Wire Taps: Washington Nationals Welcome Tampa Bay Rays To The Nation's Capital.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson argues with home plate umpire Tim Timmons after Tyler Moore #57 was thrown out at home plate during the eighth inning at Nationals Park on June 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters before the start of this past weekend's series with New York that he was excited to have his team test themselves against the AL East's best. "When I was told that we were playing our schedule against the American League East, I said, 'Great,'" Johnson said. "We're a young ballclub and to go up against the best, and I think our division or the American League East division are the best divisions in baseball, there's not going to be any let up on anybody you play in that division. So, it tests your merit." The Nationals battled the Yankees in all three games, but were ultimately swept by the AL East's first-place team. Tonight, the Nationals welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to the nation's capital for the first game of a three-game series with the AL East's third-place team.

"When you play good talent, you better play good," Johnson said on Friday, "I think we're still growing as a team. I think a lot of the young guys have been doing an outstanding job. I know everybody on the ballclub gets excited about when you play Boston, but we were excited to play Toronto." And they'll surely be excited to play the Rays tonight. The game will also mark a milestone in the 69-year-old skipper's 16-year-career on the bench:

The Nationals started the weekend on a six-game win streak. They'll look to snap a three-game slide tonight when the Nats send Chien-Ming Wang to the mound against '07 no.1 overall pick, David Price. Start time 7:05 pm EDT. Until then, links and lots of em... Starting ... RIGHT NOW!!!!:

• THE BIG STORY!!!!:

• "The Nationals feel Bryce Harper can handle center field -- and can handle it long enough until one of the top outfield prospects they already have in the organization is ready to assume it..." - "As the trade deadline approaches, why center field might not be at the top of the Nationals' needs list any longer" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• NATS BEAT:

• "The site is officially titled "Not A Clown Blog, Bro: Saber-slanted MLB...infused with bits of Bryce- mania." - "Harper's 'clown question' comment gets its own blog" - WTOP.com

• "Braves are Nats main issue in East. Phils are about as close to dead as you can get and still fog a mirror. Mets are better but won't last. Dickey won't go 25-3. It's mostly Nats and Braves in the long view." - "Ask Boswell about all things Washington sports" - Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post

• "According to a Nationals team official, the good news for Purke was that it is just tendonitis, likely developed from such a long layoff before he signed last summer..." - "Matt Purke has shoulder tendonitis, Nats won't go overboard to sign Giolito" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• "The pitching staff continues to excel. Sure, there have been a couple of bumps along the way, but the staff's 2.96 ERA so far in June is significantly improved from May's 3.56 ERA." - "Encouraging/discouraging" - Mark Zuckerman, NatsInsider.com

• "I can't believe I'm actually asking this question right now, but is there a better starting pitcher in baseball as of today than R.A. Dickey?" - "It doesn't get any easier" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "This past weekend’s series against the New York Yankees, who are always a draw, had a combined crowd of 124,135 — only the second time in the stadium’s four-plus seasons that each game in a series had more than 41,000 fans." - "Nationals’ home attendance is up" - James Wagner, Nationals Journal - The Washington Post

• "A 2012 season that began with a massive contract extension and clarity about his future in Washington is suddenly souring for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman." - "Ryan Zimmerman: Nothing to worry about?" - Brian McNally, WashingtonExaminer.com

• "The Expos reunion, the first of its kind since the team moved, included a charity golf tournament, fanfairs, baseball clinics and a formal gala. More than $20,000 was raised for the Cedars Cancer Institute according to event organizers." - "Montreal remembers the Expos, Carter" - Ben Raby, nationals.com: News

• "As for how his brother used the reference in context: 'That is some saltiness. A little bit of veteran swagger right there for Bryce.'" - Bryan Harper on the Bryce - Morning pixels: The origins of the ‘clown question’ phrase - DC Sports Bog - The Washington Post

• "The Harper brothers have great hair. They have that in common." - "The origin of 'That is a clown question, bro.'" - Ben Meyers, The Auburn Citizen

• "'We're young, we're inexperienced, and we're winning,' said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the team's longest tenured player. 'So we're learning on the fly.'" - "First-place Washington Nationals aren't surprised at their success" - Steven Miller, nationals.com: News

• "The Nationals also sent many of their top choices this year to Auburn." - "The former Smiley Gonzalez, Bryce Harper’s brother playing for Nationals’ rookie ball affiliate" - James Wagner, Nationals Journal - The Washington Post

• "It’s been more than two years since Nationals reliever Drew Storen walked into a major league clubhouse for the first time." - "Nationals' rookies receiving valuable guidance" - Kelly Parsons, Washington Times

• "The Washington Nationals host the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time at Nationals Park for a three-game series starting Tuesday, and there's some thought that this American League franchise is the blueprint for baseball in Washington." - "Now seeing Rays of light" - Thom Loverro, WashingtonExaminer.com

• Your Daily Message From The Dalai Lama On Twitter (@DalaiLama): "Common sense shows you the value of warmheartedness."

