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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Mets 3

Game in a nutshell: A prime pitching matchup between Jordan Zimmermann and R.A. Dickey lived up to the billing; even though Zimmermann labored through much of his five innings, he managed to allow only two runs and keep the game close. Dickey, meanwhile, thoroughly dominated the Nationals through six innings, his only blemish to that point a manufactured first-inning run. But then Tyler Moore came up to pinch-hit in the top of the seventh and crushed a game-turning homer, giving the Nats the lead. Kurt Suzuki and Bryce Harper (career-high four hits) plated a couple of big insurance run in the top of the ninths, and a pieced-together bullpen of Tom Gorzelanny, Christian Garcia, Michael Gonzalez, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard finished off the Nationals' 88th win of the season (though Clippard allowed a solo homer to Scott Hairston in the bottom of the ninth). At this moment, the Nationals lead the NL East by 7 games, the NL wild card by 13 12 games, with 20 to play.

Hitting highlight: It's been tough for Davey Johnson to find at-bats for Moore since Jayson Werth and Michael Morse came back from early season injuries, but the rookie is somehow finding a way to keep his bat hot despite the lack of action. He stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh inning tonight to pinch-hit for Gorzelanny and wasted no time inflicting damage on Dickey, crushing the first knuckleball he saw into the left field stands. That's nine homers this season for Moore in only 138 at-bats. Do the math: Over a full season, that's quite impressive.

Pitching highlight: While Zimmermann labored through his five innings, Garcia absolutely dominated his one inning of relief. Despite this being only his fifth big-league appearance, the right-hander was entrusted with a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, a major vote of confidence from Johnson. Well, Garcia earned even more with his explosive performance. He struck out the side, showing both a high-90s fastball with a devastating changeup and slider. In only 4 23 innings, he's already got seven strikeouts and zero walks. Could a rookie September call-up force his way onto the October playoff roster? It's happened before (remember Francisco Rodriguez with the Angels in 2002?). If Garcia keeps this up, he's going to have a strong case for it.

Key stat: In 32 career plate appearances against Dickey, Werth now has 13 hits and five walks. That equates to a .563 on-base percentage.

Up next: The series wraps up at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, with New York native John Lannan officially taking over Stephen Strasburg's spot in the Nationals' rotation. Lannan will face Mets rookie Matt Harvey, their top pitching prospect.

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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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