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Mets-Nationals series preview

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Mets-Nationals series preview

By Doug McKinney
CSNwashington.com

Mets @ Nationals
46-43 3rd in NL East 51-36 1st in NL East

The Rundown
Tuesday, July 17-Thursday, July 19
Series 30
Season Series Record: Nationals lead 4-2

Pitching Probables
Tuesday, July 17 7:05 pm
Jon Niese (7-4, 3.73 ERA) @ Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.43 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Wednesday, July 18 7:05 pm
Chris Young (2-3, 4.28 ERA) @ Jordan Zimmermann (6-6, 2.48 ERA)

Thursday, July 19 12:35 pm
R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.66) @ Gio Gonzalez (12-4, 2.93 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Whos Hot & Whos Not
Mets
Hot: SS Ruben Tejada - .390 AVG, 4 RBI in last 10 games
Not: SP R.A. Dickey 10 ER in 12 IP in July (7.50 ERA)

Nationals
Hot: 2B Danny Espinosa .324 AVG, HR, 3 RBI in last 10 games
Not: C Jesus Flores .120 AVG in July

A Series Look
The Nationals return home after a split in Miami. Was it a series they should have won? Probably. But all things considering, seeing how bad the Nats track record is against the Marlins a split may not be the worst of things.

Next on the docket is a slumping Mets team, who is 3-7 in their last 10 games and losers of four straight. New York has fallen to third place, while the red hot Braves are now just 2.5 games back from the 1st place Nats.

Setting the tone for the series will be a pair of lefties who have nice numbers on paper, but may not have pitched as well as one would think. Detwiler, who arguably had his best start of the years against the Mets (his first start of the season), hasnt pitched more than 6.2 IP this season and has given up seven runs in his last two starts (and an astonishing 16 hits). Niese, is coming off one of his worst starts of the year, hasnt faced the Nats this year.

Tomorrow, in a nationally televised game, Jordan Zimmermann will look to continue his amazing season when he goes up against Chris Young (3-1, 2.74 ERA all-time vs. WSH). In Thursdays matinee, Nats hitters will have the daunting task of facing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. But it wont be much easier for the Mets, as they take on Gio Gonzalez.

While the Mets are six games back from the Nats, it still is an important series for Washington and a very crucial homestand. With the Braves breathing down their necks and the Mets in striking distance, a 5-2 mark at home vs. the 2nd and 3rd place teams would be very encouraging.

Prediction: Nationals win series 2-1

News and Notes
>The trade deadline is nearing and while the Nationals havent been mentioned in many rumors, I expect the club will be in the market for an elite starting pitcher and a catcher. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports mentions Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke and Francisco Liriano as possible SP targets as well as former Oriole catcher Ramon Hernandez. With Jayson Werth returning soon (see more below), I dont see the club looking for outfield help.

>Jayson Werth (wrist) will most likely start baseball activities tomorrow. If all goes well, the Nats brass hope he will be back in 2-3 weeks (first week of August).

>RHP Drew Storen (elbow) and Chad Tracy (groin) are inching closer to a return to the big league club. Storen should be back before the Brave series if things go all well in his next rehab appearance. Tracy is back in action after suffering a setback.

>Nats first round pick RHP Lucas Giolito will head to Viera, FL tomorrow to continue his rehab and pitch in front of Nationals officials to see what his next step will be. GM Mike Rizzo is hopeful he will pitch in a game in the near future.

>SS Ian Desmond will miss his third straight game this evening, but expect him to be in the line-up tomorrow or Thursday. The oblique injury may stick with him for the rest of the season, but he is not expected to be placed on the DL. While he has had been bothered by the oblique for sometime now, a good sign for Nats fans is that even on days where he hasnt felt his best, he has still hit and showed no problems in the field or on the base paths.
Down on the Farm

>AAASyracuse: SP John Lannan is expected to be called up Saturday to start one of the games against the Braves. Lannan is 8-5 with a 3.25 ERA all-time against Atlanta.

>AAHarrisburg: OF Destin Hood who has been bothered by a wrist injury for most of the season, went 3-for-4 with 2 2B and RBI (30) last night. Hood is considered one of the Nationals top 10 prospects.

>A (Advanced)Potomac: A new home and badly needed one at that is looking like a real possibility for the Potomac Nationals. The P-Nats unveiled plans for a 6,000-7,000 seat, state of the art stadium that would be built in time for the 2014 season. For more, view this report: http:www2.insidenova.comsports2012jul1713new-stadium-share-location-comm...

>AHagerstown: 2011 1st round pick Alex Meyer continues to dominate at Hagerstown. In his latest start, Meyer went 6 IP with 4 H and 9 K. In his last 13 IP, the Nats 2012 Futures Game representative has only given up 1 ER.

>A (Short Season)Auburn: The Doubledays are currently 18-9 on the season, good enough for 1st place in the Pinckney division of the NY-Penn League.

>RookieGCL and DSL Nationals: Ivan Pineyro has an ERA of 2.38 with a team leading 23 K this season (22.2 IP). The 20-year old is in his first year of GCL ball after pitching for the Nats Dominican Summer League team last season to a 4-6 record with an impressive 2.20 ERA.

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Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals Ace Max Scherzer will not be team's opening day starter

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team's opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation. 

Scherzer has been the team's starter on opening day for the past two seasons, but a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger caused him to miss the start of spring training, and the World Baseball Classic. 

Scherzer did, however, make his first MLB spring training start of 2017 on Wednesday. The 2016 NL Cy Young award winner allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4.2 innings. He added four strikeouts and one walk, and reportedly looked just like you would expect from Max Scherzer. 

