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Utilizing bullpen, Nationals battle it out with the Marlins

Utilizing bullpen, Nationals battle it out with the Marlins

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer pitched seven sharp innings in his first start since he was sidelined by neck spasms, and the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Monday night.

Bryce Harper homered for Washington, and pinch hitter Adam Lind singled in the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning. The Nationals expanded their lead in the NL East over second-place Miami to 14 games.

Wilmer Difo led off the eighth with a single off Jarlin Garcia (0-2). He reached second on a bunt and, with two outs, Lind delivered a single up the middle.

It was Lind's 13th pinch hit of the season, and his 10th RBI in that role.

Brandon Kintzler (4-2) worked the eighth and Sean Doolittle got three outs to earn his sixth save. Both pitchers were acquired shortly before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Giancarlo Stanton hit his major league-leading 37th homer for the Marlins, matching his previous career high.

Scherzer struck out nine and gave up two runs. The right-hander was coming off an abbreviated start against the Marlins six days earlier, when he was pulled after one inning with neck spasms.

In this one, Scherzer allowed only five hits, two of which really mattered: Stanton's home run and an RBI single by pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, who stepped to the plate with a .036 lifetime batting average.

In a strange twist, Marlins starter Chris O'Grady was forced from the game with a right oblique strain after facing only five batters. He walked Ryan Zimmerman in the second inning and was replaced by Despaigne, who subsequently gave up an RBI single to Matt Wieters.

Harper hit his 29th home run leading off the fourth, a drive deep into the right-field seats. He hit 24 all last season.

Miami got a run back in the fifth when Tomas Telis doubled and scored on a two-out single by Despaigne, who was 2 for 56 with no RBIs in his six-year career.

Stanton tied it in the sixth with his 17th home run at Nationals Park, most by any visiting player.

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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."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

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Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.