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Tanner Roark struggles as Nationals drop rubber match of series to Pirates

Tanner Roark struggles as Nationals drop rubber match of series to Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Adam Frazier is making the most of his chance as Pittsburgh's new left fielder.

Frazier had a career-high four RBIs, Josh Bell and John Jaso homered, and Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Washington Nationals 10-4 on Thursday.

Frazier hit a two-run double in the sixth inning and a two-run single in the seventh to help the Pirates pull away after Jaso's solo home run in the fifth inning broke a 4-4 tie. Frazier, the leadoff hitter, is 10 for 20 in his last four games.

"He's done a very nice job for us, very professional guy up there, sees pitches, swings the bat," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Frazier started the season as a utility player. However, right fielder Gregory Polanco is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and center fielder Starling Marte suspended until mid-July for violating baseball's drug agreement.

Andrew McCutchen has moved from right field to center field. Frazier who was activated from the DL last Friday after missing nearly three weeks with a strained left hamstring, is getting a chance in left field.

"Coming into the season, I prepared to be ready to play every day, even though there wasn't a spot in the lineup for me," Frazier said "You never know what's going to happen. Now, I'm just trying to do the same things that put me in this position."

Bell, a rookie batting cleanup for the first time in his brief big league career, opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the first inning. It was the switch-hitter's fourth in six games and team-high ninth this season.

"I'm just riding the wave right now," Bell said.

McCutchen and Chris Stewart each had two of the Pirates' 13 hits and Danny Ortiz singled in the seventh inning for his first big league hit. Jaso, who has three home runs, drove in two runs as Pittsburgh took two of three from the NL East-leading Nationals and won for the fourth time in five games.

The Nationals' Daniel Murphy had two hits, including his seventh home run, a solo shot in the second inning. Washington has lost five of its last six road games.

"It was a bad couple days," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We didn't play very well. We made a lot of mistakes. Seems like we weren't there sometimes. We just have to up the intensity and up our concentration."

Tyler Glasnow (2-3) got the win despite allowing four runs -- two earned -- in five innings.

Tanner Roark (3-2) was tagged for seven runs in five innings, remaining winless in four starts. Roark also walked four, his fifth time in six starts with three or more.

KANG LOSES APPEAL

Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who has been on the restricted list since spring training, lost his appeal Thursday of a suspended two-year prison sentence in his native South Korea for fleeing the scene after crashing a car into the guardrail while driving drunk.

Kang had sought to lower the punishment to a fine. His lawyers have called the suspended prison term issued in March a potential "death sentence" to his career, blaming it for visa issues that have prevented him from joining the Pirates.

Team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement that it would be premature to comment.

GETTING A BREATHER

Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman was not in the starting lineup after going 5 for 31 in his last eight games, a slide that dropped his batting average to .374 from .435. He went 1-for-2 with a double after entering in the sixth.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.46 ERA) faces Braves RHP R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.22) on Friday night at Atlanta.

Pirates: Rookie RHP Trevor Williams (2-2, 6.41) starts Friday night against visiting Philadelphia and RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 3.71).

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MLB Postseason 2017 Bracket Projection

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USA Today Sports

MLB Postseason 2017 Bracket Projection

Two weeks remain in the regular season for the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, and the rest of Major League Baseball.

Already, the Nationals have clinched a spot in the MLB postseason, while the Orioles are still clinging to an outside chance of making it through to one of the two Wild Card spots. If Baltimore were to make the surprise climb they would likely be the third team from the AL East to make the MLB postseason.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

Washington is joined by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the only two teams to have claimed a playoff berth in the National League. This past weekend the Dodgers took two out of three in a pivotal series from the Nationals to hold on to the top seed. The lead is now up to 6 games for Los Angeles after it was down to only 3.5 games in the middle of the week.

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The Dodgers have not clinched their division yet but with their turnaround in Washington this past weekend it is only a matter of time. Leading the Arizona Diamondbacks by 9.5 games, the Dodgers magic number is only four. With 96 wins, Los Angeles also would be the team to hold home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including the World Series.

Only the National League Central Division has an interesting battle as the year winds down, but the Chicago Cubs maintain a four game edge over the Milwaukee Brewers. Right behind the Brewers are the St. Louis Cardinals, two games back. There is brief two-game series for the Cubs in Tampa Bay before back-to-back road series against the Brewers than the Cardinals. Within a week, this division could be flipped over. It is a near lock that the division winner will be the No. 3 seed.

