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Maddon, Johnson ignite war of words

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Maddon, Johnson ignite war of words

The Great Pine Tar Incident of 2012 is over as far as Davey Johnson and Joe Maddon are concerned. The war of words between the two big-league managers, on the other hand, is just heating up.

One day after Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected before throwing a pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning for having an excessive amount of pine tar in his glove, the attention shifted to the two veteran managers, who traded verbal insults via the media and turned this already spicy story even hotter.

Following Tuesday night's game, Maddon directed his anger at Johnson, saying his counterpart's decision to have umpires check Peralta's glove based on information he got from the pitcher's ex-teammates with the Nationals was "real cowardly" and "kind of a wuss move."

Asked for his response on Wednesday, Johnson started off in a cordial manner, keeping his focus on the actual incident.

"My only comment to him is: 'Read the rule book,'" Johnson said. "It's simple. I've been involved in every conceivable kind of thing you can think of about players trying to get an edge mentally or physically, and that's part of the game. When somebody goes a little overboard, you call it out. It's that simple."

Except it wasn't nearly that simple, and Johnson didn't stop there. He turned the conversation into a back-and-forth with his fellow manager.

Asked if he might try to talk to Maddon about the whole matter, Johnson said: "No, I didn't know him that well, but I thought he was a weird wuss anyway. I understand where he's coming from. His job as a manager is to protect the players. Striking out at whoever he thinks is causing your players any grievance. So I understand where he's coming from. But he doesn't know me from a hole in the hill. Or I him, for that matter. But I do know the rule book, and I do try to follow it."

Johnson also took shots at Maddon's presence on Twitter and made a crack about his perceived intellectual superiority. (Maddon received an honorary doctorate from Lafayette University in 2010, decades after he dropped out of school to pursue his baseball career.)

"I looked him up on the internet and found out he has a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me," Johnson said. "And so I don't want to get in a shouting match with him. He's got a bigger following. But it was interesting reading. You can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine's from Loyola, in humanities, and I'm proud of that, too."

Told that Johnson mentioned his "tweeter," Maddon paused and then shot back.

"Um, most men have tweeters," he said. "And I would never use my tweeter for an advantage."

Maddon's biggest beef appears not to be the fact Peralta was caught and ejected but that the whole thing happened only because someone in the Nationals clubhouse who was teammates with the right-hander in 2010 tipped off Johnson about his pine tar use, and that Johnson then used that background information in the game.

Maddon felt that was a major violation of baseball etiquette and suggested the rest of the sport would take notice and develop a negative opinion of the Nationals organization because of it.

"This is one of their former children here that had really performed well, and all the sudden ... he's going to come back to this town and they're going to rat on him based on some insider information, insider trading, whatever," Maddon said. "So if I'm a major-league player, in the very near future to want to come to play for the Nationals, I'd have to think twice about it."

Major League Baseball rules mandate that any pitcher found with a foreign substance is subject to a mandatory suspension, but the league hasn't ruled yet on this case, so Peralta remains active and available to pitch tonight.

Maddon added he wouldn't hesitate to use Peralta in this game if the right situation arose.

Despite the back and forth between managers, it's not all bad blood between the two sides. Maddon spent several minutes during batting practice chatting with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, a conversation that ended with smiles and a pat on the back.

Maddon was Rizzo's manager when the latter played in the Angels' farm system three decades ago.

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Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Trea Turner has known he’s been white-hot at the plate the in recent days. Notching eight straight hits will do that.

“I mean, if you don't, you're lying,” Turner said. “Everyone thinks about it.”

But the 23-year-old speedster didn’t realize he was franchise-record hot until it was too late in Wednesday's 10-8 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

After tying Dmitri Young and Andre Dawson’s Nationals/Expos mark with eight hits in consecutive plate appearances earlier in the night, Turner struck out in the ninth inning to end his shot at history. It was only then, upon seeing his whiff on a computer replay, that he saw a note on the screen saying he was one hit shy of standing alone.

“If I would have known that, I wouldn't have struck out, probably,” he joked afterward. “I'm just kidding. I didn't know that until then."

If your only struggle of late is having to settle for tying a franchise record, chances are things are going well.

