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Nats cope with a rare loss

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Nats cope with a rare loss

PHOENIX -- Kurt Suzuki arrived in Washington on Aug. 4 and professed his excitement to join a Nationals club that was in first place and gearing up for the stretch run. Little did he know what he was in for.

The Nationals won Suzuki's debut, 10-7 over the Marlins. Then they won the next day to wrap up a homestand. Then they swept the Astros in Houston. Then they won two straight in Arizona, improving to 8-0 since the veteran catcher joined the roster.

What, then, was Suzuki to make of Sunday's series finale against the Diamondbacks, a 7-4 loss that conjured up emotions not felt around here in quite some time?

"Anytime you lose, it stinks no matter what," he said. "But I mean, that's the first time I lost here. So it was a little different."

This game certainly felt much different than the eight that preceded it. The Nationals were sloppy out of the gate and put themselves in a 7-0 hole, though they did try to mount a furious rally late and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth.

Ultimately, they couldn't overcome a shaky start from Ross Detwiler, who lasted only 4 23 innings and surrendered five runs (four earned). The left-hander wasn't feeling well, dealing with a sinus problem and stomach illness, but he refused to blame that for his poor outing.

"If I'm feeling bad and I still get my pitches down, then I get outs and it looks a whole lot better," he said. "I don't think that's the excuse why I did bad at all."

Detwiler indeed had trouble keeping the ball down in the strike zone, inducing only three groundball outs. The Diamondbacks lineup didn't exactly pound him into submission, but their three hits did all go for extra bases. Detwiler also walked one batter and hit two others, eventually pulled by manager Davey Johnson after snagging a scorched comebacker from Jason Kubel that nearly took his head off.

"Sometimes they always say some guys play their best when they're sick," Suzuki said. "It does take a toll on you and your body and makes you kind of feel foggy out there. It's tough going out there like that."

Detwiler wasn't helped a whole lot by his defense, particularly during an ugly stretch in the bottom of the second in which Ryan Zimmerman fired a wayward throw from third base for his ninth error of the season and then Suzuki threw wide on a stolen-base attempt to allow the afternoon's first run to score.

"Things like that are going to happen," Zimmerman said. "We've just got to make sure they don't happen a lot."

If they looked sloppy in the field early on, the Nationals looked downright asleep at the plate for much of the day. They managed just one baserunner in six innings against rookie Patrick Corbin, and that one (Bryce Harper) was immediately picked off first base.

Harper actually should have been standing on second base at the time if not for a bizarre (and violent) run-in with umpire Mike Muchlinski, who unfortunately stood in the rookie's way as he tried to advance to second on a wild throw. Harper bowled over Muchlinski with a tackle that might have resulted in a fine from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and upon regaining his feet trotted back to first base.

As it turns out, had Harper simply continued running, he would have been awarded second base for umpire interference, even had the Diamondbacks thrown him out.

Muchlinski is a minor-league umpire who was called up for the final two games of this series after crew chief Dale Scott took a foul tip to his chin and suffered a concussion.

"He was way out of position," said Johnson, who argued briefly with Muchlinski. "He was embarrassed. "He said: 'I'm more embarrassed than anyone.'"

The Nationals finally got to Corbin in the seventh, but they still trailed 7-2 entering the ninth. That's when a lopsided loss suddenly turned interesting again.

Cesar Izturis and Michael Morse greeted reliever Takashi Saito with back-to-back doubles. Jayson Werth (who was not in the starting lineup) brought home one run with a groundout, then Tyler Moore singled home another.

All of a sudden, it was a 7-4 game and Arizona manager Kirk Gibson was forced to summon his closer, J.J. Putz, to finish this one off. And when Putz walked Steve Lombardozzi to load the bases, Roger Bernadina now stepped to the plate representing the tying run with two outs.

"I mean, there's no give up on this ballclub," Johnson said. "They're going to keep battling you. ... They weren't planning on using their closer. Get him in, tying run there, anything can happen at that point."

Putz, though, buckled down and struck out Bernadina to end the game and leave the Nationals trying to decipher this strange, new sensation.

A loss? They barely remembered what that felt like.

"As much as I wish, we weren't going to win every game the rest of the season," Zimmerman said. "We're going to lose, just like everyone else loses. We won the series. We'll go to San Francisco and try to win that series. ... Finish this road trip up strong, and it'll be a great road trip."

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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

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

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

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg downplayed any notion that starting pitchers on the same team attempt to top each other. On the mound one day after Max Scherzer overwhelmed the San Diego Padres, the right-hander did just that.

Strasburg dominated San Diego with a career-high 15 strikeouts while allowing three hits over seven innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday.

Strasburg (6-1) singled and scored Washington's first run on Bryce Harper's RBI fielder's choice grounder in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive game.

San Diego's lineup offered little resistance against Strasburg the day after Scherzer struck out 13 in Washington's 5-1 win.

"Piece of cake, huh?" cracked Chris Speier, who is serving as acting manager with Dusty Baker away this weekend to attend his son Darren's high school graduation in California.

San Diego had six hits and struck out 31 times -- 17 Saturday -- in the two losses.

"I know when you have those type of combinations," Speier said of Strasburg and Scherzer, "they feed off each other. There's a little competitiveness within the starting pitchers that is very healthy. . It's win-win for us."

With four pitches working, Strasburg struck out the side in the third and sixth and had at least two in each of the first six innings. His single matched the Padres' hit total through five innings.

Strasburg previously struck out 14 batters twice including his Major League debut on June 8, 2010. He set a personal best by setting down Franchy Cordero in the seventh.

"It's pretty cool, but there's another game 5, 6 days from now," said the low-key pitcher. "Maybe I'll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow."

The San Diego native is 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA for his career against his hometown team.

Matt Albers pitched the eighth and Koda Glover the ninth for his fifth save.

Clayton Richard (3-6) followed up his complete-game victory over the Diamondbacks on May 21 by allowing three runs and 10 hits over six innings.

One out after Anthony Rendon's leadoff single in the sixth, Taylor drove a pitch over the wall in center field for his fourth homer of the season.

"You stay in a one-run game, momentum's different," a frustrated Richard stated. "We have a different attitude, it changes a lot of things."

Washington has won two straight and five of six.

San Diego is 5-13 since May 9.

San Diego loaded the bases with one out in the first following a single, a throwing error by first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Cory Spangenberg's four-pitch walk. Strasburg ended the threat by striking out Austin Hedges on three pitches.

The Padres had two singles in the sixth, but Strasburg recorded strikeouts for the final two outs.

"Sometimes with the best pitchers in the game if you don't get them in the first three innings they get harder and harder to get to," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We had our chance in the first we didn't take advantage of it."

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