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Nats Stock Watch: Starting pitchers scuffling

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Nats Stock Watch: Starting pitchers scuffling

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .254/.346/.381

Team ERA: 4.50 

Runs per game:  3.83

 

STOCK UP   

Ian Desmond, SS: .400 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.350 OPS  

Nats fans must be hoping and wishing that Desmond, after an albatross of a first half, is finally rounding into form. Of course, one week doesn't mean he's finally turned it around, but this stretch is the closest he's looked to the guy who's won three Silver Slugger Awards. As Mark Zuckerman notes, Desmond isn't just mashing; he's looking more comfortable at the plate, seeing the ball better and less pull-happy than he was when he was struggling. 

Michael Taylor, LF:  .333 AVG/ 2 HR/ 7 RBI  

Perhaps one of the biggest positives to come out of the lineup being banged up for most of the season is that it's given Taylor an opportunity to get regular at-bats and develop at the major league level. And if this past week is any indication, he's progressing at a rate that likely has the Nats' front office thrilled for the future. The 24-year-old had a monster series in Pittsburgh in all facets of his game; he showed range and speed in the outfield, patience at the plate and power to all parts of the ballpark. He's a world away from the player he was earlier in the season, and is giving fans a glimpse of what the post-Span era might look like. 

STOCK DOWN 

Max Scherzer, SP: 5.0 IP/ 9.00 ERA 

Scherzer turned in a bad outing by his standards in the Pittsburgh series, surrendering five runs and serving up three long balls Friday night. By itself, that one start wouldn't be a big deal, especially considering it was against one of the best teams in the NL. However, it was the continuation of an alarming trend of un-Scherzer-like starts recently; he has an ERA of 4.13 in July -- the highest of any month this season. The Nats have been monitoring his workload as the season has gone on, making sure to keep him fresh for the home stretch. But you wonder if logging so many innings earlier in the season is catching up to him a bit. He's 77 2/3 frames away from setting a new regular season career high for innings pitched. And assuming he has about a dozen or so starts left, it seems realistic that he could reach that number by the time the postseason starts. 

Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 5.0 IP/ 7.20 ERA  

For whatever reason, Fister has been unable to match his 2014 form thus far this season. But it goes beyond just that -- he's flat-out struggled lately. He's lost five of his last seven decisions, raising his ERA on the year to 4.50. Part of the reason why people thought this staff would be elite back in spring training was because of its depth. Fister and Gio Gonzalez as the "back of the rotation" guys? That was supposed to be enough to make most teams envious. But instead, now there are only two starters Matt Williams can legitimately rely on in Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann. 

Wilson Ramos, C: .111 AVG/ .105 OBP/ .216 OPS   

People have harped on Desmond's struggles for some time, but Ramos has quietly been scuffling at the plate as well. He's has a .436 OPS in July, by far his worst of any month this season. And like Desmond, there's not much the Nats can do but let him try and hit his way out of his funk. The biggest shame of it all is that this is one of the few times he's been healthy for an extended period of time, so fans were hoping to see him finally blossom into the power-hitting catcher they hoped he could be. There's still plenty of time for that to happen, but it has to start with a solid August. 

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

RELATED: WHEN PITCHERS, CATCHERS REPORT FOR SPRING TRAINING