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Nats starting pitching a weakness so far

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Nats starting pitching a weakness so far

From April through September, there was no better team in baseball than the Nationals when it came to starting pitching. Through injuries to their lineup and bullpen, it was their constant, their guarantee.

But now three games into the National League Division Series, starting pitching is all of a sudden a weakness. Nats starters have barely been able to get out of the second inning without digging a significant hole for their team to get out of. In the Nationals' 8-0 loss in Game 3, Edwin Jackson was no different.

Nats manager Davey Johnson sent Jackson to the mound after two shaky starts by his one and two starters Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in Games 1 and 2. And despite Jacksons playoff experience, he couldnt buck the trend of starting the game with trouble early on. Jackson, in fact, missed the strike zone by about a foot on each of his first two pitches.

Johnson acknowledged that maybe Jackson and his teammates were a little jumpy after a pregame celebration of Washington, D.C.s first home MLB playoff game since 1933.

Everybody's excited about the opening ceremonies with all of the dignitaries and the flyover.Got everybody excited, Johnson said. If you get behind early, sometimes it takes the wind out of your sails.

Jackson allowed a run in the first inning off back-to-back hits to Matt Holliday and Allen Craig. Holliday scored all the way from first as left fielder Michael Morse tracked down the ball in the corner.

The second inning for Jackson began with a double by David Freese. Daniel Descalso then singled to move Freese over to third. The next batter, Pete Kozma, took the next pitch over the left field fence for a three-run homer.

Jackson was bitten early just as Gonzalez and Zimmermann were in St. Louis. After experiencing it himself he explained why the Cardinals keep finding success in the first two innings.

Theyre just coming out and being aggressive, he said. Theyre not waiting around for you to get strike one. They are coming out and jumping on pitches early in the count.

In Game 1 Gonzalez allowed two runs, including one on a wild pitch, and walked four batters in the second inning. In Game 2 Zimmermann allowed three runs in the second with four straight hits to begin the inning.

Add their outings with Jacksons day and Nationals starters have allowed 11 earned runs in 13 innings, a combined 7.62 ERA. Thats more than double their combined ERAs in the regular season.

Whatever the Cardinals lineup is doing, they are doing it right. Some of the Nationals position players feel they need to get their bats going early to help the starter in any way they can.

We need to put a couple runs up early, Ryan Zimmerman said. We can give our pitchers some leeway and attack their guys so they dont have so much pressure to make perfect pitches all the time.

Pitching his huge definitely. Having guys going out there and throw strikes and doing well is the key to winning, Bryce Harper said. And hopefully we can get some runs up on the board and really get things going early.

Through three games the Nationals have been outscored 10-2 in the first two innings. Heading to the mound for Game 4 will be Ross Detwiler who is their least experienced starter. Johnson hopes the lefty can get the pitching staff back to where it was just a few games ago, the teams backbone and biggest strength.

We have two more ballgames.Det's capable of pitching a good game tomorrow, he said.

That's been our strength all year.These young guys have pitched great all year. Need a couple more goodpitched games this series.

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2016 MLB Power Rankings: The Cubs are back

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2016 MLB Power Rankings: The Cubs are back

The Cubs are back. After a rough July, the Cubs were the first team to break the 60 win mark and have gotten some of their grove back heading into the dog days of summer. How did the other teams do? To the rankings! 

30. Atlanta Braves (LW: 30)

36 wins and it IS August. 

29. Minnesota Twins (LW: 29)

A Joe Mauer walkoff, just for old time's sake. 

28. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 28) 

Jay Bruce's new team this week: the Dodgers! 

27. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 26)

Most likely to leave: Archer, Ordorizzi, or Moore?

26.  Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 27)

It's almost unfathomable that they've made Miller available in trades. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE

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Murphy out of lineup as Lopez, Nats face Giants

Murphy out of lineup as Lopez, Nats face Giants

Nationals (61-42) vs. Giants (59-44) at AT&T Park

The Nationals are off to a good start in their four-game series at the San Francisco Giants with two straight wins. On Saturday afternoon, they will look to secure a series win with rookie Reynaldo Lopez on the mound making his second career MLB start.

