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Wire Taps: Sean Doolittle begins recovery process; Max Scherzer will get ball on Thursday; How veterans led Nationals’ comeback...

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More runs, more links, more news ahead of the second of four games with the Pirates.

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MLB: Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Alright: assuming (knock on wood times 10,000) that Ryan Zimmerman is healthy come September 1st and the Nats squeak out a spot in the Wild Card game: does it make sense for him to get a spot on the roster and sit (supplanted most likely by Howie Kendrick), be on the roster and start, or get left off the roster entirely? How well does he have to hit in this last month to earn a spot on the team — or does he not need to earn one at all? As we get closer to October, it’s worth thinking about just a little. Then again, that last paragraph likely triggered a catastrophic collapse for the Nationals unparalleled in baseball history.

Here’s what’s up in west Pennsylvania:

Joe Ross had a strong argument to remain in rotation before leg injury (NBCSW)
Joe Ross, after a one-hopper hit his right leg in the fourth inning, doesn't have a clear status right now regarding his health, though nothing seems to be broken. But if he can show he's still healthy with Max Scherzer returning, he has a serious case to hold on to the fifth spot in the rotation with his altered release and changed pitch repertoire, as opposed to Erick Fedde's very good but not stellar start to the month.

Sean Doolittle trying to recover while on injured list (MLB.com)
Sean Doolittle doesn't think he should be guaranteed the closer job when he gets back–he hasn't been performing well enough, he says—but he's going to rework some things that weren't firing properly and will hopefully find a way to get right faster while in the bullpen.

Rosenthal: Old, wise and in playoff contention – how the Nationals rescued their season (The Athletic)
Somehow, the Nats struck gold over and over in veteran additions, both in terms of contributions on and off the field, from Kurt Suzuki to Gerardo Parra to Howie Kendrick. And when things got bad—really, really bad—the vets held it together and then got back on the upswing. And while the kids who are filling in the lineup don't seem to need all that much veteran help, the fact that the Nats are the oldest team in baseball and winning sure doesn't look like an accident.

Max Scherzer remains on track to return Thursday against the Pirates (WaPo)
Scherzer should return this Thursday, with a completed bullpen and a joyful demeanor. This time, it seems like he's healthy, though the results on the field will dictate if he's actually okay.

Nationals continue to score early and often, open series against Pirates with a laugher (WaPo)
For the first time in two seasons, the Nats are 12 games over .500. The last few wins have come with early rallies accompanied by dance parties that loosen up the whole dugout. If you've ever wanted a piggyback ride from Ali Modami, this is the week to do it.

Scherzer set to return to rotation Thursday (MASN)
“It was his regular routine,” manager Davey Martinez said of today’s bullpen session. “He felt good. I talked to him in the weight room. Everything went according to plan. The plan is: He’s ready for Thursday.”

Zimmerman rehab shifts to Potomac (MASN)
Zimmerman played a pair of games last weekend for Double-A Harrisburg and will now get some time in Potomac to return from his bout with plantar fasciitis. Davey Martinez says he wants Zimmerman to spend some serious time with the P-Nats getting his whole game ready, which coincidentally also translates to a call-up past September 1st, meaning the Nats wouldn't have to make too many tough decisions with the 25-man roster.

Nationals hit four home runs, set franchise runs record (MLB.com)
As for the recent power outburst from Adam Eaton, he attributes it to the fact that he can now feel both of his legs under him — and alongside improved pitch recognition, he's finally playing like the player the Nats traded for.

35 under 35: ‘Baptism by fire’ — On the risks, doubts and dream that brought Alex Chappell to the Nats sideline (The Athletic)
Chappell, to cover the team that moved to Washington as she grew up in Bethesda, had to take a leap of faith from a stable job to freelancing for SEC network and selling Nike clothing. From there, she reached Tampa Bay, a jumping off point to get to Washington – where she found that the job got even harder, given the team's early struggles and the trials and tribulations of joining a new team. Davey Martinez, though, was apparently pretty comforting.

Nats set offensive records galore in rout of Pirates (MASN)
"The Nationals are built to win on the broad shoulders of their dominant rotation. Have been for years. That does not mean this team is incapable of winning on the might of a deep and potent lineup, however, one capable on any given night of blasting an opposing pitching staff out of the park. Or, in this case, into the Allegheny River."

Nationals release 2020 spring training schedule (MASN)
On February 22nd, 2020 (after the Iowa caucuses, somehow), the Nats will serve as the visiting team against the Astros during spring training. On February 23rd, 2020, the Astros will serve as the visiting team against the Nationals during spring training.

Josh Hader and Sean Doolittle's Struggles Highlight the Effects of Relying Too Much on One Pitch (Baseball Essential)
"Let’s be clear: Hader and Doolittle are elite back end relievers and held in such esteem because of their success overpowering hitters with their fastball in the past, as well as their ability to reach the high 90s on the radar. A problem ensues when you throw the fastball too much and don’t have another offering to lean on when you can’t control it."