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Early offense leads to dominant NL All-Star victory

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Early offense leads to dominant NL All-Star victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Game in a nutshell: Who says the National League's lineup can't stack up to the American League's thunder? The Senior Circuit sure looked dominant in the top of the first inning tonight against perhaps the best pitcher on the planet, piling up five runs off Justin Verlander. Ryan Braun sent an RBI double off the right-field wall, then Pablo Sandoval(?!) legged out a three-run triple off the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. A Dan Uggla RBI single capped off the five-run inning, and the NL still wasn't done. A three-run fourth off the Rangers' Matt Harrison (highlighted by Melky Cabrera's homer to left) made it 8-0 and gave the NL pitching staff plenty of cushion. Not that those guys needed any help. They mowed through the AL's fearsome lineup, with 11 pitches combining to toss a six-hit shutout. Nationals Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg each churned out one inning of relief to help the cause. Teammate Bryce Harper certainly made his presence known, though for more negative reasons than positive ones (see below). In the end, the NL happily took an lopsided victory. Which means Game 1 of this year's World Series cannot take place at Yankee Stadium, but it could take place at Nationals Park.

Harper highlight: He noted yesterday how awful he's been in previous All-Star games as an amateur or minor leaguer, and Harper continued that trend in his big-league All-Star debut. The 19-year-old did draw a walk in his first at-bat and showed off his hustle by tagging up from first base on a deep fly ball to left. But he was immediately caught in a rundown off second base, and he later suffered one of the more embarrassing moments in All-Star history when he lost a routine fly ball in the lights. Harper threw his arms out, clueless where the ball was, only to have it land 10 feet behind him. He also struck out on three pitches against A's rookie Ryan Cook. All in all, not a shining moment for the youngest position player in All-Star history.

Strasburg highlight: Handed the ball for the bottom of the fourth inning with his team up eight runs, Strasburg went to work against four of the most fearsome hitters he'll ever face in succession: Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder. The flamethrower's stuff was good -- he fired in several 98 mph fastballs and a 90 mph changeup -- but his command was less than perfect. Strasburg gave up a leadoff single to Cano, got Hamilton to ground into a double play, then thought he had Bautista looking at a 3-2 curveball on the inside corner. Plate umpire Gerry Davis thought otherwise, so Strasburg had to face Fielder with two outs and a man on. Prince roped a drive to deep left field, but Ryan Braun made a nifty catch to end the inning and end Strasburg's All-Star debut with a scoreless inning in the books.

Gonzalez highlight: There was no drama to Gonzalez's one inning of work. The lefty entered for the bottom of the third and cruised through a 1-2-3 frame, showing off a 95 mph fastball and his trademark curve. That Uncle Charlie got Mike Napoli swinging for a strikeout. Gonzalez then got Curtis Granderson to fly out to left and Derek Jeter to ground out to second, completing a very efficient and very effective inning in the lefty's second All-Star appearance.

Up next: The Nationals' three All-Star participants get to spend a couple of days at home with family and friends. Then they'll rejoin their teammates Friday night in Miami for the season's second-half opener against the Marlins. Look for Drew Storen to make his season debut as well, assuming all goes well in his final rehab appearance Wednesday night.

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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.