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Roark, bench bats help snap seven-game losing streak

Roark, bench bats help snap seven-game losing streak

Rejoice, Nationals fans. The streak is finally over.

After Sunday afternoon's 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nats snapped their season-high seven-game losing streak and headed back to D.C. on a high note. The win, coupled with a loss by the New York Mets, gives Washington a three-game lead in the NL East ahead of this week's key series at Nats Park between the two division rivals. 

Now that the skid is over with, here are a few thoughts on Sunday's game and more: 

Roark saves the day: With Stephen Strasburg’s Sunday start scratched due to a back injury, it was up to Tanner Roark to play the role of stopper. And boy did he ever.

Pitching a day before he was scheduled to, Roark gave the Nats a clutch outing to help snap their losing skid. He threw seven shutout frames and struck out seven on 95 pitches, raising his record to 7-5 and lowering his ERA on the season 2.96.

For sure, he wasn't dominant the entire way — the Brewers scattered seven hits off him — but he did what so few Nats starters had done throughout this recent slide: he worked his way out of jams. When the Brewers had runners at the corners and two out in the fourth inning, he stuck out Kirk Nieuwenhuis to end the threat. Three innings innings later, with the tying run on third base, he retired Alex Presley and Jonathan Villar to keep the Nats' 1-0 lead in tact. Dusty Baker lamented on Saturday how starter Gio Gonzalez couldn't get the third out in big spots, but Roark came through in that area in spades in the series finale.  

And if it wasn’t obvious enough just how big Roark’s performance was, his teammates greeted him with jubilant high-fives in the dugout after he escaped his last inning on the afternoon unscathed. He may not be considered the staff ace, but on Sunday, he did what aces are called upon to do.  

Bench bats deliver again: On a day where most of the regulars in the lineup struggled at the plate, the decisive blows in this game came from a pair of bench players. Then again, the Nats’ reserves have come up big all season long, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise when it keeps happening.

In a scoreless tie in the seventh inning, Jose Lobaton put Washington out front with an opposite-field solo home run, and Clint Robinson followed that up in the eighth by launching a two-run shot to create a 3-0 cushion. And even though things got dicey in the ninth inning — the Brewers were a base hit away from tying the game — those runs would be just good enough to secure a 3-2 victory.  

Who replaces Strasburg? The big news that broke before Sunday's game was that Stephen Strasburg was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an upper back injury. And while Nats fans are rightfully concerned about how seriously injured the star pitcher might be, the team has to find an adequate replacement for him in the meantime.

Baker said after Sunday's game that the Nats will call up a minor league pitcher to start in Strasburg's absence on Tuesday night against the New York Mets. The question is — who that might be? Some fans are clamoring to get a glimpse of top prospect Lucas Giolito, but is this the time for him to make his major league debut? That's for the organization to decide. If Giolito isn't the choice, then keep an eye on is 24-year-old Austin Voth, who is 4-3 with a 2.99 ERA at Syracuse and appears to be better positioned to make a spot start. 

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Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

USA Today Sports

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and the Washington Nationals tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.

Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and drove in a pair of runs for the NL East champion Nationals.

Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters' leadoff double. Trea Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..

Scherzer retired the first 11 Atlanta hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta's first run.

Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.

Dansby Swanson's fifth-inning double provided Atlanta's other run.


Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched from the lineup shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo.

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It's been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departedt, while Jace Peterson took over leadoff spot in the order.


Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series Wednesday night. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.

Braves: RH Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to skip his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption


Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

ATLANTA -- In his last start, only his second in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara outpitched Washington Nationals ace and Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.

On Tuesday, he gets to try it again.

Gohara (1-1, 6.30 ERA) is queued up for a rematch with Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) and the Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at SunTrust Park.

Washington (90-59) has clinched the National League East title for the fourth time in six years. Atlanta (67-81) was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration after its Sunday loss to the New York Mets. The two teams have split 16 games this season, with the Braves winning two of three last week in Washington.


Gohara showed why he is in contention to join the Atlanta rotation on a full-time basis in 2018. The big left-hander from Brazil, who went from Class A to the majors in one season, beat the Nationals 8-2 on Wednesday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings, striking out six. He didn't issue a walk.

In that start, Gohara located his four-seam fastball -- something he couldn't do in his major league debut against Texas.

"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."

Scherzer endured his worst start of the season against the Braves last week. He gave up a season-high seven runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks in six innings. He threw 116 pitches, part of the plan to stretch him out for the postseason.

"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to," Scherzer said. "Then, after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."

The big hiccup for Scherzer came when he allowed a grand slam to Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. However, on Tuesday, he isn't likely to face Kemp, who has missed the past two games after leaving the Friday contest with a strained hamstring.

In 16 career appearances, 14 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. In 2017, he has made four starts against the Braves, going 1-2 with a 4.91. He was 4-0 against Atlanta a year ago.

The hottest batter for the Braves has been center fielder Ender Inciarte, who is 10 hits shy of becoming only the seventh player in Atlanta franchise history to reach 200. The last Brave to get 200 hits was Marquis Grissom, who had 207 in 1996.

Washington's Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of a 30-homer/30-double season. Last week, he joined Adam Dunn as the only Nationals player to post two 30-homer seasons with the club.