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Moore might just make it after all

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Moore might just make it after all

Yes, the entire Nationals lineup has turned things up a notch or five the last two nights in Denver. Twenty-three runs scored in 18 innings? Not even the most cockeyed optimist out there could have predicted that.

But let's turn our attention away for a moment from the sudden resurgence of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche and focus on really the only player who has consistently produced at the plate this month: Tyler Moore.

Yes, the 25-year-old rookie has been tearing the cover off the ball since the Nationals called him back up from Class AAA Syracuse on June 7. In 12 prior games -- his first 12 in the big leagues -- Moore looked a bit overwhelmed. He hit .158 (3-for-19), didn't drive in a run and didn't draw a walk.

Fast-forward to last night's game at Coors Field, when Moore demolished another home run into the thin mountain air and added two more hits for good measure to continue his remarkable turnaround. In 11 games during this second big-league stint, he's now hitting .455 with four homers, 10 RBI, six walks and even three stolen bases.

Moore has recorded at least one hit in nine of his 10 starts, at least two hits in four of those games. And now he's left Davey Johnson with no choice but to make him a regular in the starting lineup.

Having previously worked his way into something of a platoon role, getting starts against left-handers, Moore has established his bat is just as potent against right-handers. He's hitting .412 (7-for-17) with two of his homers and seven of his RBI off righties.

So don't be surprised if you start seeing the young slugger at either first base or in left field just about every day of the week right now.

Too small of a sample size, you say, to draw any significant conclusions about Moore's ability to hit major-league pitching? Perhaps. But compare his numbers in this small sampling at baseball's highest level to his numbers in the minors, and you start to think this isn't a fluke.

Moore has homered once in every 13 at-bats with the Nationals. How does that compare? Well, he homered once in every 11 at-bats at Syracuse to start this season. But he homered "only" once every 17 at-bats at Class AA Harrisburg last year and once every 16 at-bats at Class A Potomac in 2010.

Point is, Moore has hit for power at every level, and his rate of success hasn't diminished by any significant amount since he arrived in D.C.

Moore's increased playing time will probably come at the expense of Steve Lombardozzi, who had become the de facto starting left fielder against right-handed opponents. But Lombardozzi has fallen into a prolonged funk at the plate, has just nine hits in 59 at-bats this month and has seen his batting average plummet to .259 from .320 in only 27 days.

At this point, Johnson just can't say no to Moore, a bit of a late bloomer who finally is reaping the benefits of his first opportunity to play on a regular basis in the big leagues.

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Scherzer returns to dominant form to end Nats' losing streak vs. Orioles

Scherzer returns to dominant form to end Nats' losing streak vs. Orioles

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: In order for the Nationals to finally beat the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, Max Scherzer had to pull out all the tricks.

Per usual, he dazzled with his electric fastball, sometimes as an out-pitch, sometimes simply to set up his breaking stuff. He didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning and struck out seven of the first eight batters he faced.

Scherzer even fielded a groundball through his legs, from behind. Like, he was turned and facing the outfield, reached down and grabbed the ball, then threw it to first.

Now, that's something you don't see every day. What you do see often, is the dominance Scherzer displayed on Thursday night. He ended up going eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks along the way. That performance led the Nats to a win, their first against the Orioles in their last seven tries.

Jayson Werth put them on the board in the fourth inning with a solo homer to center field off O's starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez was actually pretty good, as he usually is against the Nats. He went six innings with just one run allowed on five hits and no walks. He now has a 2.24 ERA in nine career starts against the Nats.

Daniel Murphy added another run on an RBI single in the eighth. He drove a hard groundball down the first base line to score Trea Turner and notch his 96th RBI of the season. Bryce Harper added a two-RBI double to opposite field in the eighth inning to give the Nats some extra insurance.

The Nationals snapped a four-game losing streak with the win and prevented the Orioles from handing them their first sweep since June 20-22 against the Dodgers.

What it means: The Nationals got back in the win column to move to 74-53 on the year.

Scherzer ties his own record: With 10 strikeouts on Thursday night, Scherzer notched his 11th double-digit strikeout game of the year. That leads the majors and matches the Nationals club record for a single season. Scherzer, in fact, tied his own record, set last season. Thursday night was Scherzer's 47th career double-digit strikeout performance.

Werth hits No. 17: Werth obliterated an 89 mile per hour fastball to dead center off Jimenez for his 17th home run of the season. The ball traveled 436 feet and ricocheted off the green wall in the groundskeepers pen. For Werth, it was fifth homer of August, a season-high for one month for the Nats left fielder. He had four homers in April and May, and had just four total between June and July. His 17 are the most he's hit in a year since 2013, when he finished 13th in NL MVP voting.

Harper hits two marks: Harper reached two mini-milestones on Thursday night. One was his 18th steal of the season, which matches the career-high he set as a rookie back in 2012. Harper only had 19 total steals from 2013 through 2015. Now that he's healthy and under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, he's returned to being a significant threat on the basepaths.

Harper also singled and landed an RBI double and has now reached base in all 12 games since he returned from his neck injury nearly two weeks ago. He's 18-for-46 (.391) with 13 RBI overall during that stretch. The single on Thursday gave him his 100th hit of the season in his 117th game. He got to No. 100 in his 89th game last year.

Up next: The Nats next host the Colorado Rockies, who won two out of three in their series at Coors Field earlier this month. Gio Gonzalez (8-9 4.30) will get the start opposite right-hander Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 13.50) in the Friday night opener.

[RELATED: Strasburg plays catch, Nats say injury not in area of Tommy John surgery]

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VIDEO: Max Scherzer makes ridiculous between-the-legs snag vs. Orioles

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VIDEO: Max Scherzer makes ridiculous between-the-legs snag vs. Orioles

Sometimes it's all about taking a stab at it. 

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, on a comebacker off the bat of Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop on Thursday night in D.C., simply stuck his glove between his legs and hoped for the best. It worked out. 

He made the ridiculous snag below and threw the ball to first for an out. Watch.

MORE NATIONALS: LATEST UPDATE ON STEPHEN STRASBURG

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Strasburg plays catch, Nats say injury not in area of Tommy John surgery

Strasburg plays catch, Nats say injury not in area of Tommy John surgery

Just three days after Stephen Strasburg was placed on the disabled list with a sore right elbow, the Nats pitcher walked out to the right field at Nationals Park and played catch with a team trainer. He started close, then backed up to play long-toss.

That was a big step for Strasburg, who is on the DL for the second time this season. And, as it turns out, it was the second time already that he's played catch since the injury.

"It's coming out pretty easy. I asked him how he felt afterwards and he said he felt good, the ball was coming out pretty good," manager Dusty Baker said.

The Nationals remain confident that Strasburg's elbow is structurally sound. They now say his soreness isn't even in the same spot where his Tommy John surgery was performed in 2010.

“He knows how he feels. Doctors have poked and prodded and given them every test almost that there is. It’s not in the same area," Baker said.

Strasburg is making progress, but the Nationals still don't know when he will take the next step in his rehab, presumably when he will get on a mound to throw a bullpen session. It's encouraging that he's been throwing, but his timeline to return is still very much in limbo.

“How much time do you give him? You give him enough time for him to feel right. If he’s not right then we got to go with another option," Baker said.

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

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