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Focus now on Flores

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Focus now on Flores

Most of the focus on the Nationals' ever-changing situation at catcher has been on those players who have sustained injuries (Wilson Ramos, Sandy Leon) or those players who have been added to the roster to compensate for the losses (Carlos Maldonado).

Really, though, the focus should now be on the man who is being asked to take over everyday catching duties for the rest of the season: Jesus Flores.

Plain and simple, the Nationals need Flores to prove he can be a productive player both at the plate and behind the plate as well as hold up physically to the grind of the increased playing time he's about to receive.

The 27-year-old certainly has the pedigree to suggest he's up to the task. Once considered the Nationals' long-term catching answer, he amassed 301 at-bats in 2008 and was playing nearly every day in 2009 before a shoulder injury threw a wrench into his career progression.

Flores, though, understands the challenge he now faces in keeping his body in shape for the long haul.

"I've been working a lot on that part, that's for sure," he said. "I feel ready. I feel prepared to be the everyday catcher. I think I'm more mature and have experience from years ago. I feel very confident and trust that I can do the job."

Before he sustained that shoulder injury off a foul tip in Arizona three years ago, Flores looked poised for a breakthrough at the plate. He was hitting .301 with four homers and 15 RBI in 29 games that year and was establishing himself as one of the organization's best producers in clutch situations.

He's not the same offensive force today, though, that he was pre-injury. In 46 total games since returning to the big leagues, he's hitting an uninspiring .214 with one homer and seven RBI.

But are Flores' reduced numbers a product of eroding skills or a lack of consistent playing time? There's some evidence to suggest it's the latter. When given a chance to play more regularly over the winter in his native Venezuela, Flores hit a robust .322 for Magallanes with an .824 OPS.

"I think I've been doing a very good job lately, and I proved to them in spring training -- winter ball season helped me out, too -- to gain that confidence and all that rhythm to play every day," he said. "I know I can do it up here like years ago, even better right now."

The Nationals will watch Flores closely, because they may have to make a decision at some point. If he's able to perform at a consistent level while playing five or six days a week, the organization will be comfortable moving forward with the status quo.

If, however, Flores appears to struggle or is capable of playing only three or four times a week, the Nationals may decide they need to go outside the organization to add an experienced, big-league catcher who could split time with Flores the rest of the season.

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Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

The Washington Nationals tied a franchise record with eight home runs, including two apiece by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, and Max Scherzer pitched six innings of three-hit ball in a 15-2 rout of the fading Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.

Washington matched two major league records in a seven-run third inning: Most consecutive home runs (four) and most home runs in an inning (five).

After Harper connected off Michael Blazek (0-1) in the first inning, Brian Goodwin started the long-ball barrage in the third with a two-run drive. Wilmer Difo, Harper and Zimmerman followed with long home runs.

MORE NATIONALS: Watch the Nats hit back to back homeruns 

The streak was interrupted when Daniel Murphy flied out, after which some of the fans reacted with good-natured booing.

Anthony Rendon resumed the fun with a shot to dead center that finally chased Blazek, whose first major league start was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Zimmerman and Jose Lobaton both homered off Wily Peralta in the fourth for a 15-1 lead.

The eight home runs tied the franchise mark set in July 1978 by the Montreal Expos against Atlanta.

Scherzer (12-5) allowed one run and struck out nine to bring his total this year to 201 -- his sixth consecutive season with at least 200, the longest active streak in the majors.

The right-hander had plenty of offensive support, most notably from Harper, who had three hits and four RBIs while extending his career-best hitting streak to 19 games.

Travis Shaw and Lewis Brinson homered for the Brewers, who have lost nine of 11 to drop from first place in the NL Central.

Blazek gave up seven hits, six of them home runs, in just 2 1/3 innings. Peralta allowed seven runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings, a performance that raised his ERA to 7.85.

MOVE OVER, HONDO

Zimmerman's two home runs upped his total with the Nationals to 237, tied with Frank Howard for most in Washington history.

Known affectionately as "Hondo," the 6-foot-7 Howard played with the expansion Senators from 1965-71.

ROSTER MOVE

The Brewers added RHP Anthony Swarzak to the roster after obtaining him Wednesday in a trade with the White Sox.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-3, 3.25 ERA) was placed on the 10-day disabled list with an elbow impingement. Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to miss only one start. ... OF Michael Taylor (oblique strain) is almost ready to begin baseball activities, Baker said. Taylor has been on the DL since July 7.

UP NEXT

Brewers: Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA) takes the mound Friday night in the opener of a three-game showdown with the visiting Chicago Cubs.

Nationals: Tanner Roark (8-6, 4.83 ERA) helps Washington launch a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies.

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Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

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Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

Bryce Harper was thrown out in the eighth inning of Wednesday's win over the Brewers.

Apparently, he needs to be thrown out of games more.

Harper's second home run of the game Thursday against the Brewers, was part of a four straight home run barrage the Nationals put together in the third inning.

First it was Brian Goodwin homering to right to start things off.

Then it was Wilmer Difo's turn.

Harper was next, which by the way was already his second of the game.

Ryan Zimmerman made sure he kept the streak going after Harper.

And now all four at once, just for emphasis.

The Nats weren't done in the inning either. After Daniel Murphy would fly out to center and end the streak, Anthony Rendon would add another home run to the inning. 

The Nationals became the eighth team in MLB history to hit four straight home runs. The Diamondbacks were the last back in 2010.