Arizona is likely to clinch one of the Wild Card berths this week. Colorado currently holds the second spot, and they're 2.5 up on the Brewers.

If the season were to end today, here is how the National League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Colorado Rockies (82-68) at No. 4 Arizona Diamondbacks (87-63)

National League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (96-53) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Washington Nationals (90-59) vs. No. 3 Chicago Cubs (83-66)

Wild Card Race:

Arizona Diamondbacks:  +5.0
Colorado Rockies:              ---
Milwaukee Brewers:        -2.5
St. Louis Cardinals:          -4.5
Miami Marlins:                -12.5

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Thanks to their improbable 22-game winning streak, the Cleveland Indians now sit atop the American League. They hold a slight 1.5 game lead over the Houston Astros for the top seed and home-field advantage in the AL. Both of these teams have already handily clinched their divisions holding on to the No. 1 and 2 seeds.

The incredible run by Cleveland has also put them 3.5 games behind the Dodgers for home-field throughout the entire postseason.

As it does seemingly every year, the American League East will come down to the wire. The New York Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by only three games with their season series already wrapped up. Of the Yankees final 13 games though, 10 are at home where they are 43-28 on the season. Boston only has seven at home and six on the road. New York also faces an easier stretch playing opponents with a combined .487 win percentage compared to Boston’s .501.

Unlike the National League Wild Card, which is essentially down to four teams, the American League is wide open. Ten teams are mathematically still alive including the Oakland Athletics who are 17 games under .500. New York or Boston will likely take the top Wild Card slot with the Minnesota Twins currently holding down second. The Los Angeles Angels (2.0 games back), Seattle Mariners (4.5 games back), and the Kansas City Royals (5.0 games back) are giving chase.

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It will be tough for the Twins to hold on to the final spot with 10 of their final 13 games being on the road. First up for them is a three-game series in the Bronx. The Red Sox and Orioles also start a three-game series in Baltimore with much on the line for both teams. 

If the season were to end today, here is how the American League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Minnesota Twins (78-71) at No. 4 New York Yankees (82-67)

American League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Cleveland Indians (93-57) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Houston Astros (91-58) vs. No. 3 Boston Red Sox (85-64)

Wild Card Race:

New York Yankees:     +4.0
Minnesota Twins:          ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -2.0
Seattle Mariners:         -4.5
Kansas City Royals:      -5.0
Texas Rangers:             -5.0
Baltimore Orioles:       -5.5
Tampa Bay Rays:          -5.5
Toronto Blue Jays:       -8.5
Oakland Athletics:      -12.0

MORE MLB NEWS: BRYCE HARPER NEARING POSTSEASON RETURN

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Nationals' Bryce Harper takes next step in recovery from knee injury

Nationals' Bryce Harper takes next step in recovery from knee injury

WASHINGTON-- Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper took swings during batting practice Sunday for the first time since hyperextending his left knee on Aug. 12.

Harper previously had taken cuts in the batting cage, but was on the field before the Nationals' series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His session included several shots deep into the stands at Nationals Park.

"Just trying to get out there and trying put the bat on the ball and just try to be as fluid as I can and try to get my swing back," said the 2015 NL MVP, who is second in the NL with a .326 batting average.

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The NL East champions open the NLDS on Oct. 6.

"I hope so. That's definitely in my head," Harper said of a return goal. "That's what I want to do. That's where I want to be. But it takes time."

Harper remains second on Washington with 29 home runs this season despite missing 34 games.

He was injured at home against the Giants when he awkwardly landed on the slick first base bag during a game that was delayed by rain. Washington placed the All-Star on the disabled list the following day.

"It just happened. It's something I can't control," Harper said. "It definitely was a freak accident. We put it behind us as quick as possible and tried to get everything going as quick as we could. And then it was all behind me. I didn't really worry about it much."

The right fielder said he tested the knee Sunday running to first base. "Felt fine. Just super-easy. Just kind of jogging to first and trying to get the feel for it again. Running to first feels a lot more comfortable than running on the track. "

Harper said timing in the batter's box could be a process. If his return matches the start of the postseason, he'll have to adjust on the fly.

"It's definitely going to be a tough thing," Harper said. "If we play Chicago, I might be facing Jon Lester for my first at-bat in six weeks. That's a tough task. It's going to take some time. Hopefully, I can get back and get going a little sooner than later."

Harper was succinct with his biggest physical test remaining.

"Playing in a baseball game. That's going to be the biggest thing, getting in there and playing the game and feeling good," he said. "As long as I'm healthy, that's all I want."