De Jonge leads the AT&T National, but Tiger is lurking

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De Jonge leads the AT&T National, but Tiger is lurking

For the second straight sweltering afternoon at Congressional Country Club, Tiger Woods short game helped him move up the leaderboard at the AT&T National.

Unfortunately for area golf fans, none of them were there to witness it.

Woods shot a bogey-free four under par 67 to move into a three-way tie for second place on a course that was eerily empty Saturday as spectators and non-essential tournament workers asked to stay away for safety reasons after a powerful storm Friday night left a trail of destruction in its wake.

Brendon de Jonge, meantime, shot 69 and leads the field at 7-under. Lurking just behind the Zimbabwe native is a trio that includes Woods, Bo Van Pelt, and Seung-Yul Noh, setting up a potentially thrilling Sunday in Bethesda.

With only a handful of Congressional members, media and relatives of the golfers on the grounds, this was anything but a normal weekend day on the PGA Tour.

It was similar to what we've faced when we play overseas in practice rounds or when we have dangerous summer conditions such as thunderstorms, Woods said. Ive played in front of small crowds like this, but not generally for an 18-hole competitive round.

Added de Jonge, who attended Virginia Tech: There was no buzz. It was hard to get the adrenaline going. It kind of felt like you were playing a Tuesday practice round or a qualifier.

Play had been scheduled to begin around 7 a.m. but was postponed until 1 p.m. to give workers enough time to clear as many as 40 fallen trees, hundreds of branches and other debris that had been strewn about by a fast-moving derecho that packed 70 mph winds.

It was sort of awe-striking a little bit, said Leesburg, Va., native Billy Hurley III, who is tied for fifth after carding a 66. Youre walking around and youre just like, Wow, thats crazy a storm can knock down that tree. Trees this big around just snapped.

Said Van Pelt: Those were trees that have probably been around 100 years. Theyve survived a lot of storms. The fact that this one knocked them down just shows you how powerful it was.

The decision to ban fans was a difficult but necessary one, according to Mark Russell, the PGAs vice president of rules and competition.

Several trees were snapped at the trunk in spectator areas. Power around the course was spotty and often dependent on a generator. And the roads leading up to the entrance were littered by fallen trees and large branches.

Thats very drastic decision, not allowing fans to come out, Russell said. But its in their best interest. Its a dangerous situation in the area today with the heat and storm and everything.

Tickets for Saturdays round will be honored on Sunday, according to tournament officials. Tickets can also be returned to the Tiger Woods Foundation for a refund.

Tee times on Sunday will be 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., utilizing Nos. 1 and 10.

When Mahan, who owned a two stroke lead after 36 holes, teed off Saturday, there were four people seated in the grandstand and three of them were tournament workers.

And by the time Mahan bogeyed No. 4 a short while later, Tigers charge was gathering momentum. Mahan, meantime, finished with four bogies and, as a result, enters Sunday tied with Hurley, two strokes behind de Jonge.

As Mahan faltered, Woods surged, scoring birdies on three of the first six holes, including a highlight reel chip into the cup from the rough on No. 6, eliciting a confident fist pump.

After scoring pars on each of the next three holes, Woods vaulted into second place with a birdie on No. 10, the 181-yard par-3 where the green is protected by a water hazard. He stuck his tee-shot about eight feet from the hole, then watched nervously as his putt rolled around the lip of the cup nearly a full 360-degrees before dropping in.

Woods, now ranked No. 4 in the world, has two wins on the PGA Tour this season, 73 in his career and hoisted the trophy in this tournament three years ago.

The men hell be pursuing on Sunday have one PGA victory between them and certainly will be aware that you-know-who is on the prowl.

I played myself into good shape for tomorrow, Woods said. Im happy with the way I played.

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Nats' Dusty Baker talks about slapping Trea Turner's butt, things get weird

Nats' Dusty Baker talks about slapping Trea Turner's butt, things get weird

Manager Dusty Baker was asked about Trea Turner's surprising strength on Thursday night and, well, his answer was a bit unexpected.

