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Another day off for Harper


Another day off for Harper

PHOENIX -- Some leftover thoughts from last night's 9-1 thumping of the Diamondbacks...

-- Bryce Harper bounced back from his rough Houston series with a productive game at the plate, even though he didn't produce a base hit. The rookie went 0-for-2 with a pair of sacrifice flies and a walk and generally looked more relaxed than he did Wednesday in Houston when he twice argued with umpire Angel Hernandez over called third strikes and then made an ill-advised throw from center field.

Davey Johnson decided to give Harper the final game of that series off, citing his need for a mental break after that difficult game (not to mention a difficult stretch since the All-Star break). Well, the manager is giving the 19-year-old another day off tonight, but not as a reaction to anything he did last night. Instead, Johnson wants to find a way to give Tyler Moore a start in the outfield.

"I might as well tell you now, I'm going to get Tyler Moore in the lineup, because once Jayson Werth got here I haven't had that opportunity," he said. "There's nothing wrong with Bryce. He played a good game, and he'll play the day game against the left-hander Sunday. I'm just telling you up-front now so I don't have to hear all this crap tomorrow."

So the outfield alignment tonight should have Moore in left field, Werth in center field and Michael Morse in right field. Johnson also said he plans to hit Werth leadoff for the first time, with Danny Espinosa batting second.

-- The baseball world was abuzz yet again yesterday with Stephen Strasburg Shutdown Fever after a Yahoo! Sports report citing GM Mike Rizzo saying the right-hander won't pitch more than 180 innings this season. All of a sudden, media members and fans alike wondered whether Rizzo was suggesting Strasburg could be allowed to pitch deeper into the season than everyone originally thought.

Well, here's the lowdown, straight from Rizzo: Nothing has changed at all. The Nationals' plan for Strasburg has been consistent from the first day of spring training. There is no exact number of innings. It's a broad range, probably no fewer than 160, almost certainly no more than 180.

That doesn't mean Strasburg is going to get to 180, though. Rizzo is going to watch him closely over the next several weeks and make the decision when to pull the plug based on what he sees, not based on what the precise innings count is.

Point is, the Nationals will shut down Strasburg before the end of the regular season and he will not pitch in the postseason. That plan hasn't changed one bit since February.

-- Steve Lombardozzi quietly put together a four-hit, four-run game last night, impressing his manager.

"He had a heck of a game today," Johnson said. "He's been actually getting more aggressive at the plate. He's had a tendency to take everything the other way, and Rick Eckstein's been working with him on getting the head out, hit the ball more where it's pitched. He got that double yesterday down the right-field line, and then today the first time up turned on one inside and then the triple. That's who he can be, because he's right on top of the plate and they pound him. He doesn't get to extend very much. But he's another one, he's just a babe in the woods."

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

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Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.