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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Mets 1

Game in a nutshell: Looking to bounce back from a rough weekend against the Marlins, the Nationals didn't waste much time pouncing on Collin McHugh. They roughed up the Mets rookie right-hander for three homers during an eight-batter span in the third and fourth innings, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. They actually were held hit-less by the New York bullpen after that, but rode Gio Gonzalez's effective start and scoreless innings of relief from Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to secure a fairly easy victory. Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner, and the Nationals opened a six-game road trip in strong fashion. Their magic number for the NL East is down to 16; their magic number for the final wild card berth is 9.
Hitting highlight: The Nationals' scoring barrage took a break yesterday, but it was back in full force for the opener of this series. They blasted three homers -- Kurt Suzuki's solo shot in the third, Ryan Zimmerman's two-run shot a few batters later, Ian Desmond's two-run shot in the fourth -- and none was a cheapie. Desmond's was especially impressive, a real clout into one of the bullpens in right field. It was only the latest example of the shortstop's newfound stroke to the opposite field: Seven of his 22 homers this season have been hit to the right of straightaway center. Only one of Desmond' 22 career homers prior to 2012 was hit in that direction.
Pitching highlight: It looked like it might be a long night for Gonzalez when he walked his first batter of the night, then issued another free pass to David Wright moments later. And truth be told, the left-hander wasn't sharp at all. He wound up walking five and throwing only 58 of his 104 pitches for strikes. But he did come through with big pitches when he needed them and wound up with strong overall results: one run allowed on three hits over six innings. The only real blemish on his pitching line: Scott Hairston's solo homer in the fourth. Gonzalez's quality start proved more than enough to earn him win No. 19 on the season, making him the first MLB pitcher to reach that milepost in 2012.
Key stat: Desmond's 22 homers this season are the most ever by a Washington middle infielder, a span that includes the 1901-71 Senators and the 2005-present Nationals.
Up next: Gonzalez became the majors' first 19-game winner tonight. New York's R.A. Dickey will try to join him tomorrow. The knuckleballer goes up against Jordan Zimmermann at 7:10 p.m. in a matchup of two of the best right-handers in the NL this season.

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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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