Lopez, 22, returns to the Nationals from Triple-A Syracuse. He pitched for the Nats on July 19 against the Dodgers and got rocked for six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. In his lone start at Syracuse, he tossed a shutout with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Daniel Murphy is out of the lineup today after he was removed from Friday's win with leg tightness. In his place is Trea Turner at second with Ben Revere remaining in center field.

Pedro Severino is starting behind the plate to catch Lopez. The two have worked together in the minor leagues.

The Giants got a big boost just before the game with Hunter Pence coming off the disabled list. The three-time All-Star has not played since June 1.

First pitch: 4:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2, FS1
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Reynaldo Lopez vs. Giants - Jake Peavy

NATS

2B Trea Turner
CF Ben Revere
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Jayson Werth
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
C Pedro Severino
RHP Reynaldo Lopez

GIANTS

SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Angel Pagan
3B Connor Gillaspie
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
CF Gregor Blanco
RHP Jake Peavy

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Scherzer, Werth shine in Nats' thrilling victory over the Giants

Scherzer, Werth shine in Nats' thrilling victory over the Giants

Analysis of the Nats' 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night at AT&T Park.

How it happened: Sometimes when your team is in a jam, you have to do something no one has ever done before to get them out of it.

On Friday night in San Francisco, the Nats pulled off the unimaginable. Called in cold off the bench as part of a triple-switch, Ryan Zimmerman generated the first triple play in team history to end the eighth inning and essentially save a Nationals win. It was the first 3-3-5 triple play ever executed by a major league team.

With the bases loaded and Sammy Solis on the mound, Zimmerman caught a Brandon Crawford line drive, stepped on first for the second out, then threw it across the diamond to Anthony Rendon, who stepped on third. The Nats escaped with their 4-1 lead intact and one inning later secured the victory.

Few MLB players have had more publicized issues throwing the baseball than Zimmerman, yet it was his accurate throw that led to the third out. Baseball, man.

That play helped save another strong outing for Max Scherzer, who went seven innings of one run ball. Jayson Werth, Ben Revere and Rendon each landed RBI singles. Daniel Murphy added an RBI triple, as the Nats won their third straight game.

The Nats' bullpen again showed its ugly side by loading the bases in the eighth and then seeing two baserunners reach in the ninth. They got out of each situation, though, to their credit.

What it means: The Nats are now 2-0 against the Giants this season and 61-42 overall. They hold a six-game lead over the Marlins and a 7 1/2 advantage over the Mets, as both teams lost on Friday.

Scherzer carves again: It may be flying under the radar after his slow start and with how good his teammate Stephen Strasburg has been, but Scherzer is having arguably the best season of his career. The Nats ace was efficiently dominant against the Giants on Friday with just one run allowed on five hits, two walks and six strikeouts on 116 pitches in seven innings of work. It was the seventh straight outing that Scherzer has gone at least six innings with two runs or less. Six times during that stretch has he given up one run or less.

Scherzer's worst game of this season was back on May 11 at the Chicago Cubs. But in the 15 starts since - roughly half a season - he has a 2.13 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit just .169 with a .529 OPS against him in those 15 games.

Scherzer has lowered his season ERA in six consecutive starts, all the way down to 2.85, which is very close to his career-best mark of 2.79 set in 2015. His 146 ERA+, 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine rate and 6.2 hits-per-nine are all career-bests. 

Werth gets them started: The Nationals ended up having their way with Jeff Samardzija, but it didn't start out like that. Samardzija limited them to just two walks and no hits through the first three innings. Then, in the fourth inning, things started unraveling for the Giants right-hander. He gave up a one-out double to Wilson Ramos, then an RBI single to Werth. For Werth, it was the 32nd straight game he's reached base. Werth's overall numbers during that streak are largely unremarkable, he's hitting just .248 with 29 strikeouts. But on Friday, he was a big help for the Nats with two hits, a walk, an RBI and a run.

Murphy's triple: Good things came in threes for the Nats on Friday, as Murphy's triple was another big play in their win over the Giants. It was Murphy's fifth triple this season, which is a new career-high. Twice had he notched four on one season, most recently in 2013. Murphy has been on fire lately. In his last 15 games, he's 21-for-54 (.389) with six homers, 20 RBI, eight doubles and a triple.

Up next: The Nats carry on with the Giants as rookie Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 11.57) makes his second career start. He'll pitch opposite veteran Jake Peavy (5-9, 5.42)

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