You could say things got a little weird. Baker started talking about Turner's build and his description got quite specific:

"He’s wiry-strong. You can tell by that ball he hit down the line. That’s a big man’s swing right there. He’s stronger than he appears. And he’s going to get stronger yet, when he gets his man-muscles or his man-bones or whatever you call it. Heh-heh. Cause today I tapped him on the butt, and I was like: ‘Man, you’re hard as a rock.’ And he said: ‘Well, I should be. It’s all bone.’”

Okay, then. Now, that's a quote. 

Baker also described Max Scherzer's between-the-legs on Thursday night in terms that included the male anatomy:

"First time I’ve seen that. Good thing that ball didn’t hop up on him, know what I mean?”

Just another night with Dusty Baker, one of the funniest people in sports.

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Max Scherzer digs down deep to help Nats, shut up Orioles fans

Max Scherzer digs down deep to help Nats, shut up Orioles fans

Despite his team holding a comfortable division lead in the final week of August, there was plenty on the line to motivate Max Scherzer on Thursday night at Nationals Park.

He was tasked with stopping his team's four-game losing streak against a team in the Baltimore Orioles that was aiming for a four-game sweep. Going back to last season, the O's had won six consecutive games over the Nats. They had their number. They smelled blood. And because of the proximity of the team's stadiums, they had some of their friends lacing the audience dressed in orange.

The Nationals' bullpen also needed a favor. Rookie starter Reynaldo Lopez went just 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday and Tanner Roark was bounced after five the following night. Last week Nats relievers were plagued by even shorter outings from the rotation, rain delays and injuries.

Simply put, the Nationals needed Scherzer to be the ace they paid him $210 million to be. They needed 'Mad Max.'

So, Scherzer stepped out of the dugout and into the view of a sellout crowd on Thursday night with that crazed looked in his eye, that 20-strikeout, 'you'll be lucky to get any hits at all' kind of look. He was ready to be the aggressor against an Orioles lineup that is as aggressive and powerful as they come.

"They have a lot of guys that have a lot of thump in their lineup and the past three nights, I had really been watching them," Scherzer said. "I was going through my experience and really coming up with a gameplan of how I needed to pitch against them."

Scherzer used that preparation to charge out to a fantastic start with six strikeouts in his first eight at-bats. He carved up the Orioles to the tune of eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, no walks and just two hits allowed. That set the stage for just the fifth time the O's have been shut out this season.

"That’s what aces do," manager Dusty Baker said. "He shut down a very high–powered offense. There were only a couple balls hit hard off him. Had quite a few strikeouts. Boy, that was a masterful, masterful job by Max."

It was the 11th time Scherzer has posted double-digit strikeouts in a game this season, more than any other MLB pitcher. That tied the Nats club record he set himself just last year.

His 10th strikeout was against Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in the eighth inning. He then got J.J. Hardy to fly out to end the frame and his night after 95 pitches.

Scherzer had every reason to keep pushing late in his start, but there was something in the park on Thursday that gave him some extra motivation.

"I gave everything I got there in the eighth, the O's fans started making noise there in the eighth and that really kind of ticked me off. When they're sitting out there cheering at our park, I didn't like that," he said.

That, of course, was a minor consideration for Scherzer. More important to him was saving the aforementioned bullpen, which has been taxed more than any part of their roster during this current stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

"I knew I needed to pitch deep into the game tonight. Our bullpen has been taxed, and I really needed to try and get deep into the game to try and help those guys out. That was huge to get into the eighth and complete the eighth and just turn the ball over to Mark [Melancon], so that was a first and foremost thing that I knew I needed to do tonight," he said.

