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Nationals look to win series against Mets behind Stephen Strasburg

Nationals look to win series against Mets behind Stephen Strasburg

NEW YORK -- On Thursday afternoon, New York Mets manager Terry Collins said it was imperative for his team to at least keep treading water in the National League East standings during a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

"We made up some ground this week," Collins said. "So let's just not lose any."

It only took two games for the Mets to lose their margin for error.

The Nationals will look to continue burying the Mets in the division race on Saturday afternoon, when the two rivals meet again at Citi Field.

Washington's Stephen Strasburg (7-2, 3.27 ERA) is scheduled to face New York's Seth Lugo (1-0, 1.29 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.

The Nationals cruised to their second straight win Friday, when ace right-hander Max Scherzer struck out 10 over eight innings in a 7-2 victory.

Washington (41-26) has outscored the Mets (30-36) 15-5 in the first two games of the series.

The fast start against the Mets comes immediately after the Nationals went 2-5 on a week-long homestand, during which they were outscored 46-34 by the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves.

"I think we hit a little funk there at home just for whatever reason, we just didn't play good as a team," Scherzer said Friday night.

But maybe getting on the road was all the Nationals needed. Washington (23-12 away from Nationals Park) is virtually tied with the Colorado Rockies (25-13) for the best road record in the NL.

"We've played really good ball on the road, we've been some road warriors," Scherzer said. "Off to a good start here, taking two from a division rival."

With the back-to-back wins, the Nationals increased their NL East lead over the now third-place Mets to 10 1/2 games.

New York, which won five of its previous six games heading into Thursday, now needs to figure out how to turn things around Washington, which has won all five games between the teams this season at Citi Field.

"We're playing a division team, the first-place team, and we want to beat these guys," said Mets left-hander Steven Matz, who took the loss Friday night. "It's never fun losing, especially to guys in your division."

Strasburg didn't factor into the decision in his most recent start last Sunday, when he gave up a season-high six runs over a season-low five innings in the Nationals; 11-10 loss to the Braves. Despite the subpar numbers, Strasburg was in line for the win until the Washington bullpen allowed five runs over the final two innings.

This will be the second start of the season for Lugo, who missed the first 60 games due to a partially torn right UCL. He earned the win in his debut last Sunday after allowing one run over seven innings as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 2-1.

Strasburg is 7-4 with a 2.64 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mets. Lugo is 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in two games (one start) against the Nationals.

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Bryce Harper powers Nationals past Diamondbacks

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Bryce Harper powers Nationals past Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- The newest additions to the Washington bullpen came through when called upon to help deliver a victory to their new team.

Sean Doolittle stranded the potential tying run by escaping a jam for his second save for Washington, and Ryan Madson tossed a scoreless eighth inning as the Nationals held off the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 on Saturday night.

"The game can really speed up on you once you start getting guys on base," said Doolittle, who with Madson arrived in a trade with Oakland earlier in the week. "The crowd and the energy of the stadium can kind of take over and ... you have to be mindful enough to step off the mound, slow the game down a bit, kind of press reset."

Bryce Harper homered and drove in two runs, and starting pitcher Tanner Roark struck out a season-high 11. Roark (8-6) gave up two runs and three hits in seven innings for the NL East-leading Nationals.

"Curveball felt good. Just keep the hitter guessing," Roark said.

Harper hit his 25th home run on a full-count offspeed pitch from Anthony Banda (0-1), who lost in his major league debut.

Chris Iannetta hit a two-out RBI double in the bottom half, but the Nationals opened a 4-1 lead with a three-run sixth.

Harper hit a run-scoring double and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's double, and Anthony Rendon beat out an RBI single that sent Zimmerman home.

"They had a young guy out there that throws the ball really hard, has good command. He's going to be really good in the next couple of years for sure," Harper said of Banda. "Just got him this time and got a few runs up there."

A.J. Pollock tripled in the bottom half and scored on Jake Lamb's groundout, and Arizona reliever Jorge De La Rosa got out of bases-loaded trouble in the seventh when he struck out Harper and Zimmerman.

Doolittle, acquired from Oakland last weekend, walked Lamb leading off the ninth. Iannetta hit a broken-bat grounder to third, and Rendon's throw to second went into right field for an error that put runners on the corners.

Paul Goldschmidt hit a sacrifice fly, Chris Owings flied out and Doolittle struck out Ketel Marte for his second save with the Nationals.

"Madson's been great for us. Doolittle ... he never panics. It was great to see. It's a lot of fun to have a back end like that," Harper said.

Banda allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out five and walked none. He was optioned back to Triple-A Reno after the game.

"I felt confident. I threw the ball in the zone and kept attacking hitters," Banda said. "I made a couple of mistakes, Harper and the middle of the lineup."

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Nationals lose to Diamondbacks in dramatic fashion

Nationals lose to Diamondbacks in dramatic fashion

PHOENIX -- Three straight homers off Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the first inning had the Arizona Diamondbacks set up for an easy Major League Baseball victory over the NL East leaders.

Instead, they needed Brandon Drury's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 victory Friday night.

The home runs by David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb to start their first at-bat helped stake the Diamondbacks to a 5-0 lead against Scherzer.

"We did a great job getting his pitch count up and also putting runs on him," the Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock said. "Great getting on him early. We would've loved to have (scrapped) a couple of runs in the middle of the game, but the key point is we won the game and we came through in the end."

The first-inning feat was the first in the majors since Baltimore did it against Texas on May 10, 2012. It was the first time in Nationals history (2005 to present) that an opposing team has hit back-to-back-to-back home runs.

The Diamondbacks last hit three straight homers on Aug. 11, 2010, when they had four in a row at Milwaukee.

It was the most runs allowed by Scherzer in a first inning since July 2, 2011, against San Francisco, when he gave up five.

"I had four pitches today. I was using them. They beat me," Scherzer said. "I just couldn't get the ball exactly where I wanted it. When you do that against this type of ballclub and these types of hitters, they are really good and they make you pay."

Scherzer's five runs allowed tied for the most he's given up in a start this season, and the five innings tied for his shortest outing of the season.

Arizona sent nine batters to the plate in the four-run first and the Diamondbacks made it 5-0 in the second on Lamb's RBI double.

Scherzer had allowed just one home run in 34 2/3 innings over five starts before he surrendered the three home runs on his first 10 pitches. The All-Star right-hander and two-time Cy Young Award winner was tagged for three homers in a game for the first time since May 6, 2016, against the Chicago Cubs, when he allowed four.

"I don't think I have ever seen a game starting off with three homers. Max hadn't seen it, either," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said.

Peralta, Pollock and Lamb also each had a double, another historical first for the Diamondbacks.

The Nationals rallied with Daniel Murphy's run-scoring double in the fourth, then added two more runs in the fifth off Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley. A leadoff double for Matt Wieters led to Brian Goodwin's RBI groundout, and Ryan Raburn singled in Wilmer Difo with two outs.

Godley struck out a career high 10 in 5 2/3 innings, and allowed four runs and five hits.

Difo drove in two runs, one to cut the lead to 5-4 in the sixth and the other that tied the game on a groundout to first in the eighth.

The Diamondbacks loaded the bases in the ninth on Pollock's triple and intentional walks to Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt by Enny Romero (2-4). After Gregor Blanco flied out to shallow left, Drury bounced a single into right field for Arizona's third win in four games.