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What's wrong with Fister and Roark? Plus, Desmond's heating up


What's wrong with Fister and Roark? Plus, Desmond's heating up

The Nationals' starting rotation hasn't been nearly as good collectively as many predicted it would be this year, and part of the reason has been the disappointing season of Doug Fister.

The Nats' starting staff was one of the best in baseball in 2014 and Fister was their most consistent guy. He went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in what was the best year of his career. He finished eighth in NL Cy Young voting and beat now-playoff legend Madison Bumgarner in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Whether it be injuries or something else, 2015 just hasn't been the same for the 6-foot-8 right-hander. Fister got rocked again on Thursday night in the Nationals' 7-3 loss the Pirates, allowing four earned runs on nine hits and a walk in just five innings of work. It was the eighth time in his 13 starts this season that Fister has allowed seven hits or more.

Fister has now surrendered four earned runs or more in seven of his last 11 outings. For a comparison, he did that just four times in 25 starts in 2014. His ERA after Thursday is 4.50, nearly double his mark from last year. He hasn't finished a season with an ERA above 4.00 since 2010.

Fister missed a month of this season with forearm tightness and returned from the DL on June 18 against the Tampa Bay Rays. In his five starts since coming back, he has allowed 18 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings (4.72 ERA).

Fister's fastball velocity has in some outings been down from what it was last year, but his problems seem to run much deeper. Whatever is holding him back is a mystery the Nats would like to solve and soon.

Roark struggles again

Tanner Roark relieved Fister in the sixth inning on Thursday and had yet another poor outing in a long string of them. Roark allowed two runs through two innings - including a two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen - to put the game out of reach.

Roark has now allowed earned runs in five straight relief appearances. He has a 5.10 ERA on the season and has surrendered homers in three of his last four outings.

Up until about two months ago, nothing seemed to faze Roark. He was brought to the majors in 2013 to pitch out of the bullpen and he was excellent. He was converted to a starter and was brilliant for all of 2014. Then he returned to the bullpen for the 2015 season and, at first, thrived.

Whatever the reason, Roark is finally starting to show cracks for the first time in his career, and it certainly isn't helping a Nats bullpen that has already been through its fair share of issues this season.

Desmond continues to heat up

Ian Desmond went 2-for-4 and hit is 100th career home run in a losing effort on Thursday night, a small positive in an otherwise ugly series opener for the Nationals. Desmond is now 7-for-13 with two home runs, 4 RBI and two walks in his last four games. He now has more hits in his last four games than he did in his previous 16.

At several points during this season Desmond has appeared to break out of his months-long slump, so whether he is finally in the clear or not is hard to tell. However, the fact it coincides with a pep talk from Cal Ripken, Jr. has made for a pretty good story.

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.