[RELATED: Nats' Ross making quick progress, may start rehab assignment soon]

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Jimenez was good, but Scherzer was too much for Orioles in series finale

Jimenez was good, but Scherzer was too much for Orioles in series finale

WASHINGTON---Thrust in the starting rotation because Chris Tillman is on the disabled list, Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a creditable game on Thursday night. 

Jimenez’s issue was that Max Scherzer was nearly perfect. 

The Orioles had just two hits in eight innings against Scherzer as the Washington Nationals beat the Orioles 4-0 before a sellout crowd of 39,722 at Nationals Park. 

After winning the first three games against the Nationals (74-53), the Orioles (70-57) were shut down completely by the great Scherzer, who struck out 10 in his eight innings without walking a batter. He threw 95 pitches. 

Jimenez allowed one run on five hits, striking out four without walking a batter in six innings. 

“I think everybody was pulling for him. He’s such a good young man, just needed it. I almost took him out after the fifth, but he said he felt good and wanted to go there. but we needed those six innings. We’re still having trouble pitching that last inning. It’s been a challenge for us, but Ubaldo kept us in the game. There’s a game there to be won if we could keep that thing at 1-0,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

Logan Ondrusek allowed three runs in the eighth. 

Scherzer (14-7) quickly retired the first nine Orioles, striking out six of them before Adam Jones doubled to left, leading off the fourth. That was the Orioles’ only baserunner. 

After setting down the next 12, Mark Trumbo singled to lead off the eighth. 

Jayson Werth led off the fourth with a long home run to center field off JImenez and the Nationals had a 1-0 lead.  

Jimenez won the plaudits of his manager and teammates. 

“I want to talk about how Ubaldo threw the ball. He went out there and I’m pretty sure many people didn’t expect him to do what he did. Six innings. One pitch I know he wants to have back, but he threw the hell out of the ball,” Jones said. 

Jones was pinch hit for in the ninth inning, and Showalter said he was taken out as a precaution.

“He had a cramp in the hamstring in one leg. Felt it earlier in the game, and I just didn’t like the description. I talked to him when he came off the field in the bottom of the 8th. It’s just not worth taking a chance, because we really don't have much depth at that position either,” Showalter said. 

Jones dismissed questions about his injury as he generally does when he’s hurt. “I’m good, so it doesn’t matter,” Jones said. He did say he planned on playing Friday. 

Jimenez’s turn will come up against Toronto on Tuesday. This year, Jimenez has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in 7 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays.

“I haven’t even gotten that far on. I don’t know what else he has to do,” Showalter said. “We’ll step back and take a look at it and continue to try to put our best foot forward. He certainly did tonight.”

Jimenez was pleased with how well he pitched in his first start since July 28 against the Twins.

“That’s everything I’ve done in my career, start. I know why I was put in the bullpen, but it’s very good to have this one and the one in Minnesota too. Hopefully, I get some more, but wherever they put me, I’m going to try to do the best I can to be there for the team,” Jimenez said. 

He enjoyed the matchup with one of the game’s best. 

“As a starting pitcher, that’s one of the games that you dream of, because it gets you going. You have to bring your A-game, because that guy’s tough to hit,” Jimenez said. 

The Orioles were aggressive against Scherzer, but it didn’t work

“I guess so, but that didn’t rattle him. He kept back. He had a plan. He executed it. He was using all his pitches tonight. He was very difficult to face, and he did a good job,” Steve Pearce said. 

The game got away in the eighth when Ondrusek pitched his second inning. Mike Wright came on after the first three batters of the inning got on. 

Trea Turner, who was 10-for-13 in the last three games of the series, singled to begin the inning. Werth singled, and Daniel Murphy doubled down the right field line to score Turner. Bryce Harper’s double scored two more for a 4-0 lead. 

Showalter said that the team might have to make one or two moves because neither Ondrusek nor Wright would be available on Friday.

One of the possible additions, T.J. McFarland pitched a perfect inning for Bowie. 

NOTE: The Orioles open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 5.08) faces Luis Cessa (3-0, 4.01).  

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