Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Cubs 1

Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Cubs 1

Game in a nutshell: Facing the Cubs for the first time since the season-opening series, the Nationals found themselves in the same kind of pitchers' duel they experienced five months ago at Wrigley Field. Ross Detwiler and Jeff Samardzija traded blows, with Samardzija making only one mistake: Adam LaRoche's second-inning homer. Detwiler never did cave in, tossing seven scoreless innings before turning it over to his bullpen. With Sean Burnett sidelined for at least a couple of days with elbow irritation, Drew Storen pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Tyler Clippard then closed out the ninth (despite giving up a run) to record his 30th save and give the Nationals their 82nd win of the season. That's right, D.C.: You've officially got yourselves a winning ballclub for the first time in 43 years.

Hitting highlight: Samardzija has had just about every member of the Nationals lineup's number this season. Except for LaRoche. The veteran first baseman crushed a ninth-inning homer of Samardzija way back on April 8 at Wrigley Field. Then he struck again in his first at-bat today, belting Samardzija's second pitch of the second inning into the second deck down the right-field line. After going through a month-long power slump, LaRoche may have found his stroke again. This was his second homer in three days, giving him a team-high 25 for the season and giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead that stayed intact almost the entire afternoon.

Pitching highlight: The Nationals have wanted Detwiler to be more aggressive, pound his fastball early in the game and go right after hitters. Well, he took the advice to heart today, because he did everything the club could have asked of him and more. Detwiler threw plenty of fastballs early, retiring the side in the top of the first on 10 pitches. He spread out four hits and three walks, only once putting more than one man on base in the same inning. He did have to pitch out of the stretch a lot, but delivered some big pitches when he needed them, especially in inducing a pair of double-play grounders to end the sixth and seventh innings. At 93 pitches, Detwiler might have been able to take the mound for the eighth. But with the Nationals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Davey Johnson preferred to use pinch-hitter Chad Tracy and turn to his bullpen to record the final six outs.

Key stat: Since the All-Star break, the Nationals are 32-5 when scoring three or more runs. They were 0-13 when scoring fewer than three runs ... until today.

Up next: The series continues at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday when Edwin Jackson seeks his ninth win of the season against left-hander Chris Rusin.

Matz too much as Mets take finale and series against Nationals

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Matz too much as Mets take finale and series against Nationals

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 2-0 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

How it happened: Facing any pitcher for the first time can be a challenge, especially when that foe is an emerging star lefty with a mid-90s sinker that dives over the plate like a fighter jet.

Mets southpaw Steven Matz has had his way with the Nationals on Wednesday, just as he has with the rest of the league in his brief MLB career. He went eight efficient, shutout innings with just four hits allowed, at times retiring Nationals hitters with leisure. Perhaps they'll have better luck the next time they see him, but this simply wasn't their day.

Matz outdueled Nats starter Tanner Roark, who was pretty good himself. He went seven innings with two runs allowed, only one of them earned. The second came home after a Daniel Murphy error that ultimately proved a costly one.

What it means: The Mets have evened up the season series at 3-3 and cut the Nats' division lead back to a half-game in the NL East. The Nationals fell to 28-19 on the year with the St. Louis Cardinals up next.

Roark strong again: Roark was excellent in his first meeting with the Mets of this season despite giving up an early run on a homer to David Wright in the first inning. The right-hander settled in after that and at one point retired eight in a row from the second through the fourth. Roark did let another run in in the seventh inning before he was removed, but it wasn't earned. That's thanks to Murphy's error on a hard-hit groundball right to him by Eric Campbell. Murphy couldn't corral it and that set up runners on the corners for Rene Rivera, who singled to left field to make it 2-0 Mets. It was Murphy's fifth error this season, most on the Nationals.

Roark finished with seven innings and one earned run on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 113 total pitches and made it at least seven innings for the fifth time in 10 starts this season. It was the sixth time he's gone at least six innings with one earned run or less allowed. It's also the fourth time this season he's reached the 110-pitch mark.

