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Tanner Roark to start in World Baseball Classic semifinals against Japan on Tuesday

Tanner Roark to start in World Baseball Classic semifinals against Japan on Tuesday

LOS ANGELES — Tanner Roark is getting a chance to redeem himself in the World Baseball Classic.

The Washington Nationals pitcher will start for the United States against Japan in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. The Americans are trying to reach the championship game for the first time in four editions of the WBC.

The Netherlands was set to face Puerto Rico on Monday night for the other spot in Wednesday's final.

Japan advanced to the semifinals by winning Pool E with a 3-0 record. The U.S. finished second to Puerto Rico in Pool F with a 2-1 record.

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Manager Jim Leyland is turning to Roark against right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano.

Roark came on in relief during a 7-5 loss to the Dominican Republic in the first round on March 11 in Miami. The right-hander allowed a solo homer to Manny Machado that launched the Dominicans' comeback, along with a two-run single by Carlos Santana.

"He's gotten the short end of the stick a little bit so far, to be honest with you, the way things worked out," Leyland said Monday. "But he deserves this start. He's been a trooper. He signed up for this event, and I'm pitching him. I feel very, very comfortable about it."

Roark appreciates the opportunity in a game he says is the biggest of his career because of the single-elimination format.

"It's been a little bit since I've been in there facing live hitters," he said. "But the key is to pitch to my strength, and that is throw strikes and get outs."

Roark has worked to stay sharp in multiple bullpen sessions and by watching games closely.

"Just trying to stay mentally focused on the game, even though I'm not in there," he said. "Just watching how the hitters react, and just watching and trying to learn as much as I can from all these guys."

Sugano learned he would start the semifinal while he was waiting at Narita Airport for the team's flight to the United States.

"I trust him," Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said.

Japan played an exhibition against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Arizona on Sunday, where the climate is hot.

Conditions in Los Angeles will be considerably cooler, with rain in the forecast on Tuesday and Wednesday and temperatures around 65 degrees.

"It's finally here," Sugano said. "Tomorrow, for sure we'll win and advance to the final, that's how I feel."

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Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time

HOUSTON -- Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer, Howie Kendrick had a two-run triple and the Washington Nationals beat Houston for the ninth straight time, 4-3 Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's winning streak over the Astros dates to 2012. The Nationals have won 13 of 14 against Houston since 2011.

Kendrick's triple tied it in the third before the Astros went back on top with an RBI single by Josh Reddick in the bottom half. Anthony Rendon doubled with two outs in the fourth before the homer by Wieters, which landed just to the right of straightaway center field, gave the NL East leaders a 4-3 lead.

Tanner Roark (10-8) allowed six hits and two earned runs in 5 2-3 innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Charlie Morton (10-6) gave up four runs in six innings for the AL West-leading Astros.

The Astros threatened in the eighth against Brandon Kintzler when Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles and the Nationals intentionally walked Carlos Beltran with one out to load the bases. But Max Stassi grounded into a double play to leave Houston trailing.

George Springer led off the Houston first with a single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Reddick.

Beltran doubled off the wall in left-center field in the second and scored on a single by Derek Fisher.

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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

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