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Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

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USA TODAY Sports

Can Gio Gonzalez lift Nats out of losing streak in series opener vs. Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants right-hander Chris Stratton will seek to duplicate two impressive efforts when he takes the mound for the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals on Monday night at 10:15 p.m. ET.

The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.

The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.

Stratton wasn't with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.

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Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.

It's the only time he has faced Washington.

Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.

The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.

Stratton wasn't the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.

Strickland saved Sunday's 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.

"Win a series," is all he would say.

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In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.

Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.

Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.49) will oppose Stratton.

The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.

He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.

Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

That pitch total wasn't even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria in the first inning.

Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.

Afterward, Belt apologized.

"When I'm in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off," he insisted. "I'm like, 'Dude, just put it in play. It's not that hard. Let's go.' So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that."

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Why Gerardo Parra signed with the Yomiuri Giants

Why Gerardo Parra signed with the Yomiuri Giants

The Nationals officially lost one of the most recognizable players from their World Series run Wednesday when Gerardo Parra signed with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league for $2.5 million with a $3 million vesting option for 2021.

Hosts Tim Shovers, Todd Dybas and Chase Hughes discussed Parra’s departure on Thursday’s episode of NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast.

“I’m sure there’s some marketing aspect of this involved in the whole thing too after what happened here in D.C. last season but his chances of getting a major-league job next year were very, very low and this just makes sense at this point in his career,” Dybas said.

Parra’s contributions to the Nationals’ clubhouse were immeasurable, but he struggled at the plate for most of the year. The 32-year-old hit just .234 in 119 games between the Nationals and San Francisco Giants, posting a subpar .684 OPS with just nine home runs.

After securing his first World Series title, Parra made the decision to sign with whatever team offered him the most money—even if that team resided on the other side of the globe.

Even though Parra won’t be on the Nationals next season, the legacy of his walkup song “Baby Shark’ won’t be quick to fade from the hearts and minds of D.C. fans.

“I think it’ll definitely live on,” Hughes said. “I’ll tell you what I hope it’s not a constant a thing, like don’t make it the seventh-inning song. It was fun but let’s keep in mind that that song is also kind of obnoxious if overplayed.”

Both Dybas and Hughes agreed it’d be fitting for Washington to fly out Parra for Opening Day next year, when the players receive their rings, and have him throw the first pitch. You can catch the rest of the episode, including a breakdown of what might be Anthony Rendon’s final season in the District, on Art19, Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you bet your podcasts.

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How the Yasmani Grandal signing could affect the Nationals’ catching plans

How the Yasmani Grandal signing could affect the Nationals’ catching plans

The first free-agent position player came of the board Thursday, when two-time All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. It was a significant move for the Sox, who failed to lure top free agent Manny Machado to the South Side last offseason and complement their slew of prospects making their way to the majors.

While the Nationals weren’t rumored to be in on Grandal, there was a potential fit in D.C. if Grandal was willing to split time between catcher and first base. However, the eventual price tag was likely above Washington’s comfort zone, so it’s no surprise the team wasn’t in the running for his services.

But now that Grandal is locked into the starting catcher job in Chicago, the White Sox are left to decide what to do with the All-Star catcher they already had employed behind the plate.

James McCann played 118 games for the White Sox last season, hitting .273 with a .789 OPS and 18 home runs as he earned his first selection to the Midsummer Classic. Never considered a reliable bat in Chicago before this year, the White Sox could take advantage of his value and deal him to a team in need of catching help.

The Nationals fit that bill. Kurt Suzuki is signed for $6 million to play for the team next season, but he hasn’t played a full season since 2015 and will be entering his age-36 campaign in 2020.

Unless Washington is comfortable turning to unproven catching prospect Raudy Read to split time with Suzuki behind the plate, the team is likely on the hunt for a low-cost option to play a similar role to what Yan Gomes did in 2019. MLB Trade Rumors projects the 29-year-old McCann to make $4.9 million in what will be his last year of arbitration before hitting free agency, making him an ideal match.

The free agent market isn’t flooded with many other options at backstop either. Names such as Alex Avila, Jason Castro, Francisco Cervelli, Robinson Chrinos and Travis d’Arnaud are all available, but each is older than McCann and none of them are coming off a season as successful as his.

Chicago could of course opt to hold on to McCann, but his value has never been higher and the team gave former top-100 prospect and No. 10 overall pick Zack Collins a taste of the majors last season. If the White Sox do decide to deal him, the Nationals would certainly be well-suited to give them a call.

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