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Instant analysis: Dodgers 7, Nats 6

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Instant analysis: Dodgers 7, Nats 6

Game in a nutshell: How to put this one into words? Well, when the eighth inning began, the Nationals were trailing 6-0, having seen John Lannan get roughed up while seeing Josh Beckett dominate. Many in the crowd decided to leave. Davey Johnson decided to bench several of his regulars, including Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. It appeared the Nats would have to wait another night to attempt to clinch a playoff berth. Then Johnson watched as the rest of his lineup stormed back to score six times in the bottom of the eighth and incredibly tie this game. Except then Tyler Clippard served up a towering home run to Matt Kemp to open the top of the ninth, and that entire rally went for naught. (It did make an earlier blown call by plate umpire Alan Porter -- resulting in a run for the Dodgers -- loom large, though.) In the end, the Nationals will have to wait at least one more day to clinch.

Hitting highlight: For seven innings, there were no hitting highlights. Zero. Zilch. Then Michael Morse led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer off Beckett. Then Steve Lombardozzi belted a two-run shot. Then Adrian Gonzalez booted a sharp grounder to first. Then Mark DeRosa singled to right. Then Bryce Harper beat out a slow roller to third. Then Danny Espinosa singled to left, loading the bases. Then Morse, batting for the second time in the inning, drilled a two-run single to right to incredibly turn a 6-0 deficit into a 6-6 tie. It was one of the most remarkable rallies in Nationals history, and it brought life back to what remained of the crowd of 26,931. That is, until Clippard served up the homer to Kemp to lead off the ninth, making the eighth-inning rally moot.

Pitching lowlight: Lannan excelled in his three previous starts because of his ability to attack the strike zone, get ahead in the count and induce groundballs. And he labored through this start because he wasn't able to do any of those things. Lannan threw first-pitch strikes to only 9 of 22 batters faced, including a stretch of six consecutive batters to open the top of the third in which he didn't throw a first-pitch strike to anyone. He issued back-to-back, two-out walks during that inning, setting the stage for RBI hits by Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier. And he plunked Shane Victorino in the fourth, setting the stage for another three-run rally. It's only one bad start after three stellar ones, but this wasn't what the Nationals were looking for out of Lannan with a playoff berth at stake.

Key stat: Chien-Ming Wang and Josh Beckett combined to win 39 games ... in 2007.

Up next: They didn't clinch tonight, so the Nationals will give it another try tomorrow night when these two teams meet in the series finale. Ross Detwiler gets the start against fellow left-hander Chris Capuano at 7:05 p.m.

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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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