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Around the NL East: Where everyone is struggling

Around the NL East: Where everyone is struggling

Welcome to a new series on NBC Sports Washington, that will take a weekly look around the National League East. There shouldn’t be much to keep track of though because we all know the New York Mets and Miami Marlins are going to stay in the basement, and the Washington Nationals will eventually pull away from the pack.

Still, these pesky division rivals are the only reason the Nationals are in a tie for first place. The Braves are +14 in the win column when it comes to NL East contests as opposed to the Nationals.

Now to delve into this week…

The past seven days were not a good one to say the least around the NL (l)East. During that span, all five teams were a combined 11-17. Only Washington (3-2) broke above .500.

Thank goodness no one else in the National League is pulling that far away either.

Washington Nationals

Record: 36-27
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: @ New York Yankees (2), @ Toronto Blue Jays (4)

Things just are not clicking when Max Scherzer (10-2) can get you through seven innings, only allow two runs, and the team cannot pull it together for a victory. They also have Bryce Harper tripping on his own helmet, which is never a good sign. Although the Nationals battled to get back to atop the NL East Standings, by no means are they comfortable.

Two of their starting pitchers got sent the disabled list. Of course Stephen Strasburg to the 10-day DL is of the most concern. Although it is just simply shoulder inflammation on his throwing arm, it is something that has to be moderated with his history. The No. 5 starter, Jeremy Hellickson is also on the mend and their setup man, Brandon Kintzler is taking a 10-day rest after some terrible outings.

The good news? There is an offensive reinforcement back in the lineup, Adam Eaton and Lord Stanley’s Cup took a visit to the park on Saturday afternoon.

Does anyone know if Alex Ovechkin is allowed to DH? We already know he can’t pitch.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 37-28
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Mets (2), vs. San Diego Padres (4)

Taking two out of three against the Nationals did nothing for the Atlanta Braves to gain momentum in the division. Since their home series against the Nats, they only have won two of their six games, all coming on the West Coast.

For the moment they are continuing to rotate a reliever into the No. 5 slot in the pitching rotation, but help is on the way. 20-year-old, former First Round pick in 2015, Mike Soroka just completed his rehab stint and should start Wednesday against the Mets. Lauded for his high ceiling, he’s only seen three games of MLB action.

Freddie Freeman is keeping Atlanta’s bats alive for the time being. During their past six games, he has 10 hits, six of them for extra bases as he is making a huge push in the All-Star voting.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 33-30
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Colorado Rockies (3), @ Milwaukee Brewers (3)

Aside from Aaron Nola (7-2) starts, there is not much consistency from the Phillies. Yet, while the Phillies are slumping they are not going anywhere in the standings. Still three games back from the Nationals and the Braves, Philadelphia remains in striking range as they try and put together their offense.

As it stands they currently are tied for the fourth-worst batting average in the majors (.230). Even worse is that they aren’t even getting quality hits. Heck as a team, they’ve only scrounged together 11 extra base hits in the past week.

New York Mets

Record: 28-34
Last 10: 2-8
Upcoming Series: @ Atlanta Braves (3), @ Arizona Diamondbacks (4)

On Sunday Night Baseball, the Mets managed to get their first win since May 30.

Hard to imagine that 12-day break in victories is for a team that started the year 10-1, their best start in franchise history.

Then after their victory, they let go of veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Things are still not going smoothly for New York and more holes continue to pop up.

Miami Marlins

Record: 23-42
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. San Francisco Giants (4), @ Baltimore Orioles (3)

In the midst of 16 games, in 16 days, the Marlins are no closer to getting out of the basement of the NL East.

However, it has been quite the hot streak for Derek Dietrich and Brian Anderson over the last 30 days. Both hitting over .350, these two helped power the Marlins to 19 runs in their three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pair that with Justin Bour and Starlin Castro one would think that lineup would be a more than formidable offense.

Now if only they could find a starting pitcher to go at least six innings without giving up more than three runs to compliment it.

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

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USA TODAY Sports

Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."

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