Strasburg leads Nats past Giants

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Strasburg leads Nats past Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg might be pushing closer to that management-imposed innings limit -- whatever the number might be in the mind of the brass.

Washington's ace brushed off questions on the topic, and so did manager Davey Johnson. There are more important matters at hand with the NL East-leading Nationals rolling as they head into a key stretch against the division at home.

Strasburg capped Washington's longest road trip of the season by winning his third straight start in a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday.

He outpitched Tim Lincecum in the process.

"It's out of my control," said Strasburg, who now stands at 139 1-3 innings. "I'm just doing everything I can to help this team win games, and it's all going to take care of itself in the end."

One hitter Strasburg (14-5) didn't have to face: All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera. He was suspended 50 games earlier in the day for a positive testosterone test.

Danny Espinosa hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning, Jayson Werth drove in three runs and Kurt Suzuki added a sacrifice fly for Washington, which won a fourth straight series and now heads home for key series against division opponents New York and Atlanta.

Strasburg struck out seven and walked four in six innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

"He pitches. Guys talk about his power stuff but he knows what he's doing out there," said Suzuki, who came to the Nationals in an Aug. 3 trade from Oakland. "He's got all the hype around him. Being on the outside looking in, you always wonder. Being in a different league, and now to be catching him, you see what it's all about."

Lincecum's latest shaky outing was over after just four innings.

Brandon Crawford hit a two-run single for the Giants, who began the day in a first-place tie atop the NL West with rival Los Angeles. The Dodgers were set to play a night game at Pittsburgh.

For the Giants, losing the game was secondary to losing Cabrera. The news broke about an hour before first pitch, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy called his players together in a meeting to tell them.

Major League Baseball announced Cabrera tested positive for testosterone -- and he won't be back until either next season or at the earliest the playoffs, depending how far San Francisco were to advance.

"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement released by the union. "I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down."

Cabrera is batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in his first season with San Francisco and is five hits shy of 1,000 in his big league career.

"Ultimately, it was just a bad decision," catcher Buster Posey said.

Lincecum (6-13) lost his second straight start after winning three of the previous four for the Giants, who ended a stretch playing for 20 straight days and will have a day off Thursday in San Diego ahead of a weekend series with the Padres.

The umpire crew turned to instant replay to determine whether Michael Morse's hit to lead off the fifth was a home run or a double off the top of the wall in right-center. The double stood, and Morse extended his hitting streak to 12 games.

Lincecum struck out five and walked one but labored for most of his brief outing. He threw 38 pitches in the first inning when Washington scored twice, then gave up a towering drive to right-center by Espinosa in the third before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth.

That ended Lincecum's best stretch of the season -- he had allowed only five earned runs over 20 innings going into the game -- and left the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner once again searching for answers.

Strasburg, on the other hand, was quietly effective while beating the Giants for the second time in his career.

The Nationals right-hander allowed Crawford's single in the second after opening the inning with back-to-back walks, but was otherwise strong in his first outing at the Giants waterfront ballpark.

He struck out Posey in the third after a nine-pitch duel with the All-Star catcher, then struck out the side in the fifth.

Espinosa's home run was his 13th of the season and fourth in his past 12 games.

Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for the Nationals, allowing a two-out single to pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez and an unearned run when first baseman Adam LaRoche lost Pablo Sandoval's popup for an error that allowed Sanchez to score from second. Clippard held on for his 25th save.

Sandoval insists the Giants will move forward without Cabrera.

"We are a team. We're trying to make the playoffs," Sandoval said. "We're going to fight."

Notes: Strasburg walked four for the second straight game, matching his season high. ... San Francisco C Posey will be behind the plate as much as possible in the coming weeks without him getting worn down. ... Johnson on Bochy: "Bochy reminds me of Whitey Herzog trying to get all those switch-hitters in there. Whitey liked to get eight of em in if he could." ... Cabrera had been in the original lineup batting third and playing LF. Gregor Blanco played in his place and added an RBI single. ... Lincecum failed to reach five innings for the sixth time in his 25 starts this year. Before this season, he'd done so only 15 times. ... San Francisco's Brandon Belt has nine hits in his past 16 at-bats and is hitting .407 (24 for 59) in his past 18 games. ... Home run king Barry Bonds attended the game and received a standing ovation when he made an early exit.

Murphy homers, lands go-ahead hit in Nats' 4-3 win vs. Phillies

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Murphy homers, lands go-ahead hit in Nats' 4-3 win vs. Phillies

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night.

How it happened: Right now, two months into the 2016 MLB season, is there any other player you'd rather have up in a key spot than Daniel Murphy?

The Nats second baseman continued his months-long Ted Williams impression on Monday night with three hits, one of them his eighth homer of the season and another the go-ahead swing in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 Nats victory over the Phillies. 