Matz tough in first matchup: This was the first time the Nationals had ever faced Matz and the lefty certainly didn't take it easy on them. Matz dazzled with a mid-90s sinker combined with a sharp slider to go eight shutout innings. He was pulled after throwing 104 pitches with seven strikeouts and just four hits and a walk allowed. Michael Taylor, Wilson Ramos, Clint Robinson and Murphy were the only ones to get hits off of him. Matz held Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon to a combined 0-for-9 with three strikeouts. Before giving up the hit to Robinson - who pinch-hit in the eighth - he had retired 16 straight batters. He allowed Robinson's single with two outs and then got Bryce Harper - who also pinch-hit - to ground out and end the frame.

Murphy nears Nats record: Murphy may have committed a costly error, but he also inched closer to setting a Nationals record for most hits in a single month with an infield single in the first inning on Wednesday. That gave him 38 hits in the month, just two away from Denard Span's record of 40 set in August of 2014. The Nats have six more games left in May, plenty of time for Murphy to break it. And if he does, he will have set a Nats hits record in just his second month with the team.

Schu ejected: Nats hitting coach Rick Schu was tossed by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn in the bottom of the fifth for arguing about the strike zone. It happened after Chris Heisey struck out looking against Matz. Schu was seen on the TV replay in the dugout taunting Reyburn by waving his hand over his head. It was Schu's first ejection as a member of the Nats' coaching staff.

Good attendance: The Nats and Mets drew 38,700 for the series finale on Wednesday. That's a sellout and the second-largest crowd of the season so far at Nationals Park.

Up next: The Nationals turn their attention towards the St. Louis Cardinals, who come to Washington for a four-game series through the weekend. Thursday's series opener will pit Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) against Cardinals right-hander Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07) with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.

Dusty Baker on Harvey ducking Mets media: 'New York will eat you up'

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Dusty Baker on Harvey ducking Mets media: 'New York will eat you up'

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey made headlines on Tuesday night as much for avoiding the media after the game as he did for yet another awful outing on the mound. He left the stadium before reporters entered the clubhouse and let his teammates answer all the questions for him.

As expected, Harvey has been villified by New York media members. New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, for one, went after Harvey in a piece entitled 'Silent Matt Harvey confirms he's the phony Mets have enabled.' It's brutal and Harvey shouldn't be surprised.

That's New York and, some would argue, it comes with the territory. Nationals manager Dusty Baker knows how rough New York can be and on Wednesday he talked about the dysfunction that is plaguing the rival Mets at the moment.

"I'm not going to try to straighten their clubhouse out. It's his prerogative to do what he wants to do. If he doesn't want to talk, then he doesn't have to talk. It will just make it harder on himself. New York will eat you up," Baker said. 

"They know their sports heroes in that town better than anybody... these people in New York, they know. They know sports. They know it big-time. I tell my guys. I'm not going to tell you what to do, but you're going to have to own up to it and live with whatever you do. Try not to put pressure on your teammates to answer your questions."

Whether a player talks after a tough loss always brings a mixed reaction. The media tends to harp on it, while some fans do not care. Some do, of course. But many don't.

Ultimately fans care about the performance on the field and right now Harvey isn't holding up that end of the bargain.

Harper out of lineup as Nats aim for series win over Mets

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Harper out of lineup as Nats aim for series win over Mets

Nats (28-18) vs. Mets (26-19) at Nationals Park

The Nationals continue their series against the Mets on Wednesday with a quick turnaround from Tuesday night's win. It's a 1:05 p.m. first pitch with Tanner Roark (3-3, 2.89) set to square off against lefty Steven Matz (6-1, 2.81).

Roark has yet to face the Mets this season, while Matz has never pitched against the Nats. Matz has gone at least six innings in six straight starts with just six earned runs allowed during that span.

Bryce Harper and Ben Revere are getting the day off for Washington. Harper is getting a day to clear his head, while Revere is resting in the middle of 16 straight games as the Nats keep his oblique in mind following his disabled list stint.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, XM 183
Starting pitchers: Nats - Tanner Roark vs. Mets - Steven Matz

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
1B Ryan Zimmerman
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
RF Chris Heisey
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Tanner Roark

METS

RF Curtis Granderson
3B David Wright
LF Michael Conforto
CF Yoenis Cespedes
2B Neil Walker
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Eric Campbell
C T.J. Rivera
LHP Steven Matz

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