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Nats need to keep Flores, Clippard fresh

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Nats need to keep Flores, Clippard fresh

BOSTON -- Some leftover thoughts from a big weekend for the Nationals at Fenway Park...

-- Jesus Flores is taking an absolute pounding behind the plate right now, but he's managing to keep himself together enough to keep starting behind the plate.

This weekend alone, Flores was done in by pitches in the dirt, curveballs that were supposed to be fastballs and foul tips, including one late during Sunday's game that caught him square on his right hand. He went down in a heap and stayed down for a while as head trainer Lee Kuntz and manager Davey Johnson emerged from the dugout to check on him.

Flores and Kuntz were initially worried he had broken a finger, but the sting began to wear off after a minute or two.

"Boy, he got it bad," Johnson said. "It was black and blue when I went out there, and miraculously he could stay in the game. You hate to, in that kind of game, change catchers. He knows the hitters. He knows what to call. It was a gutty move on his part to be able to stay in the game."

Flores has now started 18 of 25 games since Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and was lost for the season ... and that includes a three-day stretch in Miami when he wasn't available due to a minor hamstring strain.

Flores, who hasn't played this much since early in 2009 (before his career was derailed by a major shoulder injury), insists he can handle the workload. Johnson might want to consider giving him a few more days off along the way, though, to ensure his best catcher still has something left in the tank come September ... or beyond.

-- Speaking of guys getting a lot of work, Tyler Clippard on Sunday recorded his third save in as many days and appeared in his fifth game in six days. That's the first time this season the right-hander has pitched this much, but he insisted it was no big deal.

"I felt good," he said. "It's a little sore, but it's normal soreness. After I got through the month of April, I've been feeling really good. There was no problem today."

Clippard needed 25 pitches to get through a harrowing bottom of the ninth in which none of the four Red Sox batters he faced put the ball in play (he walked one and struck out three). That was easily the most pitches he's thrown since taking over closer duties three weeks ago, during which time he's gone 8-for-8 in save situations.

Will Johnson need to turn to someone else tonight in Toronto if the Nationals hold a slim lead in the ninth?

"Bullpen coach Jimmy Lett said we might have to put him in sneakers tomorrow," the manager said. "He threw the heck out of the ball. I'm going to wait until he comes to me."

-- Danny Espinosa's night-and-day batting splits only turned more dramatic over the weekend. Against Boston's left-handed pitchers, he went 4-for-6 with four doubles and two walks. Against Boston's right-handers, he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Espinosa is now hitting .381 with a .480 on-base percentage and 1.194 OPS against left-handers, among the best offensive numbers in baseball. Against right-handers, he's hitting .188 with a .268 on-base percentage and a .556 OPS, among the worst offensive numbers in baseball.

-- Your Bizarro World fact of the morning: If the playoffs began today, the NL East champion Nationals would face the NL Central champion Pirates in the NLDS.

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Gio Gonzalez leads Nats to 6th straight win with 3-1 victory against Mets

Gio Gonzalez leads Nats to 6th straight win with 3-1 victory against Mets

NEW YORK -- Gio Gonzalez pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win again at Citi Field and the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets 3-1 on a drizzly Saturday for their sixth straight victory.

Gonzalez (2-0) gave up two singles in 6 1/3 innings. The lefty improved to 9-1 lifetime on the Mets' home field.

Still missing injured slugger Yoenis Cespedes and other starters, New York has lost seven of eight.

Koda Glover, the fourth Washington pitcher, completed the combined two-hitter by getting the last out for his first big league save.

Jacob deGrom (0-1) struck out 10 and walked six in 5 2/3 innings -- he matched a career high by fanning 13 in his last start. He was supposed to pitch Friday night, but was scratched with a stiff neck after sleeping on it wrong. Mets pitchers fanned 15 in all.

Trea Turner returned to the Nationals' starting lineup from a strained right hamstring and hit an RBI double. A day after being activated from the disabled list, he hustled home on Ryan Zimmerman's single for a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Turner got two hits and reached on an error.

Gonzalez struck out six and walked three in the 10th straight quality start by Washington pitchers. He worked around a pair of walks in the first, then retired 13 batters in a row until walking pinch hitter Jose Reyes to begin the sixth.

