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How the Nationals can clinch the wild-card on Tuesday

How the Nationals can clinch the wild-card on Tuesday

Tuesday has the makings of a historic day, as the Washington Nationals can clinch the franchise’s first wild-card berth.

Here's how:

1. They need to sweep both games of their doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies.

2. The Nats will need the Pittsburgh Pirates to defeat the Chicago Cubs. Losers of six straight, the Cubs have seen their postseason odds plummet in recent weeks.

For the doubleheader, the Nationals will send Joe Ross to the mound for Game 1 at 1:05 p.m. Max Scherzer will face Aaron Nola in the day’s second game with first pitch coming at 7:05 p.m.

If they do win their first game, the Nationals players will want to keep their eyes on the out-of-scoreboard to see if Pittsburgh helps punch their ticket to the 2019 MLB Postseason.

And if that’s the case, even Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton won’t mind some protective plastic encasing the team’s clubhouse.


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Nationals add lefty pitcher Ben Braymer to 40-man, protect him from Rule 5 Draft

Nationals add lefty pitcher Ben Braymer to 40-man, protect him from Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals had until 8 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether or not they were going to protect any of their eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, but they made the call seven hours early to add left-handed pitcher Ben Braymer to their 40-man roster and thus ensure he’s on the team for 2020.

Braymer, 25, was named the Nationals’ co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018 before posting a 2.51 ERA in 13 starts with AA-Harrisburg this year and earning a midseason promotion to AAA-Fresno. He struggled in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League but evidently impressed the Nationals’ front office enough to earn a roster spot ahead of next season.

The Nationals drafted Braymer in the 18th round out of Auburn when he was 22 years old, making him eligible for the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. Players who sign at 18 must be added to their respective team’s 40-man roster within five seasons while those signed at 19 or older must be added within four or else they’re subjected to being taken by another club in the Rule 5 Draft.

Braymer was one of seven players among the Nationals’ top 30 prospects (via MLB Pipeline) to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The only eligible player ranked above him left unprotected is right-hander Sterling Sharp, who made his way up to AA-Harrisburg this season and represented the team in the Arizona Fall League.

Washington now has 31 players on its 40-man roster, leaving plenty of room for the team to make offseason moves without having to cut anyone. The Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for Dec. 12, the final day of the Winter Meetings.


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Gerardo Parra is gone, but will never be forgotten

Gerardo Parra is gone, but will never be forgotten

There was a down time for Gerardo Parra. His non-stop bubbliness lost some perk once he entered a month-long slump. Parra did not ride his scooter into the clubhouse with the same joy. His work in the dugout during games dialed back to enthusiastic, living below his usual level of a rocket being launched into a volcano. He wasn't himself. So, Davey Martinez called him into the manager’s office.

“I sat with him. I said, what's going on?’” Martinez said during the postseason. “He said, ‘I don't know, I'm not doing good.’ And I go, ‘And?’ And he looked at me and said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Your job is to bring the energy every day. I don't care if you're 2 for 100. Bring the energy. Play that music, get loud, and have fun. Have fun.'

“He said, you're right, and he went back and started playing music, having fun. Lo and behold, he went on a tear again, and he comes back in my office, and he said, you know, I kind of forgot what it was like to just be myself. And I said, exactly. So I don't ever want to see you do that again, you know? You're another heartbeat of this team. It's not just about you, it's about everybody else. Like I said, 2 for 100, you've got to be yourself.”

Parra being himself turned into one of the grand storylines of the Nationals’ 2019 World Series season. His daily arrival was stirring, like someone tossed a bag of sunshine into the clubhouse. His scooter-propelled entrances included horn-blowing and extra laps and what-the-hell-is-this-guy-doing smiles. Often, he wore blacked-out sunglasses when circling the clubhouse, darting right back to the training area, then pulling a u-turn to zip through the other side of the clubhouse and past the dining room before an abrupt halt at his locker.

Parra’s next stop -- scooter inclusion to be determined -- is Japan. He signed a one-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants late Tuesday, the team announced. His departure ends arguably the most memorable, non-quantifiable, pervasive bit player show in organization history. It’s 2020 on-field impact is nil.

“When Gerardo Parra joined the team, something happened,” managing principal owner Mark Lerner said during the postseason. “Whatever it was, it was magic.”

Parra caused Freddie Freeman’s bewilderment. His presence led to a stadium-full of adults -- by age -- clapping along to a child’s song which included lyrics and a beat never to be extracted from one’s skull once heard. His father sat at Parra’s locker on the red cushion of a folding chair in his “Papa Shark” T-shirt. Even founding principal owner Ted Lerner, a 94-year-old man of business and sternness, paused to mention the “Baby Shark” situation at the team’s parade. 

“I want to say a special word to the veterans on this team: from now on, you can call me, ‘Grandpa Shark.’”

Max Scherzer cackled.

Parra’s May 11 grand slam in Los Angeles was one of the few palatable points in the month and indicative of his ability in big spots. He finished the season with a 1.117 OPS with runners in scoring position. 

Late in the year, Scherzer said the team had an “it factor.” Asked how he knew, he couldn’t explain. “You just know it when you see it.” This stance applied to Parra because moments became his.

The pop culture surge of his song choice -- a result of his daughter’s relentless listening and an attempt at slump-breaking -- put Parra in front of cameras all season. A television hit on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” was part of his media rounds. Afterward, he beamed. 

Parra, born in Venezuela, went back to the clubhouse to describe his success. “I nailed it,” he said. He went on to tout the quality of his English during the segment. It was so good, he thought a name change was necessary.

“My name is no more Gerardo, it's Gerard,” Parra told Martinez.

Martinez’s reaction?

“You can't be serious. You've got to laugh at him, but he was dead serious. And he started going around the clubhouse saying, ‘You call me Gerard from now on.’ Whatever.”

Gerardo, Gerard, the song, the scooter, the smiles and rose-colored glasses are off to Japan. Staying is a legacy of fun, which won't go away.