Turner’s time in the majors this season has lasted all of 37 games, and yet rookie has made a huge impression on his team by making the game look easy on a nightly basis. Whether that’s being the needed sparkplug at the plate or a terror on the base paths, the much-ballyhooed prospect might be even better than some in the organization initially believed.

“Trea’s been playing great,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He had a great night at the plate. He’s also a very determined young man. That determination and youthful exuberance I think has rubbed off on the team.”

Perhaps even more impressive than Turner’s ability is his aptitude. In addition to having to adjust to big-league pitching, he’s had to learn center field, a position he hadn’t played in college or in the minors prior to this season.

And on Wednesday night’s first play, Turner showed why the Nats believe he’ll be just fine at his new home. He sprinted and dove at full speed rob Orioles’ leadoff man Adam Jones’ of extra bases.

“We’re both about the same speed,” veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman deadpanned. “For him to do that [is impressive]. He’s been playing center field for a month, maybe.”

Of course, he still has his hiccups, as he had later in the game when he leaped and couldn’t haul in ball near the wall in deep center field. But given everything else he brings to the team, the Nats will surely endure whatever growing pains he goes through.

“I feel good [in center field],” he said. “I feel like I'm kinda picking it up as I go and continue to do that in [batting practice] and also the games."

Since the day he became an everyday player, Turner has looked like he belongs. With a slash line of .335/.359/.544 to go along with nine doubles, six triples and four home runs, he may already be establishing himself as one of the most dynamic leadoff men in the game.

"I think it's an empty mind,” Turner said of his approach. “You're not really thinking too much. You just react. I think the more you can do that, the better you'll be, the more success you'll have.”

And if this is only the beginning, the Nats have to be awfully excited about what's in store for the Lake Worth, Florida native.  

“He’s still so young,” Zimmerman said. “He’s still learning how to play and learning himself. His baseball IQ is through the roof. I think he makes adjustments really quick. He’s really observant of what goes on around him. He’s going to be a really good one.”

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Even Tanner Roark can't stop Nats' struggles against Orioles

Even Tanner Roark can't stop Nats' struggles against Orioles

The Nationals may need to lobby for a new partner in Major League Baseball's annual regional rivalry matchup.

Because the Baltimore Orioles just keep having their way with their neighbors from the south. With the Nats' 10-8 loss on Wednesday night, they are now 6-17 against the Orioles since the start 2012 and have lost six straight going back to last year. 

Baltimore has been good over the last five years, but so have the Nationals. For some reason they match up poorly against the O's, no matter what direction each team is trending when they take the field.

The Orioles, for instance, had lost five of six and and nine of 14 before hosting the Nats in the opener on Monday night. The Nats weren't exactly on fire heading into Monday, but they had won six of nine and just took three of four at the Atlanta Braves. 

Even on Wednesday, with the Nats heading home and sending Tanner Roark to the mound, their luck did not improve. Roark has been their most consistent pitcher all year, their stopper at times. The Orioles, though, chased him after five innings with five runs - four earned - on seven hits, three walks and three hit batters, tying a career-high for Roark.

The walks and hit batters were a good indication that Roark was simply not his usual self. He was trying to pitch around the Orioles' big bats and ended up costing himself.

“Just lack of focus," Roark said. "I know I needed to get inside on these guys and make them feel uncomfortable at the plate. They have the most home runs in all of baseball so you got to make it known that your going to come inside. That’s the name of the game for pitching and as a starter you have to establish inside."

That he did not and the Orioles pounded him early. The first big strike was a two-run homer by Manny Machado, his 29th of the season. Another run came home when Matt Wieters was hit with the bases loaded. One more scored on a J.J. Hardy sacrifice fly.

Machado blasted a 92 mile per hour two-seamer - Roark's signature pitch - deep into the stands in left field. Afterwards, Roark explained the challenge of facing Machado, who is now 27-for-69 (.391) with four homers and 12 RBI in 17 career games vs. the Nationals.

“He can hit the ball all over the field. He’s a good hitter. Like any good hitter you got to make him feel uncomfortable. I didn’t do that the first two at-bats," Roark said.

