Nationals

Is this man the hottest pitcher in baseball?

Is this man the hottest pitcher in baseball?

From Comcast SportsNetMINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- All King Felix needs is one.Felix Hernandez struck out five in a five-hitter and Eric Thames hit a solo homer in the eighth inning to lift the Seattle Mariners to a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.Hernandez (13-5), who picked up his 23rd career complete game and ninth shutout, hasn't lost a decision since June 12. He is 4-0 in 1-0 games this season, becoming just the third pitcher since 1969 to be that successful in 1-0 ballgames."He's the real deal. That's why he's King Felix," Thames said. "That's why he's got the Cy Young, the perfect game, all that stuff. I'm officially a believer. I'm glad he's on my team."Franklin Gutierrez went 1 for 2 with two stolen bases in his first game since being sidelined June 28 because of a concussion.Liam Hendriks (0-7) was almost King-like, but it wasn't quite enough to get him his first career victory. He gave up three hits and struck out six in nine outstanding innings, his only blemish the homer to Thames."It was a good feeling, especially to know that it gave Felix a lead and once he has a lead, he's light's out," Thames said. "It's awesome."Joe Mauer had a single and Justin Morneau had a triple for the Twins, who have lost 14 of their last 17.Hernandez's brilliance came as no surprise. The Venezuelan has long been one of baseball's best pitchers, and he's on a roll these days even by his sterling standards as he chases a second AL Cy Young award. In his last 14 starts, he is 9-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 100 strikeouts, 17 walks and a perfect game. He's allowed one earned run or fewer a staggering 16 times in 27 starts this season."I've been consistent the last two months," Hernandez said. "I've been trying to throw strikes, been trying to get ahead of every hitter and mix all my pitches. That's the key right now, throw strikes."To watch Hendriks, a 23-year-old Aussie who hasn't picked up a win in 14 career starts and has been sent back down to Triple-A twice this season, match King Felix pitch for pitch through seven innings was something entirely unexpected. He needed just 68 pitches to get through six innings against the free-swinging Mariners before Thames got him in the eighth.Gutierrez singled in the first inning, a welcome sight for a Mariners offense that has missed his right-handed bat in the lineup and his glove in center field. But the mental part of his recovery from the concussion he suffered when he was hit on the ear by a pickoff attempt against Boston is ongoing.When Hendriks tried to pick him off two pitches later, Gutierrez gingerly scurried back to first base, protecting his head with his right hand. Later in the sixth, Hendriks buzzed him with a pitch up and in that appeared to hit Gutierrez on the hand, and the outfielder wasn't happy as he stomped off to first base."Every time he was throwing over, I was having flashbacks," Gutierrez said. "I think it's going to take time. Every time I remembered what happened. It's going to take a while to forget about that. Every time I go to first base, you're going to see me try to protect my face and whatever I can. It's going to take time."He took an extra-base hit away from Trevor Plouffe in the third, ranging to the wall in left-center and leaping to grab it as Plouffe just shook his head. Hernandez grinned as he watched his center fielder haul it in, hinting that another magical night could be in the offing.Not exactly perfect, he walked Josh Willingham in the second inning, but he was carving up the Twins and kept a no-hitter going until Mauer singled with two outs in the fourth inning. The Twins had two on in the fifth and Morneau led off the seventh with a triple before Hernandez steeled himself and got Ryan Doumit, Plouffe and Jamey Carroll to ground out and keep Minnesota scoreless."That's why he's one of the best, if not the best, in the league," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.NOTES:Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 and Bert Blyleven in 1976 are the only other pitchers since 1969 to have four wins in 1-0 ballgames in a season. ... It's the second nine-decision win streak of Hernandez's career. The only other Mariners pitcher to have two win streaks of at least nine decisions is Randy Johnson. ... Mauer passed Earl Battey for the most games caught by a Twins player, catching his 832nd on Monday night. "It's a pretty neat little deal," Mauer said. ... LHP Scott Diamond (10-5, 3.04) will start on Tuesday for the Twins against RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3, 3.64). Diamond is appealing a six-game suspension handed down after he was ejected from his last start for throwing behind Texas OF Josh Hamilton. Iwakuma is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his last seven starts.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

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More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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