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Congressional Baseball Game will go on, at Nationals Park

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USA Today Sports

Congressional Baseball Game will go on, at Nationals Park

WASHINGTON -- The game will go on.

The annual Congressional Baseball Game, which dates to 1909 and is a summertime tradition on Capitol Hill, will be played Thursday despite Wednesday's shooting at the GOP squad's practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

It's an annual tradition in which aging former Little Leaguers don their spikes and dust off their gloves in a game played for bragging rights and to benefit several charities. It's also a somewhat rare example of bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized Washington.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., assured lawmakers assembled at a members' briefing that the game will be played as scheduled, prompting a standing ovation.

"It will be `Play Ball!' tomorrow night at 7:05," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the longtime manager of the GOP squad.

Once a relatively cozy affair, played at a minor league ballpark in Maryland, the game has gone big time in recent years and has been played at Nationals Park, just a few blocks from the Capitol.

"We do it for really three reasons. We do it for fellowship amongst ourselves. We do it for charity," Barton said. "We raise a lot of money for three charities. And we do it because we like to play baseball and try to recapture a little bit of our youth. It's a positive thing. Of all the things Congress does, this is one of the most benign, positive activities."

Members of Congress practice for months for the event, and typically don the jerseys of a team from back home. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call sponsors the game and awards a trophy once a side wins three of five games.

"It's a good way raise money for charity and for members to get to know each other," said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., whose election in 2010 upended the competitive balance of the annual event. Richmond played baseball in college and kicked off his congressional career with a one-hitter in 2011 and has been the game's dominant player pretty much since then.

Last year, however, Democrats lost the game 8-7, ending a seven-game winning streak that mostly coincided with Richmond joining the Democratic side.

"I was fresh off of surgery, but they made more plays than we made last year," Richmond told reporters. "This was a year we wanted to get even."

Congressional leaders typically attend the event and former President Barack Obama -- famous for shunning opportunities to rub shoulders with lawmakers -- even went two years ago, watching from the Democratic dugout. Obama's appearance came as he was struggling to win Democratic votes for an unpopular trade-related measure.

President Donald Trump will not be attending Thursday's game, however, due to security concerns.

"While the president would like to attend the game and show his support for all of these brave public servants, he has been advised that there is not enough time to follow Secret Service protocols," Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.

To lawmakers, the annual game is one of the better opportunities for lawmakers to get to know each other outside of their partisan roles.

"The things that used to bring members together, whether it's travel - that's frowned upon. If you belong to the gym, they think `well, that's a perk you shouldn't have,'" said Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, the manager of the Democratic team. "All the chances to interact with each other outside our suits, and outside floor debate, are few and far between."

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Bryce Harper powers Nationals past Diamondbacks

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Bryce Harper powers Nationals past Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- The newest additions to the Washington bullpen came through when called upon to help deliver a victory to their new team.

Sean Doolittle stranded the potential tying run by escaping a jam for his second save for Washington, and Ryan Madson tossed a scoreless eighth inning as the Nationals held off the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 on Saturday night.

"The game can really speed up on you once you start getting guys on base," said Doolittle, who with Madson arrived in a trade with Oakland earlier in the week. "The crowd and the energy of the stadium can kind of take over and ... you have to be mindful enough to step off the mound, slow the game down a bit, kind of press reset."

Bryce Harper homered and drove in two runs, and starting pitcher Tanner Roark struck out a season-high 11. Roark (8-6) gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings for the NL East-leading Nationals.

"Curveball felt good. Just keep the hitter guessing," Roark said.

Harper hit his 25th home run on a full-count offspeed pitch from Anthony Banda (0-1), who lost in his major league debut.

Chris Iannetta hit a two-out RBI double in the bottom half, but the Nationals opened a 4-1 lead with a three-run sixth.

Harper hit a run-scoring double and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's double, and Anthony Rendon beat out an RBI single that sent Zimmerman home.

"They had a young guy out there that throws the ball really hard, has good command. He's going to be really good in the next couple of years for sure," Harper said of Banda. "Just got him this time and got a few runs up there."

A.J. Pollock tripled in the bottom half and scored on Jake Lamb's groundout, and Arizona reliever Jorge De La Rosa got out of bases-loaded trouble in the seventh when he struck out Harper and Zimmerman.

Doolittle, acquired from Oakland last weekend, walked Lamb leading off the ninth. Iannetta hit a broken-bat grounder to third, and Rendon's throw to second went into right field for an error that put runners on the corners.

Paul Goldschmidt hit a sacrifice fly, Chris Owings flied out and Doolittle struck out Ketel Marte for his second save with the Nationals.

"Madson's been great for us. Doolittle ... he never panics. It was great to see. It's a lot of fun to have a back end like that," Harper said.

Banda allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out five and walked none. He was optioned back to Triple-A Reno after the game.

"I felt confident. I threw the ball in the zone and kept attacking hitters," Banda said. "I made a couple of mistakes, Harper and the middle of the lineup."

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Nationals lose to Diamondbacks in dramatic fashion

Nationals lose to Diamondbacks in dramatic fashion

PHOENIX -- Three straight homers off Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the first inning had the Arizona Diamondbacks set up for an easy Major League Baseball victory over the NL East leaders.

Instead, they needed Brandon Drury's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 victory Friday night.

The home runs by David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb to start their first at-bat helped stake the Diamondbacks to a 5-0 lead against Scherzer.

"We did a great job getting his pitch count up and also putting runs on him," the Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock said. "Great getting on him early. We would've loved to have (scrapped) a couple of runs in the middle of the game, but the key point is we won the game and we came through in the end."

The first-inning feat was the first in the majors since Baltimore did it against Texas on May 10, 2012. It was the first time in Nationals history (2005 to present) that an opposing team has hit back-to-back-to-back home runs.

The Diamondbacks last hit three straight homers on Aug. 11, 2010, when they had four in a row at Milwaukee.

It was the most runs allowed by Scherzer in a first inning since July 2, 2011, against San Francisco, when he gave up five.

"I had four pitches today. I was using them. They beat me," Scherzer said. "I just couldn't get the ball exactly where I wanted it. When you do that against this type of ballclub and these types of hitters, they are really good and they make you pay."

Scherzer's five runs allowed tied for the most he's given up in a start this season, and the five innings tied for his shortest outing of the season.

Arizona sent nine batters to the plate in the four-run first and the Diamondbacks made it 5-0 in the second on Lamb's RBI double.

Scherzer had allowed just one home run in 34 2/3 innings over five starts before he surrendered the three home runs on his first 10 pitches. The All-Star right-hander and two-time Cy Young Award winner was tagged for three homers in a game for the first time since May 6, 2016, against the Chicago Cubs, when he allowed four.

"I don't think I have ever seen a game starting off with three homers. Max hadn't seen it, either," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

Peralta, Pollock and Lamb also each had a double, another historical first for the Diamondbacks.

The Nationals rallied with Daniel Murphy's run-scoring double in the fourth, then added two more runs in the fifth off Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley. A leadoff double for Matt Wieters led to Brian Goodwin's RBI groundout, and Ryan Raburn singled in Wilmer Difo with two outs.

Godley struck out a career high 10 in 5 2/3 innings, and allowed four runs and five hits.

Difo drove in two runs, one to cut the lead to 5-4 in the sixth and the other that tied the game on a groundout to first in the eighth.

The Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the ninth on Pollock's triple and intentional walks to Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt by Enny Romero (2-4). After Gregor Blanco flied out to shallow left, Drury bounced a single into right field for Arizona's third win in four games.