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Instant Analysis: Nats 4, Mets 3

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Instant Analysis: Nats 4, Mets 3

Game in a nutshell: Stop us if you've heard this one before: Jordan Zimmermann pitches brilliantly but gets precious little run support and finds himself facing a possible no-decision. Thankfully for the hard-luck right-hander, the Nationals strung together enough hits late to give him the lead. And Zimmermann didn't need much, because he didn't allow any runs over six strong innings. Adam LaRoche provided the big blast: a two-run homer in the sixth to snap a scoreless tie. Steve Lombardozzi then added the insurance knock: a two-run double in the seventh. That gave some cushion to the Nats bullpen, which unlike last night managed to close this one out in regulation (though Tyler Clippard did give up homers to both David Wright and Jason Bay in the ninth). Thus, the Nationals handed the Mets their sixth straight loss and dropped them eight games back in the NL East.
Hitting highlight: No, he's not raking at the plate the way he did during the season's first six weeks when he looked like a candidate for National League MVP. But LaRoche continues to come through with clutch hits on a regular basis for the Nats. The veteran first baseman delivered big-time in the sixth inning tonight, belting a 1-2 pitch from Chris Young into the Red Porch for his 16th homer and 54th and 55th RBI of the season. This may not turn out to be a career year for LaRoche, but he's basically doing exactly what the Nationals wanted him to do all along: Provide power, clutch hits and smooth defense at first base.

Pitching highlight: Just another quality start for "Mr. Consistency." Zimmermann was at it again, churning out six more scoreless innings and plowing through the Mets lineup with relative ease. He allowed only four hits, didn't walk a batter and in the process lowered his ERA to 2.35. That now ranks fifth in the majors. Perhaps most impressively, Zimmermann is getting better and stronger as this season plays out. Remember how the opposite seemed to be true last year as he made his comeback from Tommy John surgery? This is why the Nats limited him to 160 innings, and it's why they'll do the same with Stephen Strasburg later this season. You can't dispute the positive effect it's had on Zimmermann in 2012.
Key stat: Though he finally got his run support in the sixth, Zimmermann did go into the fifth inning without his teammates having plated a single run. That's the seventh time this season that's happened to the right-hander.
Up next: The series concludes with a fantastic showdown of the NL's only two 12-game winners: Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey. They'll square off in Thursday's 12:35 p.m. matinee at Nationals Park.

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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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