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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

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Instant analysis: Rays 5, Nats 4

Game in a nutshell: The night began as a referendum on Chien-Ming Wang's status as the Nationals' No. 5 starter and the possibility of Ross Detwiler taking his spot. But the entire storyline turned in the top of the eighth when Rays reliever (and 2010 National) Joel Peralta was ejected for having a foreign substance in his glove. Memories of the 2005 brawl between the Nats and Angels when Jose Guillen tipped off Frank Robinson about Brendan Donnelly having pine tar in his glove immediately came rushing back. In the end, this bit of controversy didn't help the Nationals' cause, because Tampa Bay's Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney shut the door in the bottom of the eighth and ninth, quashing any potential game-winning rally. Thus, the Nats still lost their fourth straight game ... though they did create some intrigue for the rest of this series.

Hitting highlight: Michael Morse asked Davey Johnson the other day to drop him in the lineup because he was "killing the team." Johnson wouldn't listen and kept Morse in the cleanup spot tonight. That proved to be the right move, because Morse finally connected for his first homer of the season, drilling a line shot over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. The umps reviewed it to ensure the ball actually cleared the fence, which it did, and Morse celebrated the home run that perhaps will get his season on track.

Pitching lowlighthighlight: We'll do both categories tonight, because Wang's start clearly was a lowlight while Detwiler's relief appearance clearly was a highlight. Wang got himself into trouble from the very beginning and never righted himself. He had no trouble getting ahead of hitters -- he had two strikes on all five batters in the top of the first -- but he couldn't put any of them away. Detwiler, on the other hand, had no trouble putting hitters away. He retired 11 of 12 batters faced, the lone one reaching via a hit-by-pitch. Whether this turn of events was enough to produce a WangDetwiler swap in the No. 5 rotation slot remains to be seen.

Key stat: Of the last four non-quality starts by the Nationals rotation, Wang has pitched three.

Up next: Stephen Strasburg makes his first start in a week (thanks to a pair of off-days). The Nats ace will face prospect Chris Archer, making his major-league debut for the Rays in the 7:05 p.m. game at Nationals Park.

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Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

Harper Among 4 Nats' Starters Out Vs. Padres Sunday

National League home run leader Bryce Harper is among four starters out of the lineup for the Washington Nationals in their series finale against the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters also did not start for the Nationals, who open a nine-game, 10-day road trip Monday afternoon in San Francisco.

Murphy missed the previous two games due to illness, Chris Speier said Saturday. Speier, serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California, did not meet with the media before Sunday's game.

RELATED: Nationals' Joe Ross to Start Against Team That Drafted Him

Harper is batting .337 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Washington won the first two matchups in the three-game series.

Joe Ross (2-0, 5.32) faces fellow right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) on Sunday.

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Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

Nationals' Joe Ross to start against team that drafted him

WASHINGTON -- On Dec. 19, 2014, the San Diego Padres traded pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later -- it would be Trea Turner -- to the Washington Nationals in a three-team deal that included the Tampa Bay Rays.

Since that trade, the Padres have posted a record of 160-215 while the Nationals are 208-166 after they won 3-0 Saturday as Stephen Strasburg struck out a career-high 15 batters in seven innings and the Washington staff fanned 17.

As a reminder of what could have been, Ross (2-0, 5.32) makes the start Sunday against San Diego right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-4, 5.74) in the finale of the three-game series at Nationals Park.

First-place Washington is 30-18 while last-place San Diego is 18-33.

Ross was drafted by the Padres in the first round out of his California high school in 2011. Ross is 2-0 in his career against San Diego with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Last year, he went six innings and allowed six hits and three earned runs in a win against the Padres.

"I was not around Joe at all," said Andy Green, in his second year as the San Diego manager. "We saw him last year; he is a sinkerballer."

The Padres did acquire All-Star first baseman Wil Myers in the trade.

The Nationals have scored a record 62 runs in the four starts made this year by Ross, more than any other pitcher has received in his first four starts of a season. That included a 23-5 victory at home April 30 against the New York Mets and a 10-1 win Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners.

Ross, who broke into the majors with the Nationals in 2015, was in the rotation last season and made 19 starts before going on the disabled list. He was in line to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

Chacin is 3-2 in six starts against Washington and has a 3.09 ERA. He has made three career starts at Nationals Park and is 1-1 with a 0.45 ERA while allowing only one run in 20 innings.

The Nationals played their second game in a row Saturday without second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was ill.

Nationals bench coach Chris Speier, filling in for manager Dusty Baker, said before the game that Murphy was ill. Murphy entered the day hitting .316 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

"He's available. This is Dusty's theory: Usually when somebody comes in and says, 'I'm ready,' then he usually gives him one more day. But he's available," Speier told reporters before the game.

Murphy entered Saturday seventh in the National League in hits with 56, just ahead of teammate Bryce Harper (55). Murphy was also among the league leaders in multi-hit games and road batting average.

Washington shortstop Turner, drafted by the Padres in the first round out of North Carolina State, had two hits, including a homer, Friday and was 1-for-4 Saturday.

Another hot hitter for Washington is center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who hit a homer for the second day in a row Saturday and has four homers in his last 14 games.

"I'm looking for my pitch and staying in my zone," Taylor said. "I'm not trying to do too much."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg has career-high 15 strikeouts in Nationals win over Padres