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Strasburg bounces back

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Strasburg bounces back

There may be no pitcher in baseball who beats himself up after a poor outing more than Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander might as well be wrapped in Kryptonite during the four days after he takes a loss.
"You don't really want to get close to him," manager Davey Johnson said. "Because he's very cognizant of every little thing that doesn't go the way he plans."
Strasburg may get down on himself after a bad start, but he also rebounds from those rare occasions better than anyone in his profession. Just ask the Marlins, who on Sunday once again served as roadkill for the 24-year-old hurler.
With six scoreless innings of three-hit ball, Strasburg pitched the Nationals to a 4-1 victory and once again erased the negative memories of his prior start.
In that previous outing Tuesday against the Phillies, Strasburg matched his career-high in allowing six earned runs while lasting only four innings (his shortest appearance ever when health wasn't a factor). But history has shown he always bounces back when handed the ball again.
Strasburg has surrendered four or more earned runs only five times in his big-league career. In the five starts that followed, he's now 4-0 with an 0.90 ERA.
"Really?" first baseman Adam LaRoche wondered aloud when told of that fact.
Does that ability to bounce back from a bad start to dominate the next time out reveal something about a pitcher?
"I think after a bad start, you sit down and you look at the mistakes you made," LaRoche said. "And I think for him, a lot of the time, he feels like he mentally let down or over-thought something. ... He comes back after a start and he'll blame himself for the majority of it. So I can see the next time out not allowing himself to go there, to stick with his gameplan and attack everybody, trust how good your stuff is."
Strasburg indeed appeared to go back to basics on Sunday, relying more on his fastball and staying in sync with catcher Jesus Flores. He issued only one walk, struck out six, extended his scoreless innings streak against the Marlins to 27 and still had more left in the tank when Johnson pulled him after 91 pitches.
Cognizant of the heat and humidity on an August afternoon in D.C., not to mention Strasburg's nebulous innings limit in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Johnson decided to turn to his bullpen for the game's final three innings. The philosophy worked, with Craig Stammen giving up back-to-back doubles to open the seventh but then setting down the Marlins in order to close out the inning, Sean Burnett tossing a 1-2-3 eighth and then Drew Storen -- yes, Drew Storen -- pitching a scoreless ninth in his first save opportunity of the season.
Having lost his job to bullpen-mate and roommate Tyler Clippard while recovering from elbow surgery, Storen has been used exclusively in a setup role since coming off the disabled list last month. But after Clippard had pitched on three consecutive days, Johnson decided to let the man who saved 43 games in 2011 get a crack at his first save of 2012.
Storen responded with a dominant inning of relief. Though he allowed a two-out single to Greg Dobbs, he mixed and matched his best assortment of pitches since his surgery, getting devastating movement on his slider, changeup and sinker to baffle the Miami lineup with the game on the line.
"It was good to see him back out there and get that out of the way," Johnson said. "It kind of completes the rehab."
Said Storen: "It was a lot of fun. Especially when you're pitching for a first-place team in that situation, it doesn't get much better than that."
The Nationals afforded Storen the opportunity to close because they jumped out to an early lead thanks to a four-run second inning that featured clutch hits from their two most-consistent offensive forces this season: LaRoche and Strasburg.
LaRoche, who just completed an 11-for-18, 4-homer, 10-RBI week, is not that big a surprise as an offensive contributor. Strasburg, on the other hand, has emerged out of nowhere this season to become the best-hitting pitcher in the game. His two-run single off Ricky Nolasco Sunday raised his batting average to .343 and his RBI total to seven.
Extrapolate his numbers out over a 600 at-bat season, and Strasburg would drive in 120 runs.
"I can't explain it," he said. "Just trying to not strike out every time, just trying to do my job. It's big when you have a pitcher in your lineup who can handle a bat."
And it's even bigger when you have a pitcher in your rotation who can brush off sub-par starts and come back five days later with dominant performances.
All Strasburg has to do is remember what got him here in the first place.
"Nobody's ever come down to first base and said it's a comfortable at-bat," LaRoche said. "Every hitter I've ever talked to down there is not comfortable in the box. That's the best thing a pitcher can ask for. He just needs to believe it every start. He's getting there."

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Cubs catcher Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment after angry comments about Nats game

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero to be designated for assignment after angry comments about Nats game

The Washington Nationals were stealing bases all night long against the Chicago Cubs, swiping a total of seven bags in a 6-1 victory on Tuesday.

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Following the game, tensions were high for Cubs catcher Miguel Montero who quickly pointed the blame at pitcher Jake Arrieta for the stolen bases. 

Cubs star first baseman Anthony Rizzo addressed the situation, calling Montero "selfish."

Less than 24 hours later, Montero was designated for assignment. 

The Cubs have decided to call up Triple-A catcher Victor Caratini to replace Montero, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

The Nats may have literally run Montero out of Chicago. 

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Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

Trea Turner ties franchise record of stolen bases in single game with Nats 6-1 win over Cubs

WASHINGTON -- Neither of the past two NL Cy Young Award winners had his best stuff, though Max Scherzer handled things much better than Jake Arrieta.

Scherzer allowed one run and two hits as the Washington Nationals knocked Arrieta out in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night. While Arrieta was slow to the plate and allowed seven stolen bases, Scherzer (9-5) threw a strong six innings, striking out six with no walks and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

"I didn't really have great fastball command tonight, but I was able to use my offspeed to kind of collect outs when I needed to and I didn't walk anybody," said Scherzer, who allowed an earned run in the first inning for the first time since April but was in command the rest of the night. "When we needed shutdown innings we got them."

Arrieta (7-6), on the other hand, struggled with his control as he issued a season-high six walks and allowed five earned runs, getting the hook two batters into the fifth inning. The 2015 Cy Young winner hadn't walked more than three batters in a game this season.

Manager Joe Maddon quipped that the Cubs "let the wrong guys on base," but catcher Miguel Montero blamed Arrieta for all the steals.

"The reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate," a visibly frustrated Montero said. "It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time."

Four of the Montreal Expos/Nationals franchise record seven steals came from speedy shortstop Trea Turner, who Arrieta called a "factor" any time he's on.

"I don't care who is behind the plate," Arrieta said. "He's a threat."

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Washington manager Dusty Baker said the team knew Arrieta was a pitcher to run on, and the result was a lot of small ball for a team accustomed to driving in runs with power. Washington center fielder Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Scherzer washed out the RBI triple he allowed to Kris Bryant in the first by driving in a run with an infield single off Arrieta's glove in the fourth.

When Scherzer was lifted after 93 pitches through six with a comfortable 6-1 lead, the Nationals' beleaguered bullpen got three clean innings of relief from Enny Romero, Blake Treinen, Oliver Perez and Matt Albers.

Trea Turner tied the franchise record with four steals in a game, repeating his own feat from two weeks ago. He had a chance in the eighth to break the record and move within one of the most in a game in the modern era of baseball but did not try with Bryce Harper up and a five-run lead.

"I don't think I was held, but I didn't know if I was supposed to go," said Turner, who has 32 stolen bases this season.