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Nationals’ Scherzer on track for Thursday return

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WASHINGTON — Nationals ace Max Scherzer is expected to return from the injured list Thursday.

“He felt good today,” manager Davey Martinez said of Scherzer, who threw a bullpen session Monday prior to the opener of a four-game series between the Nationals and Rockies getting rained out. That contest has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Wednesday, with the finale coming Thursday afternoon.

Assuming Scherzer doesn’t suffer any setbacks between now and then, he would take the hill in the finale.

Scherzer has been dealing with an inflamed bursa sac below his right shoulder and has not pitched since July 6, when he tallied 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. One week later, the Nats placed him on the injured list, retroactive to July 10.

On Tuesday, Martinez said the Nationals considered the calendar for the remainder of the regular-season schedule, as well as the postseason, before landing on Thursday as the likely return date for Scherzer.

“We actually sat down and looked at the schedule, and that’s basically how we came up with Thursday,” said the Nats’ second-year skipper. “I went all the way ’til the wild-card game. I’m hoping that we’re not the wild-card team. But we sat down and mapped everything out from that day.”

Washington began the day 6.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East, and in possession of the top wild-card spot in the NL. If Scherzer is able to go on Thursday, he would then line up to start in all three of his team’s remaining series against the Braves, as well as in Washington’s lone remaining series against the third-place Phillies. He’d also be in position to take the mound in a potential NL wild-card game.

A three-time Cy Young winner, Scherzer has been one of the game’s most durable hurlers, having made at least 30 starts in all 10 of his full seasons since debuting in 2008. Since signing a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals prior to the 2015 season, the 34-year-old righty had made only one other trip to the injured list, in August of 2017.

This season, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA. In 129.1 innings, he has recorded 181 strikeouts, most in the National League. In June, prior to hitting the shelf, he went 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA and was named the NL Pitcher of the Month.

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O’s break record for HRs allowed in a season

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BALTIMORE — Somewhere, the Cincinnati Reds are toasting.

On Thursday at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles surrendered their 259th home run of the year, breaking a tie with the 2016 Reds for most roundtrippers allowed by a team in a single season.

The record-breaking bomb came in the top of the third inning of Baltimore’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, when Austin Meadows sent a 1-2 curveball from O’s starter Asher Wojciechowski just barely over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field for his 22nd dinger of the season. A former first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010, Wojciechowski came into the contest having allowed 12 homers in 49 innings.

Entering play on Thursday, the Orioles were on pace to yield 329 longballs. With power numbers up across Major League Baseball, Baltimore isn’t the only team that’s been giving up taters at a record rate. Through Wednesday’s games, the Mariners, Angels, Yankees, and Phillies were all on target to surpass the ’16 Reds.

Nearly a quarter of Baltimore’s historic 2019 total has come against the division-rival Yankees. In 19 games against New York, Birds hurlers surrendered 61 jacks, shattering the mark for most homers allowed to one team in a single season.

This season, 3.7 percent of all MLB plate appearances have resulted in taters, up from 3.0 percent a year ago. Compared to 2014, when the league-wide rate was 2.3 percent, home runs have increased by roughly 60 percent. If the current rate holds throughout the rest of the season, it would break the all-time single season record of 3.3 percent, set during the 2017 campaign.

The rebuilding Orioles began play on Thursday in last place in the American League East, owners of a 41-86 record that was second worst in the majors. Their team ERA of 5.89 was the highest in baseball by nearly half a run.

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Angels shut down Canning (elbow) for season

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The Los Angeles Angels announced Thursday that they’re shutting down rookie starter Griffin Canning for the rest of the season after an MRI showed mild inflammation in his right elbow joint.

The team said Wednesday night that he was going back on the injured list just three weeks after the same issue landed the 2017 second-round pick out of UCLA on the shelf.

Thursday’s announcement comes just four days after Canning had perhaps the best start of his career, going seven innings and allowing just one run in leading the Angels to a 9-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Canning went 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 17 starts and one relief appearance. He has 96 strikeouts through his first 18 major league games, second in Angels history behind Jered Weaver, who had 100.

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Rays’ Lowe injures quad, likely done for season

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Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe has likely been ruled out for the season after suffering another injury during his attempted comeback from a right shin bruise, manager Kevin Cash said Thursday.

Lowe suffered a left quad strain during a Triple-A rehab game Wednesday night. It was his fourth rehab game from the shin injury that had kept him out of the majors since July 2.

“He’s most likely done for the year,” Cash said Thursday. “I think that’s the best way to say it. If he comes back early, great.”

The rookie had been named as an All-Star replacement when he injured his shin against the Baltimore Orioles.

“From basically July 2, 3 or whatever it was, it’s kind of become a disappointment,” Cash said. “He’s done everything we could ask in the first half for us. Very deserving of being on the All-Star team.

“Unfortunately, the shin injury comes out and now this as he’s getting closer. Just not ideal, but we’re equipped with some guys that can certainly come in and continue to fill that void. We’ve been doing it, but we’re going to miss him.”

Lowe, 25, finishes the season hitting .276 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs.

The Rays entered Thursday at 74-54, tied with the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s second wild-card berth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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