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Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1


Instant Analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 1

Game in a nutshell: The Nationals opened the second half of their season with a bang, pouncing on Marlins ace Josh Johnson for five runs and handing the ball to Jordan Zimmermann to mow his way through the Miami lineup. Big hits came from Ryan Zimmerman (who went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer), Adam LaRoche (3-for-4, two runs scored) and Ian Desmond (2-for-4, RBI). Zimmermann had a shutout going through six innings but was surprisingly pulled by manager Davey Johnson in favor of Henry Rodriguez, who struggled again to find the strike zone and was yanked after four batters. No worries, though, because the rest of the Nationals bullpen hung on to close this one out and start the pennant race off in style.
Hitting highlight: How nice was the four-day All-Star break for the ailing members of the Nationals' lineup? Apparently very nice, because they came out raking in the second-half opener, no one more so than Zimmerman. Zim launched a third-inning shot to deep left-center and clanked the home run sculpture for a two-run blast. He added a single in the fifth and another in the seventh. In 15 games now since receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder, he's hitting .359 (23-for-64) with six doubles, six homers and 20 RBI.
Pitching highlight: In what has to be considered one of his best outings of the season, Zimmermann sliced and diced the Marlins lineup, getting better and stronger as the night wore on. With a devastating slider, he struck out four batters in a row in the third and fourth innings, and when the sixth inning ended he had retired 14 of 16 batters and had yet to allow a run while throwing only 87 pitches. And then he never emerged from the dugout for the bottom of the seventh. It was a curious move, to say the least, one Johnson is going to have to explain. Regardless, it was another fine start for Zimmermann, who lowered his ERA to 2.48 and got his record back to .500 at 6-6.
Key stat: Only two major leaguers have made 18 starts this season and completed at least six innings in each of them: Zimmermann and Justin Verlander.
Up next: The Nats wanted to sign Mark Buehrle last winter, but after he signed with Miami, they instead traded for Gio Gonzalez. No complaints about that now, but we will get to see the two lefties go head-to-head Saturday night in Game 2 of this series. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.


Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."


If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years


Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.