LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

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LIVE game thread: Nats go for sweep at Fenway

BOSTON -- No, they won't have Bryce Harper in their lineup today. (The 19-year-old is dealing with tightness in his lower back, according to Davey Johnson.) Nonetheless, the Nationals will still have an opportunity to sweep the Red Sox this afternoon at Fenway Park.

With Harper sidelined, left-hander Jon Lester on the mound for Boston and the DH needed, Johnson has a very different lineup today. Xavier Nady is in right field and batting in Harper's usual No. 2 spot. Tyler Moore will be in left field, with Roger Bernadina taking over in center. Jesus Flores, meanwhile, catches for the third straight game (even in a day game after a twilight game yesterday).

Jordan Zimmermann makes the start for the Nationals, looking to beat the Red Sox for the second time in his career. He did it to them as a rookie in 2009, impressing then Boston manager Terry Francona and others.

Updates to come, so please check the Nats Insider live game thread...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, Wind 11 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (34-23)
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Xavier Nady
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Michael Morse
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Tyler Moore
C Jesus Flores
CF Roger Bernadina
(RHP Jordan Zimmermann)

RED SOX (29-30)
CF Scott Podsednik
2B Dustin Pedroia
1B Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
3B Will Middlebrooks
RF Ryan Sweeney
SS Nick Punto
LF Darnell McDonald
(LHP Jon Lester)

UMPIRES
HP Al Porter, 1B Paul Nauert, 2B Doug Eddings, 3B Dana DeMuth (cc)

Nats begin series at World Series-champion Kansas City Royals

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Nats begin series at World Series-champion Kansas City Royals

Nats (17-7) vs. Royals (13-11) at Kauffman Stadium

The Nationals rolled through St. Louis this weekend to secure their first sweep of the Cardinals since 2007. It was an impressive series against a team that led baseball with 100 wins last year. And now, on Monday night, they will face another of MLB's most talented clubs.

The Nats begin a three-game set with the defending champion Kansas City Royals with an 8:15 p.m. first pitch. Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42) and right-hander Edinson Volquez (3-1, 3.34) are the scheduled starters.

Gio is pitching his fifth game of the 2016 season and is off to the best start of his career. The Nats' southpaw is holding opponents to a .196 average and .489 OPS. The Royals, though, will be his biggest challenge to date.

Gonzalez will pitch to Jose Lobaton per usual, though Wilson Ramos is back from the bereavement list. The rest of the Nats' lineup is as expected with Stephen Drew in there as the designated hitter.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Gio Gonzalez vs. Royals - Edinson Volquez

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
DH Stephen Drew
C Jose Lobaton
SS Danny Espinosa
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)

ROYALS

SS Alcides Escobar
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
3B Christian Colon
RF Paulo Orlando
(RHP Edinson Volquez)

Follow along with GameView here.

Baker had his team rub a former player's ears for good luck vs. Cards

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Baker had his team rub a former player's ears for good luck vs. Cards

You're going to lobe this story. Wait, sorry, you're going to love this story.

Before the Nationals' weekend series against the Cardinals that started on Friday, a former player and current pal of Dusty Baker named Kirk Rueter stopped by to say hello. It was there when things took a turn for the weird, according to USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale.

As a pitcher under Baker with the Giants, Rueter apparently developed a reputation for having incredibly good fortune. With that in mind,  Baker — whose team had just been swept at home by the Phillies — wanted to take advantage of his penchant for luck.

So he had his buddy walk through Washington's clubhouse and told his roster to rub his ears.

Yes, this is a thing that happened.

The bizarre superstition, of course, seemed to work, considering the Nats took all three games from St. Louis, an organization that has given them fits before. Next up is a four-game tilt in Kansas City. Rueter better bring his ears. 

MORE NATIONALS: WHY NATS PITCHERS THROWING MORE PITCHES ISN'T WORRISOME

Bryce Harper named NL player of the month for April

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Bryce Harper named NL player of the month for April

Bryce Harper's hot start to the 2016 season has earned him the NL player of the month award for the month of April.

The Nats slugger saw his batting average dip to .286 by month's end, but finished April with nine homers, 24 RBI and six steals. Harper eclipsed the 100 career homers mark on April 14 and at one point hit a home run in four consecutive games. 

Other highlights from Harper's April include an eight game RBI steak, a six game streak of hitting home runs at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Harper's first career pinch-hit homer and his first two career grand slams. His first grand slam was on career homer No. 100.

The reigning NL MVP, Harper has won NL player of the month one other time in his career, in May of 2015. Max Scherzer also won the NL pitcher of the month award twice last season, in May and June.

Harper, 23, is batting .273/.390/.679 this season in 24 games. He was the co-NL player of the week for April 11-17 with Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.

Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles won the AL player of the month award for April.