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Solano catching on with Nats

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Solano catching on with Nats

Some Thursday morning leftovers and look-aheads as you get back to the grind following what hopefully was an enjoyable and safe Independence Day...

-- Jhonatan Solano was summoned to make his big-league debut five weeks ago, only after a string of injuries befell four players ahead of him on the Nationals' catching depth chart. These days, there's little reason to believe he'll be heading back to the minors anytime soon.

Solano has proven to be an unexpected surprise for the Nationals, a 26-year-old rookie who not only calls a good game behind the plate but has some legitimate skills at the plate.

With a homer and a single during yesterday's 9-4 win over the Giants, Solano raised his batting average to .393 (11-for-28). He's got two homers, three doubles, six RBI and an 1.128 OPS. Not bad for the Nationals' fifth-string catcher.

"I've said before, I've never seen such depth in catching as in this organization," manager Davey Johnson said. "From Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Solano, Sandy Leon, Carlos Maldonado ... I mean, all of them are great receivers, catch and throw, block balls great. And all of them have good bat potential. I've never been in an organization, and it's my fifth one, anywhere close to that."

The hilariously nicknamed "Onion" -- he traveled from his native Colombia to Venezuela for a tryout with the Nationals on a bus with a bushel of onions on the seat next to him -- still isn't quite sure what to make of his good fortune. A career .251 hitter in the minors, he's taking pride in the fact he hasn't been overwhelmed by big-league pitching and that he's contributing to a first-place club.

"I feel great right now because everyone's playing good," he said. "It's a little pressure, but I try to do everything good because I don't want to look like: 'Oh, he's the only guy that can do nothing.'"

The more Solano shows he can hold his own at this level, the more starts he's likely to get behind the plate. Johnson has wanted to gives Flores most rest and not burn out his starting catcher before season's end. With Solano establishing himself more and more, that shouldn't be a problem.

-- Chad Tracy began his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac last night and put together a couple of productive at-bats. The veteran corner infielder went 0-for-3 but delivered a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and later drew a 10-pitch walk.

Tracy, who led the club with a .333 batting average and nine RBI as a pinch-hitter, has been out since late-May with a torn groin muscle. What initially was feared as a potential season-ending injury hasn't proven nearly as serious. Tracy figures spend the rest of the week on rehab but could be activated off the disabled list in time for the Nationals' second-half opener July 13 in Miami.

-- Don't adjust your eyeglasses or TV screens tonight when you check out the series final between the Nationals and Giants. Things might look a tad different, because both clubs will be wearing 1924 throwback uniforms, commemorating the only World Series championship in Washington baseball history.

The team uniforms won't be the only throwback elements to the game. The grounds crew, according to a Nationals press release, will be dressed in "full 1920s attire." The scoreboard will have a 1924 look to it, and traditional organ music will be played between innings. Also, the ceremonial first pitch will be performed with an actual ball from Game 6 of the '24 World Series and will be thrown from behind the first-base dugout as it used to be done.

-- Finally, here's your staggering fact of the day: When play begins around baseball today, the NL's two best records will belong to the Washington Nationals (47-32) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (45-36). Who had THAT predicted on Opening Day?

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Strasburg rebounds, Turner shines as Nats top Indians

Strasburg rebounds, Turner shines as Nats top Indians

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field.

How it happened: Having lost six of eight, with their bullpen wilting and their lineup being openly called out by manager Dusty Baker, Wednesday was about as good a time as any for the Nationals to receive a pick-me-up performance from a starting pitcher. That's exactly what they got, as Stephen Strasburg bounced back from an uneven outing to return to his All-Star form and dominate the Indians in the Nats' 4-1 win on a sunny afternoon in the place now known as Believeland.

Strasburg stared down one of baseball's best lineups and came out on top with seven scoreless innings and just three hits allowed. He was the star in the field. At the plate it was Trea Turner who once again clocked in with a well-rounded effort atop their lineup. Turner went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI.

Daniel Murphy added the Nats' other run on his 20th homer of the season. Jayson Werth walked to set a new career-high of 30 consecutive games reaching base. Ryan Zimmerman landed a single for his first hit since returning from the disabled list.

The Indians got their one run off Felipe Rivero in the ninth inning in yet another scary late-game performance by the Nats' bullpen. After getting the first batter out, Rivero issued a walk and then back-to-back singles, the second an RBI knock by Tyler Naquin. That brought Blake Treinen in to record the final two outs and close out the game for his first career save.

The Nats avoided the two-game sweep at Cleveland and now head west to see Denard Span and the San Francisco Giants.

What it means: The Nats snapped a two-game slide just in time before they play the Giants. San Francisco has won seven of their last 11 head-to-head matchups including the 2014 playoffs. The Nats will play four games there, but will not have to face Madison Bumgarner, a good thing for both their lineup and their pitching staff.