• NATS MINORS:

"GCL Nationals open season today, full roster; Perez, Hood rehab updates" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

Class-A Short Season Auburn: "The Auburn Doubledays rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth inning, and then held on for a one-run victory over rival Batavia on opening night of the 2012 season." - "Perez's four RBI lead Doubledays to opening night win" - Auburn Doubledays News

Class-A Short Season Auburn: "A young Spencer Kieboom was rooting around in the basement when he came across his dad’s old tools." - "Kieboom inspired to use tools of his father" - Ben Meyers, The Auburn Citizen

Class-A Potomac: "The Carolina League has named Potomac righty Nathan Karns the Pitcher of the Week for the week of June 11th to 17th." - "Nathan Karns Named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week" - Potomac Nationals News

Triple-A Chiefs: "Chiefs come back, beat Red Sox The Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, beat the league-leading Pawtucket Red Sox, 11-7, on Monday night at Alliance Bank Stadium." - "Chiefs come back, beat Red Sox" - Syracuse Chiefs News

Triple-A Syracuse: "Yunesky Maya allowed one hit through five innings ( a solo homer by Ryan Lavarnway), but then was touched up for two homers, five runs and six hits total." - "That Wacky Win over Pawtucket" - Ben Meyers, The Auburn Citizen

• "[Doug] Harris also announced that right-hander Ryan Perry will make the transition from reliever to starter and the Nationals are confident the 25-year old can make the transition smoothly." - "Nationals confirm trio of promotions, Perry to move to starter" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "Tuesday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com

• NATSTOWN:

• "If you followed Nationals spring training closely, you may have rightfully believed that Ryan Zimmerman was the best hitter on the planet." - "Where is the 2010 Ryan Zimmerman?" - Willy Yoder, Nationals Buzz, MASNSports.com

• "Someone from the MLB Players Association reached out to the station last week and raised concerns about trademark issues." - "The end of the ‘Cised for Bryce’ t-shirts" - Dan Steinberg, DC Sports Bog - The Washington Post

• "How to spend an off day in Washington, DC if you're Gio Gonzalez? Head to TopGolf in Alexandria." - "Gio Gonzalez says Jesus Flores sucks at golf" - Nats Enquirer

• "June 19, 1909 - 7 walks, 4 wild pitches and 1 hit batsman is the Big Train’s line for the day. A loss? Nope. Johnson strikes out 10 Highlanders and picks up the 7-4 win in the opener of a doubleheader at Hilltop Park. New York takes the finale, 6-3." - "This Date in Washington Senators History – Baltimore’s Davey Johnson scores winning run in the 13th" - Art Audley, D.C. Baseball History

• "The Nats pitchers are hitting .200 / .226 / .300 for an OPS of .526. OK that's certainly not good, but it's not terrible for the pitcher spot." - "Nats success : The pitching by the pitchers and the hitting... by the pitchers" - Harper, Nationals Baseball

• NL EAST UPDATES:

• Mets:"With all the great pitchers in past and recent history -- men like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez and others who both allowed few runs and struck out many hitters -- no one has ever done what Dickey has over his last five starts." - "R.A. Dickey Sets Major League Record" - Al Yellon, SB Nation's Baseball Nation

Marlins: "For [Steve] Cishek, the sidearm reliever for the Marlins, there were few things he loved more than the Red Sox." - "Fenway Park is field of dreams for Miami Marlins’ Steve Cishek" - Clark Spencer, MiamiHerald.com

• Braves: "They’ve now won 10 straight — all against NL East teams, after last night’s 6-2 victory over the Braves in The Bronx as Derek Jeter delivered the clutch hit to go along with CC Sabathia’s excellence." - "New York Yankees defeat Atlanta Braves, 6-2, for 10th straight victory" - Dan Martin, NYPOST.com

Phillies: "There isn't much Jim Thome hasn't done or seen, after logging more than 2,500 games and 10,000 plate appearances during his 22-year Major League career." - "Thome adjusting to role of bat off the bench" - Chris Toman, phillies.com: News

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