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Werth shouldn't rush back

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Werth shouldn't rush back

NEW YORK -- The Nationals have survived without Jayson Werth for nearly three months now, and the time is fast approaching for the veteran right fielder to rejoin the club after recovering from a broken left wrist.

Werth played in his first rehab game with Class AAA Syracuse last night -- he went 0-for-3, grounding into a double play -- and general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson have both said they'll let the 33-year-old dictate how much more time he needs in the minors.

That could be as little as one more week, and Johnson acknowledged Werth could come off the disabled list for the start of the Nationals' next homestand. That just so happens to come on July 31, with the Phillies in town. And wouldn't that offer up a juicy storyline, with Werth returning to the field against his former club and against the same team he was facing when he broke the wrist in the first place (with many Philadelphia fans in attendance mocking him as he departed the field in terrible pain).

Obviously, Werth has motivation to make it back for that game. But the Nationals need to be careful not to rush him back too soon, for a couple of reasons...

1) As we saw earlier this summer with Michael Morse, it can take a while for a player who has missed considerable time with an injury to get his swing back on track. Morse (who played only seven rehab games before coming off the DL) needed almost a month in the big leagues before he looked like his old self again.

2) The Nats have been making do for awhile now without Werth, and they can make do for another week or two if they have to. Roger Bernadina is playing extraordinarily well at the moment, and his is the outfield and lineup spot Werth would take over.

There could be some temptation on the Nationals part to try to get Werth back in the lineup as quickly as possible now that they've lost Ian Desmond to an oblique tear. But that's the wrong reason to rush another player back from a serious injury.

Desmond's injury has actually brought some clarity to a Nationals lineup that might have needed to be jumbled up once Werth was back. His return would have left Johnson with two second basemen in Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi and only one starting job between them. And whoever would up starting would have to lead off, given the makeup of the rest of the lineup.

With Desmond out for at least a month, though, both Espinosa and Lombardozzi remain in the lineup, with Lombardozzi assuming permanent leadoff duties. That actually will save Johnson from making a difficult decision, and he can now just insert Werth into the No. 6 spot behind Adam LaRoche and in front of Espinosa, a natural fit.

But that arrangement only works if Werth is healthy and ready to face big-league pitchers. One week on rehab may not be enough.

The Nationals would be wise to take their time here. And Werth would be wise to listen to them and return only when he's truly ready.

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Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

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USA Today Sports

Max Scherzer bounces back from last week's rough start against Atlanta

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer allowed five hits in seven innings, and the Washington Nationals tuned up for the playoffs with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.

Scherzer (15-6) bounced back from his worst start of the season, also against the Braves last week, when he walked six and was roughed up for seven runs in an 8-2 loss.

This time, Scherzer struck out seven and walked only one while throwing 83 of 112 pitches for strikes.

Ryan Madson pitched around trouble in the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished with a perfect for his 22nd save, his 19th in as many chances since the Nationals acquired him from Oakland on July 16.

Ryan Zimmerman had three hits and drove in a pair of runs for the NL East champion Nationals.

Rookie left-hander Luiz Gohara (1-2) surrendered four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Washington took a 2-0 lead in the third, sparked by Matt Wieters' leadoff double. Trea Turner and Zimmerman had run-scoring singles..

Scherzer retired the first 11 Atlanta hitters before Freddie Freeman reached on a bloop single to right in the fourth. Kurt Suzuki dumped a 3-2 pitch in front of left fielder Howie Kendrick to bring home Atlanta's first run.

Zimmerman added another RBI single in the fifth and Washington finished Gohara in the seventh. Rendon ripped a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Turner.

Dansby Swanson's fifth-inning double provided Atlanta's other run.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: 2B Daniel Murphy was scratched from the lineup shortly before the first pitch because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Wilmer Difo.

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left after the fourth inning with a sore left thumb. It's been a lingering problem for the speedy outfielder, who was listed as day to day. Lane Adams moved from left field to center after Inciarte departedt, while Jace Peterson took over leadoff spot in the order.

UP NEXT

Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (14-7) gets the nod in the second game of the series Wednesday night. He is 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season, which includes his most recent appearance last week in Washington when he surrendered seven hits and five runs in five innings of an 8-0 loss.

Braves: RH Lucas Sims (2-5) will fill in for Mike Foltynewicz, who was forced to skip his scheduled start after lacerating his right middle finger in his last appearance. Sims has made his last four relief appearances since starting the first seven games of his big league career.

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

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Nationals vs. Braves Preview: Scherzer seeks redemption

ATLANTA -- In his last start, only his second in the major leagues, Atlanta Braves rookie Luiz Gohara outpitched Washington Nationals ace and Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.

On Tuesday, he gets to try it again.

Gohara (1-1, 6.30 ERA) is queued up for a rematch with Scherzer (14-6, 2.59) and the Nationals in the opener of a three-game series at SunTrust Park.

Washington (90-59) has clinched the National League East title for the fourth time in six years. Atlanta (67-81) was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration after its Sunday loss to the New York Mets. The two teams have split 16 games this season, with the Braves winning two of three last week in Washington.

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Gohara showed why he is in contention to join the Atlanta rotation on a full-time basis in 2018. The big left-hander from Brazil, who went from Class A to the majors in one season, beat the Nationals 8-2 on Wednesday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings, striking out six. He didn't issue a walk.

In that start, Gohara located his four-seam fastball -- something he couldn't do in his major league debut against Texas.

"The kid gets locked in and really competes," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "And that's what I heard about him from guys that played with him, the guys that have had him, been around him. They say once he gets out there, he's trying to beat you. That's legit stuff right there, too."

Scherzer endured his worst start of the season against the Braves last week. He gave up a season-high seven runs on seven hits and a season-high six walks in six innings. He threw 116 pitches, part of the plan to stretch him out for the postseason.

"For the first 100 pitches, I felt like I was executing pitches the way I wanted to," Scherzer said. "Then, after pitch 100, that's when the wheels fell off and I was searching for everything. Sometimes that happens. I don't think anything's broken. My arm feels fine. There's nothing wrong here. This is why I needed to pitch that deep into the game, so I can shake off some of that rust."

The big hiccup for Scherzer came when he allowed a grand slam to Braves left fielder Matt Kemp. However, on Tuesday, he isn't likely to face Kemp, who has missed the past two games after leaving the Friday contest with a strained hamstring.

In 16 career appearances, 14 starts, against Atlanta, Scherzer is 6-5 with a 4.04 ERA. In 2017, he has made four starts against the Braves, going 1-2 with a 4.91. He was 4-0 against Atlanta a year ago.

The hottest batter for the Braves has been center fielder Ender Inciarte, who is 10 hits shy of becoming only the seventh player in Atlanta franchise history to reach 200. The last Brave to get 200 hits was Marquis Grissom, who had 207 in 1996.

Washington's Ryan Zimmerman is on the verge of a 30-homer/30-double season. Last week, he joined Adam Dunn as the only Nationals player to post two 30-homer seasons with the club.