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Instant analysis: Nats 3, Rays 2

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Instant analysis: Nats 3, Rays 2

Game in a nutshell: First of all, rest assured there were no pine tar incidents in this one. Just a clean, well-played ballgame featuring a couple of dominant pitching performances. Stephen Strasburg's dominance (seven innings of two-run, 10-strikeout ball) was expected. Chris Archer's dominance (he retired the last 11 batters he faced in his big-league debut) was not. In the end, the three runs the Nats scored in the first inning held up the entire way. Strasburg made it through seven innings on 111 pitches, then turned things over to Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard to close it out and snap the Nationals' four-game losing streak. Oh, and Joel Peralta did manage to retire two batters out of the Tampa Bay bullpen without getting ejected.

Hitting highlight: There weren't many to choose from, since the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the first and then did nothing after that. But that early rally did feature a couple of impressive at-bats. It began with Steve Lombardozzi's leadoff double, with the rookie showing off some nice hustle. It continued with Bryce Harper's RBI single to center, with the rookie hustling to advance to second on the throw home. And it concluded with Ian Desmond's two-out RBI single to left. Desmond now has 35 RBI for the season, second only to Adam LaRoche on the roster.

Pitching highlight: Strasburg would probably say he didn't have his very best stuff tonight. Amazing what the guy can still do without it. Though he served up a homer to Jose Molina in the second and then gave up another run in the third on back-to-back two-out hits, Strasburg wound up notching the sixth double-digit strikeout start of his young career. And most impressively, he dialed things up a notch to finish off his night. The right-hander's 111th pitch of the game was a 98 mph fastball blown past Desmond Jennings for his 10th strikeout. People have often tried to compare Strasburg to Justin Verlander. Well, that final inning was a good example. Verlander is known for ratcheting up his fastball a few extra miles per hour in his final inning, and Strasburg showed he could do that, too.

Key stat: Archer walked 5.3 batters per nine innings this season at Class AAA Durham. The Nats managed to draw only one free pass off the rookie over six innings.

Up next: This emotionally charged series concludes Thursday night when a pair of really talented, young left-handers squares off. It'll be Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals, Matt Moore for the Rays at 7:05 p.m.

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Reynaldo Lopez rocked as Nats suffer lopsided loss to Orioles

Reynaldo Lopez rocked as Nats suffer lopsided loss to Orioles

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 8-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.

How it happened: Reynaldo Lopez learned the hard way on Tuesday night that pitching in Baltimore these days is a much different story than pitching in Atlanta.

After two impressive outings against the lowly Braves, Lopez had quite the wakeup call against the Orioles at Camden Yards, a haunted house for pitchers. The Nats rookie had no chance against the O's and was bounced after just 2 2/3 innings of work. That nice little favor A.J. Cole did their bullpen the night before became a distant memory, as Matt Belisle was summoned far earlier than manager Dusty Baker had intended.

Lopez ended up with six runs allowed - four of them earned - on seven hits and three walks. None of his runs came on homers, despite the Orioles' penchant for hitting them.

Lopez was thoroughly outpitched by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, who - like Dylan Bundy the night before - showed why Baltimore took him with the fourth overall pick. Gausman was sharp with his mid-90s fastball and mixed in sliders and splitters with regularity. He tossed six shutout innings with six hits and two walks allowed on 110 total pitches.

After Lopez left, Oliver Perez gave up an RBI single to Matt Wieters in the seventh. Yusmeiro Petit then offered up a solo homer to Chris Davis in the eighth. 

The Nats had trouble scoring, but they did get on base at a decent rate. Trea Turner had a career-high four hits, including a double. Bryce Harper had two singles. Ryan Zimmerman singled and scored their only run on a Danny Espinosa RBI knock. 

The Nationals lost for the second straight night to the Orioles, who have absolutely owned them in their annual head-to-head series in recent years.

What it means: The Nats dropped to 73-52 on the season and have lost five straight games to the Orioles going back to last season. Since the start of 2012, they are 6-16 against the O's.

Lopez gets rocked: What happened to Lopez on Tuesday night was much more like his first two big league outings, when he got shelled by the Dodgers and Giants. At least in those games he made it at least four innings. Lopez found trouble early against the Orioles, who wasted no time in overwhelming the young right-hander. Mark Trumbo singled home a run in the first inning. Wieters doubled home another in the second. Adam Jones brought in a third run on an infield single soon after.