The second at-bat for Machado also brought in a run, one of his four RBI on the night. That was a single to center field in the second inning to score Adam Jones, who reached on an error. That run went down as unearned for Roark one of two errors for the Nats on the night.

Machado was the main culprit in what amounted to a rare off-night for Roark. It was just the fifth time in 26 starts this year he hasn't gone at least six innings. He's gone at least seven in 15 of those outings.

The Orioles win a lot of games behind their offense, but their bullpen is also a big part of their equation. Though Parker Bridwell and Zach Britton ended up making matters interesting by allowing five runs in the ninth, Orioles relievers got numerous key outs on Wednesday to hold the Nats at bay.

Mychal Givens got three straight outs in the sixth after the Nats got two men in scoring position to lead off the frame. He struck out Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman and also got Wilson Ramos to pop out. Givens got into some trouble in the seventh, but Donnie Hart struck out Bryce Harper with runners on the corners to end the frame.

Zimmerman explained what made Givens - one of Baltimore's best relievers - so tough.

“He throws sidearm 97. It seems like all the guys they have throw like that. I don’t know where they get them from. But he made good pitches," Zimmerman said.

The Nationals will now hope to avoid a four-game sweep in the season series on Thursday night with Max Scherzer on the mound. Scherzer is an ace and would seemingly give the Nats a good chance to end their skid against the Orioles. Then again, the same could have been said about Roark before Wednesday night.

[RELATED: Olympian Katie Ledecky visits Nats Park, players enthralled with medals]

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Nats can't complete rally as they drop third straight to Orioles

Nats can't complete rally as they drop third straight to Orioles

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 10-8 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night at Nats Park.

How it happened: It appears the Nationals won’t be earning regional bragging right this year.

After dropping two games to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the Nats were hoping for some home cooking as the series headed to D.C. They didn’t get it. Instead, they dropped their third straight to the Birds, and fourth overall.

What made Wednesday night particularly disappointing was the uncharacteristic performance of Tanner Roark, who entered the game as perhaps the Nats’ most consistent starting pitcher. From the very first batter, it was apparent the 29-year-old right hander didn’t look like himself. He allowed six of the first seven hitters to reach base, yielding a first-inning four-spot that was highlighted by Manny Machado’s two-run home run.   

The Nats countered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning, but the Birds reestablished their four-run lead on a Machado RBI single in the second inning to make it 5-1.

From there, Roark settled down a bit, stretching an otherwise laborious outing to five innings. In the meantime, the Nats weren’t able to get to Orioles starter Wade Miley, who limited Washington to one run over five-plus innings.  

The Nats clawed back with a run in the fifth and another in the seventh, but Baltimore did enough to keep the game out of reach. Machado struck again in the eighth inning, tacking on an insurance run with an RBI single to extend the Orioles lead to 6-3. A few batters later, Matt Wieters delivered what looked like finishing blow as he drilled a three-run shot to center field to make it 10-3. 

But the Nats wouldn’t go down without a fight. After a ninth-inning grand slam by Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon soon followed with an RBI double against Orioles closer Zach Britton. However, with two men on for Ryan Zimmerman, Britton induced the game-ending double play.

What it means: The Nats losing skid is now at four, which combined with the Miami Marlins’ win Wednesday night means their NL East lead is down to seven games.

Roark struggles: To put Wednesday night’s uneven outing in perspective, consider this: Roark had allowed four runs combined over his last three starts — and he yielded that many in the first inning alone. His command was clearly off, which is never a good thing against an Orioles lineup that is known to score in bunches. In all, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits over five innings while throwing 111 pitches. That’s not a typical Roark start, putting extra stress on an already-taxed bullpen.  

Turner’s historic streak: To watch a Nats game these days is to wonder what Trea Turner will do next. The 23-year-old rookie speedster has done nothing but impress in his first taste of everyday action in the big leagues. And on this night, he etched his name into the franchise record books. Turner notched his eighth hit in his as many at-bats over the last two games, which tied Dmitri Young and Andre Dawson for the Nationals/Expos record. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

Up next: The Nats will look to avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of their Beltway rivals in Thursday night’s series finale. They'll send ace Max Scherzer (13-7, 3.05 ERA) to the mound, who will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez (5-10, 6.94 ERA).