The Nationals are under .500 for the first time since 2011

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The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep in D.C. by winning 4-2 on Wednesday, dropping the Nationals to 10-11 on the young season.

It’s the first time the popular NL pennant pick has been below .500 since finishing the 2011 season with an 80-81 record. Last year, the Nats were over .500 after every game but one (they started the season 2-2).

Minus Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals scored just four runs in the three games against the Cardinals. One of those runs was scored by Stephen Strasburg today after his sixth-inning single, but that was the only run the Nationals amassed while he was in the contest. Strasburg dropped to 1-4 due to the lack of help.

It was the 10th time in their 21 games that the Nationals have scored two runs or fewer. Only the Marlins, with 13, have more such games. The Mariners, Padres and Phillies also have 10 apiece.

In comparison, the Yankees and Mets have just three such games.

Especially since the pitching staff is still healthy, it’s far too early for Nationals fans to panic. Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez haven’t been as dominant as hoped, but there aren’t any big warning signs there and both Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have looked very good. Even if Dan Haren proves to be a lost cause, that’s something they can overcome once the offense gets going. And the offense is too good not to get going before much longer.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.