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Nats topple Phillies in extras

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Nats topple Phillies in extras

Nationals 4, Phillies 3 11 innings

Game in a nutshell: In an emotionally charged ballpark tilted more in the Nationals' favor than usual when these two rivals meet, Stephen Strasburg got off to a dominant start but then did the unthinkable and served up home runs to both Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz. Strasburg's teammates picked him, pushing across a run in the sixth and another in the eighth. But countless squandered opportunities (and some questionable umpiring) prevented them from taking the lead and sent this one to extra innings. Finally, Wilson Ramos (the last man off the bench) lined a bases-loaded single over shortstop Jimmy Rollins' head, bringing Steve Lombardozzi home and sending the crowd into pandemonium.

Hitting lowlight: It's not that the Nationals didn't put men on base. They racked up 13 hits, walked seven times and had one batter hit by pitch. But they simply could not come through in clutch situations ... until the 11th. The worst offense came in the bottom of the eighth, when they stranded the bases loaded with one out. Ian Desmond swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded into a fielder's choice (though replays showed Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz's foot wasn't touching the plate as Rick Ankiel slid across). Lombardozzi then grounded out, also on the first pitch he saw. Poor approaches there for both guys in a situation that demanded patience and pitch selection.
Pitching lowlight: Strasburg was lights-out for three innings, allowing only one batter to reach base (on an error). Then after doubling and having to run the bases, he began to labor. Five Phillies hitters from the fourth through the sixth innings drilled flyballs, most of them deep, two of them clearing the fence. It was by no means a terrible outing for Strasburg (who still got credit for a quality start). But by his lofty standards, it was not up to par.

Key stat: Prior to tonight, Strasburg had given up only one home run to a right-handed batter in his big-league career (Dan Uggla, Aug. 10, 2010). Then he gave up homers to two right-handed Phillies in a span of four batters (Pence and Ruiz).
Up next: In what is expected to be the best-drawing game of the weekend, Gio Gonzalez takes on Vance Worley at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.

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Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals

Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals

The Nationals have plenty of questions facing their starting rotation as they enter the 2016 postseason, but they now know exactly what the Dodgers will be rolling out for their NL Division Series.

Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts announced the Dodgers' rotation on Tuesday with Clayton Kershaw set for Game 1, Rich Hill for Game 2, Kenta Maeda for Game 3 and Julio Urias for Game 4. That's three lefties, with Maeda the only exception. And that's two rookies in Maeda and Urias.

Kershaw getting Game 1 is no surprise, of course. The three-time Cy Young winner and former MVP is the best pitcher in baseball. He's 12-3 with a 1.65 ERA in 20 starts this season and has 168 strikeouts to just 10 walks.

Hill has also been very good with a 2.05 ERA in 19 starts this season. The Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Athletics on Aug. 1. Hill actually spent part of the 2015 season as part of the Nationals' minor league system.

Maeda has been one of the best rookies this season with a 16-9 record and 3.20 ERA. Urias is not far behind him with a 3.53 ERA through 17 appearances.

The Nationals are likely to pitch Max Scherzer in Game 1 and Tanner Roark in Game 2. Who pitches Game 3 is less clear, though it will be a choice between Joe Ross and Gio Gonzalez. The other could pitch Game 4, unless the Nats decide to start Scherzer again on short rest.

Stephen Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the series at all, the Nationals revealed on Tuesday. He remains out with a right flexor mass strain.

[Via the Los Angeles Times]

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Nats pitcher A.J. Cole suspended by MLB, is appealing

Nats pitcher A.J. Cole suspended by MLB, is appealing

Nationals starter A.J. Cole has been suspended five games and issued an undisclosed fine by Major League Baseball for his role in the benches-clearing altercation between the Nats and Pirates on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The rookie has already decided to appeal the ban.

Cole is in line to pitch for the Nationals on Friday against the Marlins. That start is in jeopardy if the suspension is upheld, or he decides to drop it.

Cole, 24, threw behind Pirates first baseman Jung Ho Kang in the third inning of the Nationals' win over the Pirates. It was after Kang faked a tag at third base on a triple by Bryce Harper, a move that led to Harper jamming his left thumb on the play.

Harper has since missed two games with the injury, but X-rays showed no broken bones. He is expected to return to the Nats soon, possibly on Wednesday.

Cole is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA this season. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings pitched. Friday would be his final chance to prove himself before the Nats decide their playoff roster, but he may not get it.

[RELATED: X-ray on Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news]

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