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Nats blast past Brewers

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Nats blast past Brewers

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Edwin Jackson pitched seven scoreless innings and Steve Lombardozzi hit a three-run triple in the Washington Nationals' 8-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. The Nationals have won six consecutive games, matching a season-high, and improved to 59-39. The last time a Washington-based team was 20 games over .500 was 1933, when the American League Senators finished 99-53 and lost the World Series in five games to the New York Giants. The loss was Milwaukee's seventh straight. Jackson (6-6) scattered eight hits and a walk while striking out four. The Brewers were 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position against the right-hander. Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo (8-8) gave up seven runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts in five innings.

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Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Nats (75-54) at Rockies (61-68) at Nationals Park

Lucas Giolito, the top prospect in the Nationals' organization, is back in Washington, this time to face the Colorado Rockies in his fourth career MLB start. Giolito will pitch in the big leagues for the first time since July 24, over a month ago. He will get his toughest test yet in the Rockies, who boast the highest-scoring lineup in the National League.

Pitching for Colorado will be right-hander Chad Bettis (10-7, 5.29). He saw the Nats two starts ago and gave up two runs through three innings at Coors Field. His start was cut short due to a rain delay.

Jayson Werth gets the day off with Ben Revere in left field. Revere is batting second with the rest of the lineup just like it was on Saturday.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Lucas Giolito vs. Rockies - Chad Bettis

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Ben Revere
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Lucas Giolito

ROCKIES

TBA
RHP Chad Bettis

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Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Nats' bullpen, defense continue to cause problems, lead to losses

Starter A.J. Cole made it 5 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon, which is pretty good considering that's how much Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg combined to pitch against the Rockies less than two weeks ago. Gio Gonzalez also only made it three innings in that series due to a rain delay.

And in the time since, the Nats' bullpen has been battered around by all sorts of elements including injuries and short outings from starters. The Nationals' next off-day on Thursday, Sept. 1 can't come soon enough to put them out of their current 20 games in 20 days misery.

Cole's outing, by all accounts, could have been a lot worse. But unfortunately for the Nationals, Saturday's game went to extra innings, forcing manager Dusty Baker to do some things he wouldn't normally prefer to do. Like, use the newly acquired Marc Rzepczynski for 2 1/3 innings. Or, to go to Mark Melancon for the third straight game. Or, to leave Yusmeiro Petit on the mound in the 11th even when it was clear he just didn't have it.

For Petit, in particular, Baker felt like he had no other choice, even after the right-hander served up a two-run homer to Charlie Blackmon.

"We felt badly for Yusmeiro because we had to leave him in there, he was our last pitcher we didn't have [Koda] Glover and we were trying to stay away from [Mark] Melancon because that was his third day in a row and we didn't have [Shawn] Kelley. We were down to our last player, we had no more players on the bench and that was our last player, I don't know who was going to pitch if he didn't get out of that inning. He took one for the team so to speak," Baker said.

Petit's inning got off on a sour note with an error by Anthony Rendon at third base. It was one of two errors committed by the Nationals on Saturday. One was by Rzepczynski in the seventh and that one helped lead to a run. Rzepczynski also messed up fielding a bunt in the ninth. Cole also allowed a run on a wild pitch during an intentional walk.

It was a rough day for the Nats, who were plagued by uncharacteristic mistakes. That has been a theme lately and the Nationals hope it ends soon.

“We address it daily, but you cant harp on it. Like I said the other day these things go in streaks," Baker said. "Tony is sure handed over there. We haven’t seen Rzepczynski. He just threw that ball over the head. They bunted on us twice a couple of times and got hits on us. We just have to continue to work.”

The Nats have now made 14 errors in their last nine games. It's been bizarre to watch and it has some at a loss for words.

“Can’t call it. I don’t know. One of those things," left fielder Jayson Werth said.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

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Before ejection, Bryce Harper continued recent hot streak vs. Rockies

Before ejection, Bryce Harper continued recent hot streak vs. Rockies

Before Bryce Harper earned his eight career ejection following a strikeout in the 10th inning, the Nats right fielder actually had a pretty good game at the plate. He landed an RBI double, walked and scored a run. He has now reached base in all 14 games since he returned from nursing a stiff neck.

The double was a familiar sight for Harper. He dropped it into the left field corner at Nationals Park, just as he did his triple the night before and just as he did his double the night before that. Three straight games with extra-base hits to the opposite field. That's not bad.

That, in fact, is something manager Dusty Baker has been waiting to see for quite some time.

“That’s a good sign, that’s an excellent sign," Baker said. "When he’s hitting that ball to left field and not pulling everything or rolling over means staying on the ball and he’s staying through the zone. That’s a very good sign. He’s been heating up. We know the best is yet to come.”

In the 14 games since he returned, Harper is 21-for-54 (.389) with six doubles, 16 RBI and 11 runs. This is the best Harper has played in months and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

"I feel good. I think the balls are falling where they should," the Nats right fielder said. "It's nice to go into a game and score some runs and have some fun."

In these 14 games, Harper has raised his season average from .233 all the way to .254. It's almost certainly too late for him to repeat as NL MVP, but he's heating up at a good time with September right around the corner and the playoffs, if the Nats keep their current pace, right after that.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

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