.

After Perez, it was Shawn Kelley who came in and shut it down with a strikeout of Angel Pagan with the bases loaded. Papelbon, by the way, has now been tagged with earned runs in three straight outings.

The Nationals won their second straight game after losing six of their previous eight.

What it means: The Nats beat the Giants in their first head-to-head matchup of the season. They moved to 60-42 overall and sit five games up on the Miami Marlins in the NL East with exactly 60 games left to play.

Roark too much for Giants: Roark entered Thursday as the less-heralded of the two starting pitchers, but the Nats right-hander thoroughly out-dueled Cueto in a performance that was typical of his strong 2016 season. Roark went seven innings with one run surrendered on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts on 111 total pitches. It was the eighth time this season that Roark has gone at least seven innings with one earned run or fewer allowed. Only Cubs lefty Jon Lester, with nine such starts, has done that more. Roark moved to 10-6 on the year and currently holds a 2.96 ERA.

Turner lights the fuse: The Nats' issues in the leadoff spot may soon become a distant memory. Turner continued to set the table brilliantly on Thursday night with two hits, a walk, a run and a steal. He fills up box scores like no one else on the Nationals right now and the impact he's having on their lineup as a whole as profound. This was the fifth time in his last nine games that Turner has reached base at least twice and the second straight outing he's been on three times. Turner's steal pushed him to 6-for-6 on attempts this season in just 14 total games. Including the minor leagues, he's 31-of-33 this year.

Turner also fared well defensively. Despite being new to center field and playing in a new ballpark, Turner made all the outs that were hit to him. He even reeled in a leaping catch at the wall for the first out of the bottom of the fifth. Turner backed up all the way to the wall and jumped to catch a Mac Williams flyball. The jump may not have been necessary, but he displayed solid instincts near the wall for a guy who is learning on the job out there.

Harper shows some life: Before Harper's RBI double to the left field corner in the sixth, the reigning MVP was 0-for-19 in his last 21 at-bats. As off as he's looked at times this season, Harper had reached one of his lowest points. The double, though was absolutely crushed and it gave the Nats a nice insurance run against a team that has proven resilient in the past.

Up next: The Nats and Giants play another late one with a 10:15 p.m. ET start on Friday night. Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) will take the mound for the Nats opposite right-hander Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22).

[RELATED: 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline]

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GIF: Foul ball results in weird moment between Braves player and fan

GIF: Foul ball results in weird moment between Braves player and fan

Uh, that's not supposed to happen.

A fan at Turner Field on Thursday night reached into the field of play to catch a flyball and got a lot more than just a souvenir. He caught it right before Braves outfeilder Chase d'Arnaud came charging in. d'Arnau coudl not stop his momentum and ended up face-to-face with the fan, appearing to nearly give him a kiss on the replay.

It was weird. See for yourself:

[RELATED: 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

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NL East: Mets targeting All-Star catcher for deadline trade

NL East: Mets targeting All-Star catcher for deadline trade

Being aggressive at least year's trade deadline paid big dividends for the New York Mets, who saw Yoenis Cespedes help lead them to a World Series berth. They could be looking for something similar this year, as a new report has them targeting one of baseball's best catchers.

The news comes from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says the Mets have shown interest in Milwaukee Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy.

Rosenthal notes that no deal is close, but time is running out before Monday's deadline. The Mets appear intent on adding a bat to their lineup and Lucroy would certainly provide some help.

An All-Star this season and back in 2014, the 30-year-old is batting .300 with 13 homers and 50 RBI through 93 games. He would be an upgrade at catcher for most teams, the Mets included.

We'll see if anything comes of this. The Mets could use some help and getting a player like Lucroy would definitely change their outlook in the NL East.