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Nationals vs. Pirates Preview: Turner, bullpen once again focal points

Nationals vs. Pirates Preview: Turner, bullpen once again focal points

PITTSBURGH — The Washington Nationals have a ton of bullpen issues. Even so, they will look for that unit to do even more than usual on Wednesday, as right-hander Jacob Turner will be called from the bullpen to make a spot start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Nationals played a doubleheader on Sunday, which necessitated an extra arm in manager Dusty Baker's rotation. Turner was stretched out earlier in the year, so he was the logical choice.

Turner has a 2-1 record and a 3.31 ERA in seven appearances this season, but just one of those was a start, and that came back on April 24. Since then, he has pitched more than two innings just once and not at all since May 3.

RELATED: Updated MLB Power Rankings

In his career, Turner has been a starter more often than a reliever, with 54 of his 86 career appearances coming in a starting role. His only career action against the Pirates came as a starter in 2014, when Turner was with the Chicago Cubs. He lost that game, giving up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in what is now essentially ancient history.

However, the Nationals' bullpen struggles are very much up to the minute. The team's relievers have the second-worst ERA in the National League, and several pitchers who were expected to have prominent roles have struggled out of the chute.

Joe Blanton (9.49 ERA), Blake Treinen (8.10 ERA) and Shawn Kelley (7.15 ERA) all have inflated numbers. Treinen and Kelley -- along with Koda Glover and Enny Romero -- were part of the group of relievers expected to compete for saves. Instead of one player stepping up, Baker has been left to mix and match while the quartet muddles through.

Glover earned the nod in the ninth inning on Tuesday, but it took him 29 pitches to get through the scoreless frame to complete an 8-4 win over the Pirates, bringing into question his availability for Wednesday.

"We've got to get his pitch count down so he can go the next day and the next day," Baker said.

With the bullpen already missing Turner and the spot starter unlikely to turn in a long outing, the game very well could come down to the back of the Nationals' bullpen again.

"On the real good teams that I've had, when you get to the sixth or seventh inning, we know it and they know that the game is over," Baker said. "And so we just got to go back to the drawing board to try to figure it out. We've used different guys in different places and different guys late in the game."

The Pirates will counter with their starting pitcher who has most reliably gone deep into games, Gerrit Cole. The right-hander has recorded seven consecutive quality starts and has a 3.06 ERA on the season. However, his record is just 1-4 thanks to some lacking run support.

That has been a common theme in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are hitting just .224 on the season, second worst in the National League.

"Guys are going up there fighting," manager Clint Hurdle said after his team went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday. "We just keep playing the game."

Cole is 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four career starts against Washington.

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

By Ryan Wormeli

Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals staff, a fan favorite, and the 2017 National League Cy Young award winner. He's also a soon-to-be father whose wife, Erica May-Scherzer, once accidentally threw out the jersey he wore when throwing his 2nd career no-hitter. This time around, I'm guessing they talked it over first before deciding to sell some of his memorabilia garage-style for a new fundraiser.

We don't have any more information about the fundraiser yet, but May-Scherzer posted some photos on Twitter this afternoon. 

And in case you're wondering, no, the Scherzer family cat featured in one of the pictures isn't for sale (we assume). Plus, even if they were willing to part with their cat, considering Scherzer is on a contract worth over $200 Million, their price would probably be pretty steep. How much would you pay to adopt the cat of a 3-time Cy Young winner?

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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.