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Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1

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Instant Analysis: Nationals 9, D'backs 1

Game in a nutshell: After a four-game sweep against a hapless team in Houston, the Nationals figured to face a stiffer test tonight against an Arizona club trying to hang on in the NL wild-card race. But what began as a tight pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Trevor Cahill turned into a rout. Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run homer in the fifth. Michael Morse crushed a solo shot to deep right-center in the sixth. And the Nats piled on in the ninth to run away with it. Strasburg, meanwhile, merely tossed a one-hitter over six strong innings to earn his 13th win of the year. Thus, the Nationals earned their seventh consecutive victory, and at 70-43 they're on pace for 100 wins at season's end.

Hitting highlight: We could highlight the homers by Zimmerman and Morse, each of them towering shots. But how about some love for Steve Lombardozzi? The rookie tripled in the third, singled in the fifth, singled in the seventh and then was credited with another single in the ninth (though pitcher Mike Zagurski may have tagged him on the back before his foot hit the base). Regardless, it was the second time this season Lombardozzi has compiled four hits. He also scored four times, helping lead an impressive offensive attack against the Arizona pitching staff.

Pitching highlight: What would Davey Johnson have done if Strasburg didn't allow a hit through six innings but had a pitch count of 105? We'll never know, but the veteran skipper is probably glad he didn't have to contemplate such a scenario, because he probably would have had to make a very unpopular decision. Despite the dominant numbers, Strasburg wasn't totally sharp during this outing. He uncharacteristically walked four batters and expended a lot of energy (and sweat) throwing those 105 pitches. It's a testament to his overall stuff and ability to pitch that he could still hold a pretty good lineup to one run and one hit over six innings. Sadly, there were no offensive fireworks from the right-hander in this one. Strasburg went 0-for-3 with three groundouts, seeing his batting average plummet from .343 to .316.

Key stat: Nine of Morse's 11 homers this season have been hit to center or right fields. Tonight's blast to right-center traveled 446 feet, the longest opposite-field homer in the majors this season according to ESPN Hit Tracker.

Up next: Game 2 of this series features veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson against left-hander Wade Miley, who at 12-7 with a 2.85 ERA is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year honors. First pitch will be at 8:10 p.m. EDT.

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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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