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Mike Rizzo speaking with fellow general managers about starting pitchers

Mike Rizzo speaking with fellow general managers about starting pitchers

The 2018 MLB All-Star game is approaching and with that means so is the trade deadline.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has stated that the team is always in the business of buying and selling and this season they're interested in a starting pitcher.

"Talking starting pitching, talking to GM's, doing our due diligence," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We're always active at this time and [we] have a lot of conversations with a lot of people. We've got a lot of assets that people want. We've got assets of other teams that we want. It's going to be an interesting period. We're starting the stretch drive now where we gotta play good baseball."

Good baseball for the Nats in 2018 has been spotty. They've shown us what they're capable of – like putting up 18 runs Saturday against the Marlins – to not even closely resembling a team that has been NL East champions four of the last six seasons. And in odd fashion, their starting pitching hasn't performed like we're used to.

Stephen Strasburg is expected to make his return very soon after being placed on the disabled list with an inflamed shoulder, Max Scherzer is 11-5 with 177 strikeouts, but Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez have fallen flat.  During Sunday's game against the Marlins, Roark allowed 15 runners in four innings in their 10-2 loss, and in June, Gonzalez was 0-5 with a 8.44 ERA. It's obvious they need help and the trade deadline could bring some much needed relief, but Rizzo is still looking for more out of his veterans. 

"It's time for the starting pitchers to step up and pitch like they're supposed to pitch," Rizzo said.

"And that's the thing, these guys are accomplished pitchers. Gio had a low 2 ERA his first seven or eight start this season and kind of fell into some bad habits mechanically and didn't give us the length and performance we wanted, same thing with Tanner, and then we're relying on two young kids. Anytime you lose two of your five starters to injury you're really relying on your depth and your veteran players to perform up to their capabilities."

"We're optimistic. The team has been playing so hard. Even when we were playing poorly, we were playing very, very hard. You can even see it...two nights ago against the Pirates, we were down six runs before you could take your seat and you've got Adam Eaton running into walls and diving for balls and guys were playing all out, trying to come back from that thing. That's really been the attitude and the energy level throughout the season. Through the highs of May and through the lows of June, we've been on course and the effort level has been there and the preparation time has been there and the performance is starting to catch up with the effort level."

And help at starting pitcher could be what brings the Nats back into baseball harmony. 

"Once we get our starting pitching in line, I think we're going to really take off." 

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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USA Today Sports Images

8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.