Juan Lagares followed with a sharp single up the middle for the Mets' first hit. It was his 15th career hit off Gonzalez, more than anyone's gotten against the lefty.

Asdrubal Cabrera made it 3-1 with an RBI single, but Gonzalez escaped further trouble by striking out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker.

Matt Wieters put Washington ahead with a single in the fourth that scored Bryce Harper. Daniel Murphy also tried to scoot home, but the throw beat him by a lot and he did a brief tango on the dirt around the plate before catcher Rene Rivera tagged him.

Murphy singled twice and ended his 0-for-14 skid. Harper, who began the day with a major league-leading .407 average, walked three times and struck out twice.

Both teams made nifty catches.

Left fielder Adam Eaton rushed in for a sliding grab on Rivera's liner in the fifth. The next inning, Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson angled into the alley for a diving, backhand stab on Michael Taylor's drive.

More Nationals: DOES MIKE RIZZO SEE THE NATS HAVING A CLOSER BY COMMITTEE?​

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Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

Nationals win fifth in a row as Harper powers Nats past Mets

NEW YORK -- Bryce Harper got off to a loud start, tagging a longtime nemesis. Way later, he enjoyed another trot home.

Harper homered early, then doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the 11th inning on a bases-loaded walk by Jeurys Familia, sending the Washington Nationals over the ailing New York Mets 4-3 Friday night for their fifth straight win.

"I think every game against them means a lot," Harper said.

This was the first of 19 meetings this season between the teams that have traded the NL East title the last three years.

"That would've been a big win for them," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It didn't take you long to see they were banged up and in trouble.

On a foggy night, Familia again had trouble finding the strike zone. He forced home a run with a walk to Trea Turner as the Mets lost for the sixth time in seven games. New York fell to 1-3 in extra innings early this season.

Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Travis d'Arnaud didn't start for the Mets because of injuries, on the same day they put first baseman Lucas Duda and infielder Wilmer Flores on the disabled list.

Plus, Matt Harvey wound up pitching when scheduled starter Jacob deGrom was scratched with a stiff neck. The Mets employed pitcher Zack Wheeler to pinch hit -- he doubled -- and another starter, Robert Gsellman, to pinch run.

"You've got to play with what you have, and I think we're doing the best we can right now," Harvey said.

Harper hit his seventh homer, lining a two-run drive in the first. He was 1 for 26 in his career against Harvey before connecting.

Did Harper think the law of averages was on his side?

"Never know," he said. "Might get dominated your whole life by one guy."

Harper is doing the dominating now. Bouncing back from a down year, the 2015 NL MVP is 12 for 19 (.632) with five home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs in his last five games.

Harper used his legs to set up the tiebreaking tally.

The Nationals, the top-hitting team in the major leagues, hadn't gotten a hit since Jose Lobaton's leadoff homer in the fifth when Harper sliced a one-out double in the 11th.

After Daniel Murphy was intentionally walked by Josh Smoker (0-1), Familia relieved. On Thursday night, Familia -- who led the majors with 51 saves last year -- made his season debut after a 15-game domestic violence suspension and labored through 30 pitches, walking two.

This time, he bounced a wild pitch to Anthony Rendon and Harper hustled into third, the safe call standing up on replay. Rendon wound up walking on a full-count pitch and Turner, activated from the disabled list before the game, walked on four pitches.

"This isn't a perfect world where you can pick the perfect spot," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He just didn't throw the ball over the plate, which is very uncharacteristic for him."

Enny Romero (1-0) got the win, and Shawn Kelley earned his third save.

Mets leadoff man Michael Conforto homered on Tanner Roark's first pitch of the game. Slumping Curtis Granderson hit an RBI single in the fourth and lined his first homer of the season in the sixth, tying it at 3.

Injured outfielder Jayson Werth sat out for Washington, catcher Matt Wieters got a day off and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman entered in the ninth. Murphy was back in the lineup after missing a game with tightness in his right leg.

Harvey pitched four-hit ball for seven innings. He hit Wilmer Difo, the second batter of the game, in the helmet with a 94 mph fastball. Difo stayed in, and Harper followed with his home run.