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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.

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Stolen Jose Fernandez high school jersey returned by thief

Stolen Jose Fernandez high school jersey returned by thief

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A high school jersey once worn by Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and stolen after his death has been returned to the Florida school.

Hillsborough County Public Schools said in a news release Friday that the jersey was returned Thursday.

Officials said a family saw a large envelope leaning up against the ticket booth at Alonso High School with the words "Jose's jersey" written on it. The family took the envelope into to the school Friday morning. The jersey was inside.

It was taken Wednesday night following a vigil for the 24-year-old, who died over the weekend in a boating accident in Miami Beach.

Fernandez attended Alonso High in Tampa in 2011.

[RELATED: Wilson Ramos hopes to be back with Nationals]

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Dusty Baker drops hints about playoff roles for Nationals rookies

Dusty Baker drops hints about playoff roles for Nationals rookies

The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks in their series finale on Thursday and by doing so inched closer to securing home field advantage in the NL Division Series. They earned the win despite playing without Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who remained out with injuries.

In order to make it happen, they needed contributions from unexpected places. Catcher Pedro Severino homered and walked. Second baseman Wilmer Difo also hit a home run, the first of his young MLB career. Michael Taylor had three hits and drove in two runs. Those three led the way on offense on a day their regulars - Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon - went a combined 2-for-16. 

Rookie Reynaldo Lopez also chipped in with 3 2/3 innings of relief work. The coincidence that he, Severino and Difo all made their mark was not lost on them or manager Dusty Baker. The trio are all young players from the Dominican Republic.

"It was Dominican Republic Day," Baker said. Our Dominicans hit two home runs and pitched well... Maybe they had it mixed up, they thought today was Latin Day instead of yesterday."

Baker was referring to a special pregame ceremony at Nationals Park on Wednesday that featured Latin American flags on the field and a representative from the D.R. to throw out the first pitch. 

The players picked up on it, as well.

“It was very fun and exciting," Lopez said through an interpreter. "He said as I came into the dugout to Dusty having known that Difo had hit a home run as well as Severino already and they’ve been doing a good job and I was pitching very well, he said ‘I guess today is really Latin day.’ It was just very humorous, but it was fun. And he kept repeating that because we were all performing so well for him, so it was great.”

"Very excited that all three of us were able to do a great job for the team today," Difo said through an interpreter. "Just keep working hard to show everybody that we deserve to be here and that we can contribute and help the team win. I’m just very excited about today."

Severino knows he will be on the playoff roster at this point. With the loss of Wilson Ramos to a season-ending injury, Severino is the next man up.

Difo and Taylor would need an injury or two to clear room for them. They are unlikely to make the final 25.

[RELATED: What will Joe Ross' role be for Nationals in playoffs?]

Lopez, though, is in a battle for the bullpen. Depending on how many pitchers they keep, Lopez could definitely find himself in that mix. And Baker is already talking like Lopez will be pitching in October.

"He's been working on some things," Baker said. "He picked up his tempo. He throws strikes. He appears unfazed by the situation or having to come into the game. And I'm just hoping that he continues that same mindset when we get to the playoffs because it's the same game. More at stake and the world's watching, but it's the same game."

Baker also dropped a hint about Severino that should be kept in mind over the next week. 

"All of our young guys dont appear to be intimidated at all by being young. They're about to venture into territories that they haven't been before. And I told him, 'Hey, man, I want you to do the same thing as [Clayton] Kershaw if you're starting in L.A.' And he said OK and left it at that."

It sounds like Severino has at least a decent chance of starting Game 1 on Friday.

[RELATED: Matt Belisle sounds like safe bet for Nats playoff roster]

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