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Wrapping up an eventful weekend for the Nats

Wrapping up an eventful weekend for the Nats

If you were out of town over the holiday weekend, you sure missed some eventful stuff at the ballpark. The Nationals took three of four from the Cardinals, informed Stephen Strasburg he'll make only two more starts this season, called up John Lannan, Eury Perez, Sandy Leon, Zach Duke and Christian Garcia from Class AAA Syracuse and lost Sean Burnett, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse for a brief period of time due to injuries.

Oh yeah, and they won their 82nd game of the season, most for any D.C. ballclub since 1969.

Since there's a decent chance you missed some or all of that, let's recap the biggest stories of the weekend, with some links back to the original articles...

-- Yesterday's 2-1 victory over the Cubs was the Nationals' 82nd of the year, ensuring the club's first-ever winning season. While the consensus opinion around most of the clubhouse involved shrugs and talk of accomplishing even greater things, there were a few folks (particularly those who have been in the organization a while) who noted the significance of this win. "I think that's huge for the city and everything," Ross Detwiler said. "Obviously we're not done yet, but somebody like Ryan Zimmerman, who's been here the whole time and he's been on losing teams year in and year out ... I'm just happy for him to be on a winning team."

-- After Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings during Sunday's win over the Cardinals, manager Davey Johnson revealed the right-hander will make two more starts before he is shut down: Friday night against the Marlins at Nationals Park, then Sept. 12 at the Mets. Then on Monday, Strasburg sat down for a long conversation with Johnson, Mike Rizzo and Steve McCatty, during which he made it clear he wants to pitch through the remainder of the season. That, of course, wasn't going to happen no matter what Strasburg said, but let the record show he is opposed to the shutdown.

-- Yesterday's win also featured Tyler Clippard escaping a self-created jam in the top of the ninth to record his 30th save. That's no small accomplishment, considering the only other Nationals relievers to save that many games are Chad Cordero (2005, 2007) and Drew Storen (2011). It's also no small feat considering Clippard didn't get his first save opportunity this season until May 22. That means he's saved 30 games in less than 3 12 months. "It's a nice feather on the cap," he said. "I think more importantly, it's been fun to contribute to a lot of the wins we've had this year. That's the most fun part for me."

-- The Nationals may need Clippard, Drew Storen and others to continue to make big contributions late in games, because Sean Burnett is dealing with elbow discomfort again. The lefty had this earlier in the season and pitched through it with only minimal issues, but his numbers of late (16 hits allowed in his last six innings) suggest the elbow has become a real factor in his performance. Johnson said he'll probably hold Burnett out for a couple of days; we'll see if it turns into anything more significant than that.

-- Perhaps in part because of Burnett's situation, the Nationals added two more pitchers from Class AAA Syracuse yesterday: Zach Duke and Christian Garcia. Each will pitch out of the bullpen for the rest of the month, and each made it to D.C. through perseverance. If you haven't read the full story on both guys from yesterday, I encourage you to click on the link and appreciate just how much this means for each of them.

-- Meanwhile, Michael Morse was mysteriously pulled from yesterday's game during the fourth inning. Is he having a problem with his thumb? His hand? Or was something else going on? I'll let you all try to interpret what both Morse and Johnson said after the game.

-- The minor-league season ended yesterday for most of the Nationals' affiliates, and the club announced its organizational player and pitcher of the year: Matt Skole and Nathan Karns. Skole, 23, led all players in the organization with 27 homers and finished second with 102 RBI, splitting his season between low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac. The third baseman, a fifth-round pick in last summer's draft out of Georgia Tech, hit .292 overall with a .427 on-base percentage. Karns, 24, went 11-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) between Hagerstown and Potomac. A 12th-round pick in 2009 out of Texas Tech, the right-hander was shut down after pitching 116 innings, during which he allowed only 70 hits. Both Skole and Karns will be honored at Nationals Park before Friday night's game against the Marlins.

-- Finally, while yesterday's win marked a milestone for the Nationals and D.C. baseball, it also marked the end of a long streak for yours truly. You see, I hadn't covered a team (in any sport) with a winning record since 1996, when as a student at Northwestern I covered the 9-3 football team. Since then, it had been nothing but .500 or worse seasons for me: the 1997 Cubs and 1998 Diamondbacks as interns, the 1999-2000 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi basketball teams, the 2001-02 Orioles, the 2003-04 Redskins and then 2005-11 Nationals. As a reporter, I've obviously got no rooting interest in any team I cover, but I think it's fair to say it's a tad more enjoyable covering a winning team than a losing team. Which has made this season particularly enjoyable to chronicle.

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X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

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Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

Wilson Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope and pray injury isn't serious

The Nationals know this feeling all too well, the anxious wait for test results to determine the severity of an injury to a star player. The latest, with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos, includes an MRI set for Tuesday morning.

Ramos suffered a right knee injury on Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the sixth inning, the same knee in which he tore his ACL and MCL back in May of 2012. Ironically, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was also there for that one, in Cincinnati as the skipper of the Reds.

The Nats will hope and pray that this time it's not as serious.

"He doesn’t look too good tonight," Baker said. "You could tell he was in pain. We have to wait till tomorrow to come up with something definitive.”

Ramos buckled to the ground and pointed to his knee after a relay throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman sailed high over Ramos' head and required him to jump to catch it. The Nationals were playing on a wet field following a 20-minute rain delay and they believe the injury could be related.

“That probably had something to do with it. Yeah. Last time he hurt his leg it wasn’t an impact play either," Baker said. "We just got to pray for Wilson and hopefully he’s OK.”

The Nationals have already seen Stephen Strasburg go down with a right flexor mass strain, an injury that has put his postseason availability in question. Bryce Harper is currently out with a jammed left thumb. And Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup for seven straight games with a strained left buttock.

Harper received good news on Monday that his X-ray was negative, but that's four of the team's five 2016 All-Stars who are banged up with just six games and 10 days left to go until the playoffs begin.

That's an unusual string of bad luck at a bad time to have it.

"My dad told me, ‘Don’t say what else can go wrong because something else can go wrong.’ I’m thinking what else can go right? I don’t think like that. I don’t allow myself to think like that," Baker said. 

"Those thoughts come into everybody’s head, but you’ve got to dispel them and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess. Bryce’s X-rays came out negative, so that’s a positive note in itself. It just seems like down this stretch you lose a guy, gain a guy. Like Stephen Drew. I’m glad we got Stephen Drew back. And who knows? Somebody else might step up and be the hero, the least likely of people. That’s how I think.”

Ramos earned his All-Star nod with a breakout season at the plate. He's batting .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBI and an .850 OPS. He has the lowest catcher's ERA in baseball and has emerged as one of the best backstops in the game, right before he's set to hit free agency this winter for the first time in his career.

Losing Ramos would be devastating for the Nationals at this point in the year.

"He’s a leader of this team. It’s a tough break, really is," Drew said. "It didn’t look too good. My thoughts and all these guys on this team hope for the best for him and we’ll be thinking about him.”

Everyone in the Nationals' clubhouse is pulling for Ramos, but Baker knows the Nats will have to keep going if his injury is serious. Backup catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino will have to step up in his absence, however long it is.

"I feel badly because you know how we all feel about Wilson, but it’s part of the game," Baker said. "You hate (for) it to happen this late, right before the playoffs, but our next step is try to figure out a way to play without Wilson. I’ve been mixing and matching this year and most of my life. Therefore it’s another obstacle and I just got to try to go back to the drawing board and figure out something."

[RELATED: Nationals on playing the Dodgers in NL Division Series round]

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