That was bad, but the third inning saw matters get much worse. Jonathan Schoop doubled home Davis to make it 4-0 with one out. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, Lopez got J.J. Hardy to hit a hard grounder to Daniel Murphy at second. Murphy booted it and allowed two unearned runs to score. That made it 6-0 and got Belisle into the game.

Despite throwing two consecutive solid games against the Braves, Lopez now has a 5.33 ERA through five total starts with 15 earned runs allowed in 23 1/3 big league innings. 

Turner gets four hits: Turner singled three times and doubled once in the Nats' loss. It was his first four-hit game, but the second time he's reached base four times. He also did that on June 3 in Cincinnati in his first MLB game of 2016.

Turner's night was notable because of the hits, but also because he was caught stealing twice. Both times were on nice throws by Wieters, but even better tags by Schoop. And both times were on Buck Showalter challenges. Turner has been caught stealing three times this year and all were on umpire reviews. Showalter, in fact, won three challenges on the night, which matched an MLB season-high.

Espinosa contributes again: It was just an RBI single on an otherwise forgettable night for the Nats, but for Espinosa it was his second straight game doing something positive at the plate after he homered on Monday night. Espinosa is still just 7-for-47 (.149) in his last 13 games.

Up next: The Nats and Orioles shift to Washington where they play two games at Nationals Park. Wednesday night will pit Tanner Roark (13-6, 2.87) up against O's lefty Wade Miley (7-10, 5.58).

[RELATED: Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen]

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Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

Joe Ross takes big step in rehab, is okay with returning to Nats in bullpen

It turns out Joe Ross may be closer to returning than originally thought, or at least closer than it seemed on Monday. On Tuesday, Ross took a big step in his recovery from right shoulder inflammation by throwing a bullpen session in Baltimore at Camden Yards.

That was a step Ross waited weeks to take and, though it was only about 30 pitches, the right-hander felt great coming out of it and now has a potential return in much clearer focus.

"The head trainer, Paul Lessard, he came in and gave me the thumbs up," manager Dusty Baker said. "I know Joe has been champing at the bit and it was very successful. He said he didn't feel anything. Hopefully we can put him back to work here pretty soon."

"It feels really good, that's why I'm pretty excited," Ross said. "I finally got to throw off the mound and it's feeling good. Hopefully it feels good from here."

Ross hopes to throw another bullpen session this week and then increase his workload up from there. As for when he will return, that has not been determined.

"I don't know exactly how long, but I want to get back on the mound as soon as possible. I'm feeling better. That's what I'm working towards," he said.

Ross, though, could return sooner than under usual circumstances, as the Nats may be inclined to skip a minor league rehab assignment and instead have him rejoin them as a reliever. He could build his innings that way and eventually return to the rotation some time in September.

"It makes sense," Ross said. "I know the season's coming to an end for the minor league side. So if that what we've got to do, that's what we've got to do. I mean, I'd just be happy being out there pitching. I'll take whatever role I can get for now. But obviously want to try to get back to starting in September, mid-September. That's the goal."

Baker thinks having Ross pitch out of the bullpen could also come in handy later on.

"We're in the middle of a pennant race. I haven't talked to Mike [Rizzo] about it or anything, I just talked to Joe about it. I just didn't want him surprised that that was the case. We want him if possible, if he's ready, on the playoff roster. That's always a possibility for a fourth or fifth starter to be in the bullpen, anyways. So, we'll see. We'll see how his progress comes," he said.

Ross hasn't pitched in the majors since July 2. He hasn't pitched in a game since July 30, when he appeared with the Triple-A Syracuse.

[RELATED: Nats place Strasburg on DL with elbow injury]

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NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

NL East: Noah Syndergaard wants people to spell his name correctly

One of the New York Mets' top starting pitchers wants you to know something: His name is spelled Noah Syndergaard. That's S-y-n-d-e-r-g-a-a-r-d. 

Apparently, it's something that's been tripping up a lot of folks lately, and the 23-year-old right hander has had enough. Syndergaard posted a tweet Monday calling out the MLB Shop Mets team store for selling jerseys that ready "SYNEDGAARD" on the back. 

https://twitter.com/Noahsyndergaard/status/767817968067551232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As you can imagine, he was less than amused. What's even more, this is the second time in consecutive months that there's been an error. Check out the tweet below at the All-Star Game. 

https://twitter.com/Noahsyndergaard/status/752927425151930368?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Luckily, the nickname "Thor" has caught on in the Big Apple. Maybe they should sell jerseys with that on the back instead.