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Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

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Suzuki finds his stroke in Nationals lineup

NEW YORK -- Davey Johnson has been a fan of Kurt Suzuki's offensive prowess since he first managed the catcher during a 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament in Cuba. So the Nationals skipper isn't surprised at all by what he's seen from Suzuki over the last two weeks.

"He's swinging the bat like he did there," Johnson said. "He's short to the ball, and he's got some pop. And everybody knows he's a great defender. So he just fits right in. Everybody in the lineup is a threat right now."

Indeed, Suzuki's recent surge at the plate completes the Nationals' lineup and gives Johnson a power threat in every starting spot. Collectively, his club has hit 33 homers over its last 13 games (entering tonight's contest against the Mets) and Suzuki has been a major contributor.

After struggling to find his swing in the immediate aftermath of his Aug. 3 trade from Oakland -- he hit .192 with a paltry .476 OPS in his first 14 games with the Nationals -- Suzuki has hit .333 with four homers and a 1.089 OPS over his last 12 games.

The 28-year-old catcher isn't trying to analyze too much what's made this reversal of fortune possible.

"It's getting a good pitch to hit and trying to put a good swing on it and trying not to do too much," he said after homering during last night's win over New York. "Baseball is weird. Sometimes you run into them, and sometimes you don't."

Truth be told, Suzuki has been working extensively with hitting coach Rick Eckstein on a shorter, more-compact swing, the result of which is starting to produce tangible results.

Suzuki's recent hot streak coincides with the Nationals' overall offensive surge. All of a sudden, a lineup that often struggled during the season's first half to score three or four runs a night is now averaging 6.8 runs (and 2.5 homers) per night.

"From what I've been seeing so far since I've been here, the talent is unbelievable," Suzuki said. "So it doesn't surprise me one bit."

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan

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Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger. 

When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue. 

Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season. 

Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans. 

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts. 

Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010. 

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