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Nats-Reds starting lineups

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Nats-Reds starting lineups

Davey Johnson preached consistency all week in Pittsburgh, so why change now? Fresh off a much-needed, 4-2 win over the Pirates, the Nationals manager is sending the exact same lineup out to face the Reds tonight in their series opener in Cincinnati (except for a swap of catchers, with Wilson Ramos back behind the plate).

The Nats' stagnant bats finally exploded last night, with Roger Bernadina, Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel all connecting for home runs. And now that they get to spend the weekend in the much-cozier Great American Ball Park, don't be surprised if you see some more power displays. This wouldn't be a bad place for Bryce Harper to club his first career homer.

It also wouldn't be a bad place for Gio Gonzalez to launch the first longball of his career. Call me crazy, but I could see the gregarious left-hander doing it tonight. He's been showing off some serious skills with the bat lately, and something tells me he might just be swinging for the fences when he steps to the plate against Mike Leake...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 188
Weather: Clear, 71 degrees, Wind 2 mph in from RF

NATIONALS (19-12)
SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Wilson Ramos
LHP Gio Gonzalez

REDS (16-14)
SS Zack Cozart
CF Drew Stubbs
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Scott Rolen
LF Ryan Ludwick
C Devin Mesoraco
RHP Mike Leake

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Ledecky explains how Bryce Harper ended up wearing her swim cap

Ledecky explains how Bryce Harper ended up wearing her swim cap

When the Nationals clinched the AL East, you might have noticed Bryce Harper sporting a swim cap as he and his teammates celebrated with the traditional champagne spraying.

He got the swim cap from none other than Olympic gold medalist and Bethesda native Katie Ledecky… but how exactly did he acquire it from her? 

Remember when she threw out the first pitch at the Nationals game while Harper held all of her medals? Ledecky sent Harper a thank you note for doing that, along with one of her swim caps. 

“I told him that maybe [the swim cap] could help him contain his hair as he was rounding third base,” Ledecky joked in a Twitter video posted by Stephen Whyno during Wednesday night’s Team USA Awards. 

Harper might not have used the cap for that, but we’re pretty sure Ledecky approves of how Harper used the cap anyway. 

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Nats not ready to reveal playoff rotation, how Gio Gonzalez may fit in

Nats not ready to reveal playoff rotation, how Gio Gonzalez may fit in

Just because the Los Angeles Dodgers have released their playoff rotation plans for the NL Division Series, doesn't mean the Nationals are ready to do the same.

Manager Dusty Baker remained coy about who will start for the Nats opposite Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. He doesn't see any reason to do so until he absolutely has to.

"Just because they did it doesn't mean we've gotta do it. Hey man, they can do what they want to do. I don't really see a point in releasing it so early," he said. "That's nobody's business right now. We'll tell you when we tell you."

[RELATED: Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals]

Okay, fair enough. We already know who will be pitching Game 1, barring something extraordinary. Max Scherzer will be getting the ball for that one. The same for Tanner Roark in Game 2.

Game 3 is where it gets interesting, though lefty Gio Gonzalez is emerging as the favorite there. GM Mike Rizzo dropped that hint on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning. That would leave Joe Ross for Game 4, unless the Nats opt to pitch Scherzer on short rest, which they have indicated they don't want to do.

"It's probably no secret anyways, other than when you get past No. 2 and 3," Baker said. "Gio's penciled in anyway."

So, when will the Nationals announce their rotation? Technically, they can wait until next week, as playoff rosters don't have to be revealed until the morning of Game 1.

"We haven't talked about it yet. We have to talk about it as a staff before we let you guys know. We'll probably do that on Friday, then we'll let you know," Baker said.

Baker circled back to Gonzalez on Wednesday with the lefty set to make his final regular season start later that night. Gonzalez has reverted back to inconsistency with 14 earned runs allowed in 19 1/3 innings across his last four starts. That followed a stretch of 11 outings from the beginning of July through August where he had a 3.16 ERA.

Baker is preferring to look at Gonzalez with glass half-full optimism as the team enters the postseason.

"Let's not expect bad out of Gio. I'm expecting good out of Gio. I told him when the season started that he was the main key to this ballclub. I didn't know he would be the main key at this point in time coming into these playoffs, but Gio can put him and us on the map with the way he performs," he said.

Gonzalez does have a strong track record against the Dodgers, who happen to feature a lefty-heavy lineup. Gonzalez held them to one run through six innings back in July. And since 2012, he has eight runs in 32 innings against L.A. Certainly, Baker and the Nats would like some more of that.

[RELATED: Podcast: Can Nationals win without Wilson Ramos?]

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