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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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Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats hit 8 HRs to blast Brewers 15-2

The Washington Nationals tied a franchise record with eight home runs, including two apiece by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, and Max Scherzer pitched six innings of three-hit ball in a 15-2 rout of the fading Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.

Washington matched two major league records in a seven-run third inning: Most consecutive home runs (four) and most home runs in an inning (five).

After Harper connected off Michael Blazek (0-1) in the first inning, Brian Goodwin started the long-ball barrage in the third with a two-run drive. Wilmer Difo, Harper and Zimmerman followed with long home runs.

MORE NATIONALS: Watch the Nats hit back to back homeruns 

The streak was interrupted when Daniel Murphy flied out, after which some of the fans reacted with good-natured booing.

Anthony Rendon resumed the fun with a shot to dead center that finally chased Blazek, whose first major league start was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Zimmerman and Jose Lobaton both homered off Wily Peralta in the fourth for a 15-1 lead.

The eight home runs tied the franchise mark set in July 1978 by the Montreal Expos against Atlanta.

Scherzer (12-5) allowed one run and struck out nine to bring his total this year to 201 -- his sixth consecutive season with at least 200, the longest active streak in the majors.

The right-hander had plenty of offensive support, most notably from Harper, who had three hits and four RBIs while extending his career-best hitting streak to 19 games.

Travis Shaw and Lewis Brinson homered for the Brewers, who have lost nine of 11 to drop from first place in the NL Central.

Blazek gave up seven hits, six of them home runs, in just 2 1/3 innings. Peralta allowed seven runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings, a performance that raised his ERA to 7.85.

MOVE OVER, HONDO

Zimmerman's two home runs upped his total with the Nationals to 237, tied with Frank Howard for most in Washington history.

Known affectionately as "Hondo," the 6-foot-7 Howard played with the expansion Senators from 1965-71.

ROSTER MOVE

The Brewers added RHP Anthony Swarzak to the roster after obtaining him Wednesday in a trade with the White Sox.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (10-3, 3.25 ERA) was placed on the 10-day disabled list with an elbow impingement. Manager Dusty Baker expects Strasburg to miss only one start. ... OF Michael Taylor (oblique strain) is almost ready to begin baseball activities, Baker said. Taylor has been on the DL since July 7.

UP NEXT

Brewers: Brent Suter (1-1, 2.84 ERA) takes the mound Friday night in the opener of a three-game showdown with the visiting Chicago Cubs.

Nationals: Tanner Roark (8-6, 4.83 ERA) helps Washington launch a three-game series at home against the Colorado Rockies.

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Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

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Watch the Nationals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back HRs against the Brewers

Bryce Harper was thrown out in the eighth inning of Wednesday's win over the Brewers.

Apparently, he needs to be thrown out of games more.

Harper's second home run of the game Thursday against the Brewers, was part of a four straight home run barrage the Nationals put together in the third inning.

First it was Brian Goodwin homering to right to start things off.

Then it was Wilmer Difo's turn.

Harper was next, which by the way was already his second of the game.

Ryan Zimmerman made sure he kept the streak going after Harper.

And now all four at once, just for emphasis.

The Nats weren't done in the inning either. After Daniel Murphy would fly out to center and end the streak, Anthony Rendon would add another home run to the inning. 

The Nationals became the eighth team in MLB history to hit four straight home runs. The Diamondbacks were the last back in 2010.