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Detwiler's 'awful' start plagues Nats

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Detwiler's 'awful' start plagues Nats

Ross Detwiler could have tried to over-analyze his outing Saturday night, tried to figure out whether it was a mechanical glitch or poor pitch selection or just plain old poor execution that caused him to put the Nationals in big hole and ultimately set the stage for a 6-5 loss to the Orioles.

In the end, though, the process was less significant to the left-hander than the end result.

"I mean, give up six in five innings?" Detwiler said. "That's awful."

"Awful" might be a bit too strong of a description. But for a Nationals rotation that hadn't put forth an outing like this in quite some time, it certainly didn't measure up to the usual standard.

In fact, no Nationals starter had surrendered six earned runs since Livan Hernandez did it against the Mets on Sept. 4, 2011, a span of 63 games. And this one perhaps stung a little more because Detwiler's teammates managed to rally from the 6-0 deficit he created and nearly came all the way back before a raucous crowd of 42,331 (second-largest in ballpark history).

"I feel terrible about it," Detwiler said. "Because our team was out there, the hitters were ready to hit. They put up five runs on that pitching staff. ... We need to win when we do that."

The Nationals still nearly did win. Despite putting only two men on base through their first four innings against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, manager Davey Johnson's reconfigured lineup finally began producing after it trailed by six.

With RBI from Steve Lombardozzi (filling in for a benched Danny Espinosa), Rick Ankiel, Carlos Maldonado and Roger Bernadina, the Nationals trimmed the lead to 6-4 in the sixth. They nearly added to it in the eighth, stranding a man on third when both Bernadina and Espinosa hit the ball hard ... but right at Baltimore outfielders. Then they did draw within one in the ninth when Ryan Zimmerman belted a Jim Johnson pitch to left for his first homer since April 19.

"It can't always happen in a game where you jump out to a lead and cruise home," said Zimmerman, who went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .250. "This team handles adversity well, and we battle to the last out. We did that again tonight, and that's all you can ask for."

Well, you could've asked for the game-tying run, though that would've required a clutch hit from Adam LaRoche, who has been the Nationals' best run-producer all season but has fallen into a funk since the Orioles showed up in the District.

After striking out on a 3-2 sinker from Johnson to end the game, LaRoche finds himself 0-for-9 with four strikeouts (and a walk) in this series.

"I'm actually seeing it alright; I'm just going outside the zone," the first baseman said. "I had a couple chances to take some walks ... and I haven't done it. I've been chasing it. I need to get back in and pull the ball back in a little closer and be a little more selective."

Late rally or not, this game was decided in the first five innings, when Hammel (5-1) cruised and Detwiler (3-3) labored. Detwiler found himself in trouble nearly from the moment he stepped to the mound, and in doing so continued a disturbing trend.

Owner of a 2.10 ERA only six days ago, he's now allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits over his last 10 innings. As a result, that ERA now stands at 3.65.

"I mean, I know I can do it," he said. "I know I'm here for a reason in this role. It's like, you just kind of have to take it for what it is and go after the next one."

Is there a chance Detwiler won't get many more starts to right his ship? Perhaps.

Chien-Ming Wang started for Class AAA Syracuse on Saturday, his fifth rehab start while recovering from a strained hamstring. The veteran right-hander is scheduled to appear in one more minor-league game before coming off the disabled list, at which point the Nationals have to make a tough decision.

Before Saturday's game, Johnson dropped a bit of a surprise, saying Wang likely will go to the bullpen once he joins the big-league roster. It wouldn't be the ideal move, because Wang does not profile well as a reliever. But it would keep the talented Detwiler in the rotation.

Given the manner in which Detwiler has struggled his last two times out, though, few would be shocked if Johnson has a change of heart.

"Everybody says it's a good problem to have, but probably not for the questions I'm going to get asked in this room," the manager said. "Because there's no easy choice."

Another start like this from Detwiler, and Johnson might have no choice but to make the change.

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Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

$500 million.

That number is so hard to wrap your brain around, but it's a number a lot of professional baseball players may soon start seeing on their contracts.

One player who could be the first to see that amount within the next year is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper will become a free agent in 2018 and people are already projecting his market value at close to $500 million, if not more.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract back in 2014 for 13 years, $325 million, holding the league record.

For Fancy Stats writer Neil Greenberg, $500 million is a bargain for someone of Harper's caliber.

"Harper is every bit as good [as Stanton] but he's also young," Greenberg told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"I mean, we don't see a player that's as good as Harper, that's as young a Harper, hit the market almost ever I want to say. You look at how many years of his prime he has left and then even if you start to give him just the typical aging curb off of that prime, he's probably worth close to 570 million dollars starting from 2019 and going forward ten years. And that includes also the price of free agency going up and other factors."

Harper, who is only 25 years-old, brings more to a team than just talent. He's one of the most recognizable figures in baseball, bringing tremendous marketing opportunities to an organization. Greenberg dove deeper into how that will increase his market value.

"And that's just for the on-the-field product. You talk about all the marketing that's done around Bryce Harper [and] what he does for the game. In my opinion, and based on the numbers that I saw, he's a bargain at $500 million."

Don't we all wish someone would say $500 million is a bargain for us?

After crunching the numbers, the biggest takeaway for Greenberg is the return on investment the Nationals have gotten out of Harper.

"Like if you look at his wins above replacement throughout his career, he's given you 200 million dollars in value for 21 million dollars in cash and he's due what another 26 or 27 million this year. I mean he's already given you an amazing return on investment."

"So, if you're the Nationals having - benefited from that - you know you have a little bit of, I guess, wiggle room in terms of maybe you're paying a little bit for past performance 'cause, you know, when a player is on arbitration in their early years they don't really get paid that much."

The Nationals still have Harper for one more season and many feel they need to make him an offer sooner than later. Whenever and whoever he gets an offer from, it's going to be a nice pay day for him.

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

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Nats' Max Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals has coasted to his third Cy Young Award and second straight in the National League.

Scherzer breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The honor was announced Wednesday on MLB Network.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit. He became the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs.

RELATED: WIETERS WILL RETURN TO NATS IN 2018 

Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and a league-leading 268 strikeouts for the NL East champion Nationals.

Kershaw has already won three NL Cy Youngs, and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts.

Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians easily won his second AL Cy Young Award earlier in the day. He got 28 of the 30 first-place votes, with Boston's Chris Sale second and Luis Severino of the New York Yankees third.

Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball.