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Nats, 'Sun Monster' get revenge vs. Brewers

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Nats, 'Sun Monster' get revenge vs. Brewers

Playing at home against the Brewers with the Atlanta Braves enjoying a day off, the Nationals were given a chance to create some separation and lower their magic number to win the division to five. The previous day they had lost to Milwaukee with the help of a few unfortunate encounters with the sun on outfield fly balls. But on this day, it was the Brewers who felt its wrath.

You know, you gotta be lucky. We were lucky today. It really probably cost them the game today and cost us the game yesterday, Jayson Werth said.

I don't remember a worse sun field, worse sun conditions. Left field in San Fran is tough, but this borders on ridiculous. Ive never seen anything like it. You almost dont have a chance out there as the game goes on.

Not only was Werth one of the Nationals players who lost a ball in the sun in Sundays loss, it was he who hit the fly ball that Carlos Gomez lost in Mondays 12-2 win. Werth stepped to the plate in the fourth inning to face Brewers starter Marco Estrada with Jordan Zimmermann on second and Kurt Suzuki on first. He popped a towering fly ball to center field where Gomez jogged in to get under it. Gomez sidestepped slowly before realizing he had lost it and ended up diving in a last attempt to catch the ball. Both men on base scored as the Nationals took a 4-1 lead.

The two-out rally continued as Bryce Harper walked to join Werth on base. After a double steal by Werth and Harper, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a three-run homer to right-center to blow open the game and give the Nationals an early sigh of relief against one of the leagues hottest teams.

My guys feel it. Theres no doubt about it. The ballclub, we ran into a hot club. Theyre swinging the bats awfully good, Davey Johnson said.

We needed to hold our own with them and we did. So its a good win to go on this road trip six days against a couple good ballclubs, too. I mean, theyre feeling it.

The timing was good but so perhaps was the nature of the win. Nearly every player on the lineup card today contributed on offense and defense, even pitcher Jordan Zimmermann.

The Nats starter gave up one earned run in 6 23 innings of work, a solo home run by Corey Hart on the very first pitch of the second inning. After that he settled down and kept Milwaukee scoreless until he was hooked after his 106th pitch of the afternoon. He finished with four hits and two walks allowed with seven strikeouts.

On offense Zimmermann also pitched in by going two for three with a pair of singles. He led off the third inning with his first hit and knocked in the teams second run with a two-out grounder up the middle in the fourth inning.

As a pitcher he is now 12-8 on the season with a 2.90 ERA through 189 13 innings.

I was throwing the fastball for strikes and getting ahead. When I do that, I feel like I can control the game and throw what I want when I want. Tonight I was able to do that, he said.

As a hitter he had two hits, a run, and an RBI.

Its awesome. Anytime I can get on base is good. I saw a curveball and hit it up the middle and the other one was a fastball or I dont know, maybe a changeup I broke my bat on and blooped it out there.

Zimmermanns all-around day also just happened to come against his hometown team.

Its definitely good to beat the Brewers. Everyone back home was probably cheering for the Brewers, so hopefully I put em in their place a little bit.

As much as Zimmermann did for the team on Monday, it was Ryan Zimmerman who had the biggest impact. The Nationals third baseman also added an RBI in the eighth inning on a fly ball to right. Two runners scored on the play as Milwaukees Norichika Aoki made an error fielding the ball. Zimmerman had two runs on the day and now has 24 homers, 90 runs, and 93 RBI on the season.

Next up for the Nationals is a three game series with the Phillies, a team they will see in six of their final nine games. The magic number is at five as Atlanta gets set to host the Miami Marlins. Winning the division has been their goal for quite some time and with each win they get one step closer.

Were getting close. Weve just got to take it one game at a time and not try to look too far ahead. Just go to Philly and try to take care of business there and see what happens, Zimmermann said.

NOTES: Ian Desmond stole his 20th base of the season in the fifth inning to become only the second Nats player to do so since the club moved to D.C. (Alfonso Soriano in 2006) Eury Perez had his first major league hit in the ninth inning when he ran out an infield groundball.

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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

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