On a night Bryce Harper left with an injury, Murphy helped save the day with three runs driven in. The other was pushed across by Jayson Werth, who tied the game at 2-2 in the eighth to help set up Murphy's heroics. 

The Nationals hung on in the ninth, but closer Jonathan Papelbon made it interesting by allowing back-to-back doubles to lead off the frame, the second to score a run. Papelbon has surrendered six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings with two blown saves against the Phillies since he was traded from them to the Nats last summer.

What it means: The Nationals moved to 10 games over .500 and 3-4 against the Phillies this season, all three of those wins having come at Citizens Bank Park. The Nats remain in first place with a 31-21 record after 52 games. That puts them two wins ahead of their 2015 pace (29-23 after 52). In 2014 when they won 96 games and the NL East, they were 25-27. And in 2012 when they won 98 games and the division, they were 30-22. The Nats are playing at a 97-win pace right now.

Murphy's big day: Who is this guy? As impressive as Murphy's 2016 had already been, he put in one of his best games as a National on Tuesday. Murphy smacked his eighth homer of the season in the top of the fourth which put him more than halfway to his career-high of 14, which he set just last year. This is in just 50 games, which puts Murphy on pace for about 25 by the end of this season. That would not only far exceed his best season ever, it would significantly change his value as an offensive player. Murphy has six homers in the month of May, a personal career-best for the regular season. The only other month he's hit more was last October when he clubbed seven for the Mets in the playoffs. Murphy also landed a double in the second inning on Monday to notch his 25th mutli-hit game of the season, exactly half of the game he's played. This was all on top of his go-ahead, two-RBI single in the top of the eighth. Murphy is now batting a cool .395 and we're one day away from June. That's just amazing.

Harper leaves with apparent injury: In a sight that will scare the living hell out of any Nationals fan, Harper left in the top of the seventh with what appeared to be a right leg injury. He exited after taking an 88 mile per hour fastball either off his knee or off his thigh muscle right above it. Harper stayed in the game for one play by taking first, but left after getting out on a double play. Murphy flew out and Phillies outfielder Tyler Goeddel beat Harper with a throw to first before he got back. Chris Heisey replaced Harper in right field in the bottom of the seventh. It could be just a bruise, but Nats fans will certainly worry until they hear otherwise.

Werth's game-tying double: Aside from Murphy's three knocks, Werth was one of only two other Nationals to land a hit on Monday night. For Werth, it was a single to left field that scored Danny Espinosa from second in the top of the eighth. The RBI hit came off Phillies reliever Hector Neris, who also gave up the deciding blow against Murphy. Werth's big swing came just one day after he launched a pinch-hit grand slam in the Nats' win over the Cardinals on Sunday. 

Up next: The Nationals send Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52) to the mound for Tuesday's game with right-hander Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86) set to pitch for Philly. It's another 7:05 p.m. first pitch.

Bryce Harper exits Nats-Phillies game with apparent leg injury

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Bryce Harper exits Nats-Phillies game with apparent leg injury

Bryce Harper exited Monday night's game between the Nationals and Phillies with an apparent right leg injury after getting hit by an 88 mile per hour fastball in the area of his knee in the top of the seventh inning.

Phillies pitcher Jeremy Hellickson hit Harper either on the knee or just above it, based on the television replay. Harper took first base and stayed in through the next at-bat. But after he got out on a double play, Harper left for the clubhouse. He was then replaced by Chris Heisey in right field when the Nationals went back out on defense.

Harper walked with a visible limp on his way to first base after getting hit. Hellickson immediately challenged him with several pickoff attempts before he got Daniel Murphy to fly out. Phillies outfielder Tyler Goeddel threw to first base before Harper could tag the bag for the double play.

Harper has dealt with a left knee injury in the past, but it was his right knee that appeared to be injured on Monday night.

Harper, 23, is batting .242 with 13 homers and 34 RBI on the season. He was 0-for-2 with a strikeout on Monday night before he left the game.

Gio Gonzalez shaves his luscious locks for a great cause

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Gio Gonzalez shaves his luscious locks for a great cause

Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez made a major change on Memorial Day.

Having lost two straight starts for the first time all year, Gonzalez needed to do something to get his groove back.

Instead of changing his release point, tinkering with his delivery or deciding to pitch with his left hand, Gonzalez went all in and cut off his hair.

All of it.

Gonzalez sported somewhat scruffy hair during the 2015 season and decided to grow it out, entering the 2016 season with shoulder length hair. But it's all gone now and for a good cause.

Gonzalez is donating his hair to "Locks for Love," a foundation that helps make wigs for children that loss their hair due to medical conditions.

Perhaps it's just the change Gonzalez needs to get back on track. But regardless he's showing support for those in need.