"To be out there competing, throwing all my pitches, throwing them for strikes, that's a great first outing," Scherzer told Eddie Matz of ESPN after the game. "Finger's good. Finger feels like a finger. I'm getting through that injury. It's behind me now."

With Scherzer set to open the season as the third starter in the rotation, that likely means that Stephen Strasburg will start on opening day against the Miami Marlins, and Tanner Roark will slot in behind him. 

While it's nice to have your ace pitcher starting on opening day, it's not a huge deal to have Scherzer start the season third in the rotation, especially because the Nationals starting rotation is the strength of the team

Related: Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches four scoreless innings to help Team USA beat Japan in WBC

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Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches 4 scoreless innings in US defeat of Japan in WBC

Nationals' Tanner Roark pitches 4 scoreless innings in US defeat of Japan in WBC

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Luke Gregerson's final strike breezed past Nobuhiro Matsuda, and the rain-drenched American players celebrated on the field while a soaked crowd roared through the evening mist.

A daylong downpour couldn't dampen this resilient United States club or its fans, who will finally get to root for the home team in a World Baseball Classic championship game.

Brandon Crawford scored the tiebreaking run when Matsuda bobbled Adam Jones' grounder to third in the eighth inning, and the United States reached the WBC final for the first time by beating Japan 2-1 on Tuesday night at rainy Dodger Stadium.

Andrew McCutchen drove in an early run for the U.S., which will play Puerto Rico for the title Wednesday night. Puerto Rico edged the Netherlands 4-3 in 11 innings Monday.

"It means a heck of a lot," said McCutchen, the Pittsburgh Pirates slugger. "We've got a great group of guys on this team who have dedicated this time to be able to try and win some ballgames. Sacrifices had to be made, and there are no egos when that door opens. That's what's good about this team. Everybody is a superstar on this team. There are no egos."

The World Baseball Classic final has been played in the United States in each of its four editions, but the home team had never been able to play America's pastime on what has become its biggest international stage. The U.S. only reached the semifinals once before, in 2009.

While manager Jim Leyland's current roster is missing Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and many other American superstars, the All-Star-laden group that decided to participate has won two straight elimination games to earn a chance for the U.S.' first crown.

"Coming into this event, I didn't really want to talk about the fact that the United States has never won it (and) they've never gone to the finals," Leyland said. "I didn't think that was a big deal. I wanted this, for the players, to be a memory. I've talked a lot about it. Make a memory. Hopefully it's a real good one, regardless of the results (Wednesday). I know it is for me. It's been an absolute honor."

To reach the final, the Americans had to persevere through an uncharacteristic Los Angeles rain that drenched the playing field several hours before game time. They also had to beat a gifted Japanese team at its own game: pitching, defense and small ball.

Ryosuke Kikuchi hit a tying homer off reliever Nate Jones in the sixth inning for Japan, but the two-time WBC champions were twice let down by their normally sturdy defense.

McCutchen opened the scoring with an RBI single in the fourth moments after Kikuchi's two-base error at second. In the eighth, Crawford likely would have been out at the plate on Jones' innocent grounder, but Matsuda didn't field it cleanly and had to throw to first.

"Well, two plays," Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said through a translator. "Honestly, there were some mistakes, and then a run was scored. ... The team that makes mistakes will lose. That's what it means. I cannot blame them, though, for doing that."

Japan won the first two WBC tournaments before losing in the 2013 semifinals, and Kokubo's current team was unbeaten in this event.

"The players really did their very best," Kokubo said. "I really appreciate it. It's do-or-die, one semifinal."

Tanner Roark pitched four scoreless innings of two-hit ball before Leyland pulled him on the instructions of the Washington Nationals, who limited Roark to 50 pitches because he hadn't faced live hitters in nine days.

"I felt good enough to stay out there," Roark said.

Gregerson, the Americans' sixth reliever, worked a perfect ninth inning after Pat Neshek escaped a two-on jam in the eighth.

Leyland is confident he'll have a capable bullpen Wednesday after receiving texts from various pitching coaches around the majors on the status of their players. Toronto's Marcus Stroman, the starter, is free to reach the WBC's 95-pitch limit, Leyland confirmed.

Although the crowd of 33,462 strongly favored the team with five California natives in the starting lineup, thousands of Japanese fans showed up early and chanted throughout the game, accompanied by the brass band in the left-field bleachers.

Tomoyuki Sugano, the Yomiuri Giants ace with a seven-pitch repertoire, tossed six innings of three-hit ball for Japan, striking out six and yielding only one unearned run.

But Sugano was matched by Roark, who gave up just two singles and a walk in his four innings, also hitting a batter with a pitch.

After Christian Yelich reached second in the fourth inning when his hard-hit grounder was mishandled by Kikuchi, the standout defensive second baseman, Eric Hosmer worked out of an 0-2 count to draw a two-out walk.

McCutchen had just two hits in his first 14 at-bats in the WBC, but he drove in Yelich with a sharp single to left.

Kikuchi made up for his mistake in the sixth, driving Jones' fastball barely over the reach of McCutchen in right field for his first homer of the tournament.

Japan reliever Kodai Senga struck out the first four batters he faced with a 96 mph fastball and exceptional off-speed stuff, but Crawford then delivered a sharp single before Ian Kinsler doubled to deep left-center.

Neshek got cleanup hitter Yoshimoto Tsutsugoh on a fly to right to end the eighth.