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Instant Analysis: Detwiler downs Braves

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Instant Analysis: Detwiler downs Braves

Game in a nutshell: Perhaps reinvigorated by last night's win in the second half of their doubleheader, the Nationals stormed out of the gates in the series finale, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first thanks to another Ryan Zimmerman homer and RBI hits from Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina. And unlike Friday night's debacle, they never took their foot off the gas pedal. Zimmerman added another homer. Espinosa added two more hits. Bernadina added two more hits. Sandy Leon added a bases-loaded double. And Ross Detwiler did a highly effective job pitching with a lead, working fast and holding the Braves to one earned run over seven innings. So just like that, the Nationals salvaged a series split and increased their lead over Atlanta to 3 12 games. Right back where they started on Friday.

Hitting highlight: What more can you say about Zimmerman? Well, we'll try to come up with more, because it feels like we highlight the guy every single day. He deserves it, though, with the tear he's on at the plate. With two more homers (and another single, to boot) today, he raised his season average to .273. In the month of July, Zimmerman is now hitting .418 with nine homers, 19 RBI and a .910 slugging percentage. Seriously, who slugs .910 over a three-week span?

Pitching highlight: Maybe Detwiler picked up a few pointers from John Lannan last night. And perhaps Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez can pick up a few pointers from Detwiler after this highly efficient performance. Detwiler didn't mess around at all, going right after Atlanta's hitters. He went to a three-ball count only five times all afternoon, walked just one batter and forced the Braves to put the ball in play. That was a highly effective strategy, especially once the Nationals had a comfortable lead. Detwiler now sports a 3.01 ERA in 14 starts this season. Yes, the Nats' No. 5 starter has a 3.01 ERA. That's not bad.

Key stat: On June 24, the Nationals as a team were hitting .238 with a .389 slugging percentage. In 24 games since then, they're hitting a collective .309 with a .498 slugging percentage.

Up next: Their homestand wrapped up, the Nats now hit the road for a seven-game trip through New York and Milwaukee. They open a three-game series against the Mets tomorrow at 7:10 p.m., with Jordan Zimmermann facing Chris Young.

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan

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Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger. 

When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue. 

Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season. 

Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans. 

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts. 

Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010. 

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