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Storen likely 2 weeks from return

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Storen likely 2 weeks from return

ATLANTA -- Drew Storen took another important step today in his return from elbow surgery -- one of his final steps -- when he threw 40 pitches to live hitters in the cage at Turner Field prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Braves.

Though the Nationals aren't setting an exact timetable for the reliever's activation off the disabled list, the club's July 13 second-half opener in Miami is a target date.

"I'd say that's probably a really good timeframe there," maanger Davey Johnson said.

"I mean, it seems logical," Storen added.

Storen, who has yet to pitch this season following surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, will throw a two-inning, simulated game on Monday in Washington, then begin a rehab assignment with a minor-league affiliate sometime later in the week. That would give him ample time to make several game appearances (including on back-to-back days) before conceivably joining the Nationals for their second-half opener against the Marlins.

Storen was at first surprised during today's live BP session when batters Chad Tracy and Jhonatan Solano were consistently making solid contact off him.

"I was thinking: Man, they're seeing it pretty well," he said.

After the session, Storen learned that bullpen catcher Nilson Robledo was letting the hitters know what pitches were about to be thrown.

"Once I figured that out, I felt much better about it," Storen said.

Storen also feels great about the state of his elbow, which he says feels stronger now than it did while he was recording 43 saves last season. Only now does he realize he was probably dealing with the injury at the time.

"I'm pretty amazed," he said. "Even last year, after you're done pitching it would be a little swollen. I just thought that was normal. Now it feels really good."

Though he can see the finish line at last after three months of recovery and rehabilitation, Storen is wary of thinking too far ahead or just assuming he's in the clear now.

"This last 10 percent of the rehab is just as important as the beginning," he said. "It's kind of like doing a big school project. You've just got to do the annoying little things. You've got to do the bibliography. You really don't want to do it, but you're going to get counted off if you don't."

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Bryce Harper reportedly will come off the disabled list tomorrow

Bryce Harper reportedly will come off the disabled list tomorrow

Bryce Harper's (probably) back. 

With just over two weeks left in the regular season, the Nationals star is set to be activated off the disabled list, according to the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes:

Harper hasn't played since August 12, when he slipped awkwardly on the first base bag while trying to beat out a grounder. He suffered a signifcant bone bruise, although the injury looked considerably worse than it ended up being. 

Before getting hurt, Harper was hitting .326/.419/.614 on the year with a 1.034 OPS and 29 home runs. 

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

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Nationals, without their big guns, fall to Mets

NEW YORK -- Travis d'Arnaud hit two home runs and the New York Mets ended a three-game skid, rallying past a watered-down lineup of Washington Nationals 7-6 on Friday night.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said he needed to "give my big boys much needed rest" with the playoffs nearing, and not a single regular started for the NL East champions. Star Daniel Murphy pinch hit in the eighth and flied out.

MORE NATS: RATHER HAVE THE CUBS, BREWERS, OR CARDINALS IN NLDS?

The Nationals begin the Division Series in exactly two weeks. If the current standings hold, they would host the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to open the best-of-five matchup.

Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for Washington. It was the Nationals' 203rd home run this season, matching the franchise record dating to 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos.

Howie Kendrick had an RBI double and prized prospect Victor Robles lined a two-run triple in the fifth that put Washington ahead 6-1.

Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley exited in the eighth inning because of an apparent injury. He' has struggled this season and missed more than two months because of back problems.

Nori Aoki had three hits for the Mets, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning off Joe Blanton (2-4).

Chasen Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Jeurys Familia, the Mets' third pitcher in the ninth inning, came on to strike out Robles with runners on first and third for his fourth save -- his first since May 5. Familia, who missed three months after surgery to repair a blood clot, entered as part of a double switch, with Kevin Plawecki taking over at catcher for d'Arnaud.

D'Arnaud hit a solo homer in the second and connected for a tying, three-run drive in the fifth that finished starter Edwin Jackson. That gave d'Arnaud a career-best 15 homers and marked his second multihomer game, the other coming in April against Washington.

MORE MLB: POSTSEASON BRACKET PROJECTION (THURSDAY)

Mets starter Robert Gsellman allowed six runs in five innings. He moved up a day to pitch in place of ace Jacob deGrom, who was moved back in the rotation until Sunday because of a stomach illness this week.