Strasburg deals: Strasburg was untouchable on Wednesday afternoon as he baffled an Indians lineup that was mostly seeing him for the first time. He tossed seven scoreless frames with seven strikeouts and two walks on 110 pitches. It was the 18th time in 19 starts this season that Strasburg has gone at least six innings and the fifth time in his last seven starts that he's gone at least seven.

Strasburg earned his 14th win of the season, tied for most in the majors. He stepped off the mound with a 2.68 ERA, which ranks seventh among MLB starters.

Turner shines again: Baker was bought an extra few days with his team playing in an AL park when it comes to who is the odd-man out of their suddenly crowded lineup mix. With Zimmerman back, someone - likely Turner or Ben Revere - eventally has to sit. With the way things have gone over the last week, however, it would be a shock to see Turner be on the bench when they go to San Francisco and return to NL play.

Turner has been impressive when given opportunities this year, but this was his best game. He tied a career-high with three hits and set new career-bests with two doubles and three RBI. His best at-bat came in the top of the second after Revere drew a 12-pitch walk to load the bases with two outs. Turner roped a single to left field to score two runs off Carlos Carrasco. That had to bring a smile to Baker's face, as he recently expressed frustration with his team's two-out approach.

Murphy hits No. 20: Murphy pulled another solo homer to right field, as he's been prone to do. This one came in the sixth inning on Wednesday and put the Nats up 3-0. It was Murphy's 20th of the season, which ties Bryce Harper for most on the team. The Nats have two 20-homer players now after only having one in 2015. Harper, though, did hit 42 by himself last season.

Murphy's home run was his sixth in his last 13 games. He has 19 RBI, 11 runs, eight doubles and a .396 BA (19-for-48) during that span.

Murphy also doubled on Wednesday and now has a 13-game hitting streak, the longest by any Nats player this season. It is the second-longest of Murphy's career, just short of the 14-game streak he had from Sept. of 2013 to April of 2014.

Up next: The Nats move on to San Francisco to take on the Giants, who are currently in first place in the NL West. Tanner Roark (9-6, 3.05) will pitch the opener for Washington opposite NL All-Star Game starter Johnny Cueto (13-2, 2.53).

[RELATED: Nats place Stephen Drew on disabled list]

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Nats place Stephen Drew on DL, call up infielder Difo

Nats place Stephen Drew on DL, call up infielder Difo

One day after the Nats got two players back from injury, they saw another go down, as infielder Stephen Drew was placed on the 15-day disabled list with vertigo-like symptoms.

Drew's DL stint is retroactive to July 24. The Nats called up infielder Wilmer Difo to take his place on the roster. 

Drew, 33, has only appeared in one game since July 17. That was on July 23 when he led the Nats to victory over the Padres with a walk-off RBI triple in the bottom of the ninth. That followed nearly a week-long battle with what was first described as the flu. He felt dizziness, had trouble sleeping and keeping food down.

An 11-year MLB veteran, Drew has thrived on the Nats' bench this season. Through 103 at-bats he has seven homers, 17 RBI and an .882 OPS. Drew has made the transition from everyday player to the bench look easy.

Difo, 24, debuted with the Nationals last May and has appeared in 15 MLB games. This is his first stint with the Nats this season. A switch-hitter, Difo is batting .255 with five homers and 33 RBI in 96 games with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators.

[RELATED: Papelbon's struggles continue, Ramos heating up for Nats]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

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Turner back in CF, Strasburg starts as Nats face Indians

Turner back in CF, Strasburg starts as Nats face Indians

Nationals (58-42) vs. Indians (57-41) at Progressive Field

After losing in walk-off fashion in the opener on Tuesday night, the Nats have a quick turnaround with a 12:10 p.m. start on Wednesday against the Indians.

On the mound will be Stephen Strasburg (13-1, 2.83), who is hoping to bounce back from his worst game of the season. He gave up six earned runs on seven hits and two homers in six innings against the Dodgers last week.

Pitching for Cleveland will be right-hander Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 2.31). He pitched six shutout innings with just one hit allowed against the Royals his last time out.

The Nats are rolling with the same lineup as Tuesday night with Trea Turner in center field and Bryce Harper batting second.

First pitch: 12:10 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stephen Strasburg vs. Indians - Carlos Carrasco

NATS

CF Trea Turner
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
DH Jayson Werth
3B Anthony Rendon
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
LF Ben Revere
(RHP Stephen Strasburg)

INDIANS

1B Carlos Santana
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Francisco Lindor
DH Mike Napoli
3B Jose Ramirez
RF Lonnie Chisenhall
LF Rajai Davis
CF Tyler Naquin
C Chris Gimenez
(RHP Carlos Carrasco)