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Stranded: Nats’ bats faltering with runners on base and World Series is now tied after 8-1 loss to Astros

Stranded: Nats’ bats faltering with runners on base and World Series is now tied after 8-1 loss to Astros

WASHINGTON — The opportunities were there time and again for the Nationals. 
 
Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night played out close to how Game 3 did the night before. The only difference is this time the Houston Astros had already blown the game open in an eventual 8-1 victory at Nationals Park. 
 
And so the two teams are tied 2-2 in this best-of-seven series. The home team has yet to win a game. The Nationals will have just a few hours to figure out why their bats have gone cold in the big moments entering their final home game of 2019. 
 
Over the past two games, Washington is 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position. That’s a lot of runs wasted and far too many times letting Astros pitchers off the hook. Things don’t get any easier on Sunday when Washington faces Houston ace Gerrit Cole for the second time. 
 
“Hitting in general is I think pretty tough. It's a failure sport,” shortstop Trea Turner said. “The fact that we did the first two games, great and I thought they pitched great the past two days. I don’t think its a matter of us having bad at-bats or whatever it may be, I think we've got runners on base, we've had the at-bats, we just haven't got the big hits.” 
 
On Saturday, it was little known reliever Jose Urquidy baffling the Nationals. They managed just two hits against him and only Yan Gomes – with a leadoff double in the third inning – reached scoring position. 
 
Washington’s chances came against the Astros’ bullpen. They had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning before Houston reliever Will Harris came on to put out that fire with just one run scoring on a Juan Soto ground out.
 
But at that point it was still a game. Washington cut the deficit to 4-1. There was disappointment more didn’t come from that inning, but some hope at least with nine outs to go. That was extinguished when Alex Bregman hit a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning to make it 8-1. 
 
Even still, the Nationals had runners at first and second with two out in the seventh and the eighth innings. Maybe a hit in those circumstances would have generated some confidence, if it was too late to get back into the game. But even that proved too much for them and now, facing Cole a second time in the series, they have to adjust quickly. These chances might be few and far between on Sunday. 
 
“I just think you don’t get hits that usually helps with that [runners in scoring position) percentage,” outfielder Adam Eaton said. “But they made pitches when they needed to. I think [Astros starter Zack] Greinke yesterday like I discussed it seemed like whenever we got a couple guys on he was absolutely spotting up. It’s what good pitchers do, good staffs do. They can keep us off balance.”
 
Urquidy went away from the scouting report the Nationals put together after his playoff appearances against Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees. When Eaton was expecting the change-ups Urquidy throws to lefties 40 percent of the time, he got sliders instead. He saw one change in two at-bats. All in all, what manager Davey Martinez said before the game applied for Saturday and does again for the pivotal Game 5 on Sunday. The Nationals have to choose their spots better. They might not get as many against Cole. They have to take advantage when they do with a better approach. `
 
“We left a lot of runners stranded [Friday],” Martinez said. “We need to be aggressive, but aggressive in the strike zone. We chased a lot of balls outside the strike zone [in Game 3]. And I don't mind our guys being aggressive, but I want them to be aggressive in the strike zone today.”
 

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

By signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this week, the Mets have built out quite the collection of starting pitchers. 

Porcello and Wacha will join Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in New York's starting rotation, a group general manager Brodie Van Wagenen thinks quite highly of. 

"There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks," Van Wagenen said on SNYtv Thursday. "I think that story has changed, and I think that we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

Considering the Mets share a division with the Nationals, who still boast a starting rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, this is a pretty bold statement by Van Wagenen. 

Obviously he's the general manager and he has to say positive things about the club he's putting together. But to say those exact words on the heels of a rival winning a World Series because of their rotation? 

The Mets will host the Nationals in the first series of the season starting on March 26, so we may not have to wait long for these two rotations to face off. 

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Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals' No. 13 overall prospect is no longer in the organization, and it's not because of a trade that Washington made.

That's because the Miami Marlins selected pitcher Sterling Sharp with the No. 3 overall pick during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Sharp was susceptible to being drafted after the Nationals chose not to protect him by placing the right-hander on their 40-man roster.

The Marlins will pay Washington $100,000 for Sharp. The 24-year-old most remain on Miami's 25-man MLB roster for the entirety of the 2020 season or he will be offered back for $50,000.

Sharp, a 22nd round pick in the 2016 draft, made just nine starts for the Nationals Double-A affiliate Harrisburg in 2019 due to an oblique injury. His numbers were not especially eye-popping, as he posted a 3.99 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 ratio.

His performance in the Arizona Fall League was considerably better, where he put up a 1.50 ERA in six starts.

Sharp is incredibly athletic and could have played college basketball, according to MLB.com's Pipeline. Standing 6-foot-4, Sharp is known for his sinker and high ground-ball rate. In 2018, his last season fully healthy, he finished with 59.7 percent ground-ball rate, good for a Top 10 finish in all of the minors and the highest among qualified starters in the Nationals' farm system.

A three-pitch starter, Sharp has a solid changeup in his arsenal to go along with a low 90s fastball and his sinker.

Expected to make his MLB debut in 2020, Sharp could very well face his former team next season. As a divisional opponent, the Marlins will face the Nationals 19 times next season.

The Nationals did, however, select a prospect during the Minor League portion of the draft. Washington added switch-hitting shortstop Manuel Geraldo from the Giants system, who hit .255 with five home runs and 53 RBI in Double-A.

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