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Struggling teams continue to beguile the Nationals

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Struggling teams continue to beguile the Nationals

The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 7-5, Monday night to drop to 10-11. Here are five observations from the game...

1. This road trip appeared to be a building opportunity before it started. No more National League East slugfest. No teams playing above their roster -- looking at you, Pittsburgh. No more windows of expected stops and starts. Forward march.

Not so. The road has burned Washington, losers of three of four against scalawags of the National League, Miami and Colorado.

Monday night, the bullpen let it go -- again. A would-be rally in the ninth was eliminated by the exquisite Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, who turned an unassisted double play with two runners on. If anyone turns to ask why Anthony Rendon has not been an All-Star, running parallel with Arenado is the answer. He hit the go-ahead home run. He ended the game in the field. Talent pours out of his ears each morning.

The loss moves Washington back under .500. Again. Forward, back, forward, back. The National League East would be challenged to be more zany. Philadelphia is 12-10 after a Monday night loss to New York in which Bryce Harper was ejected. The Mets are 12-10 after the win. Idle Atlanta is 11-10. The four contenders continue to sit on each other’s chests.

Trouble for the Nationals is this current run was supposed to lead to daylight, not the headlamp of an oncoming train. They dropped the series in Miami. Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez are on the hook to make sure that does not happen in Colorado.

2. The Nationals bullpen entered the game when it was tied. Guess what happened then?

Matt Grace pitched a scoreless inning. He walked one. No big deal. A simple outing for Grace.

Wander Suero followed in the seventh. Arenado’s 1,000th career hit landed beyond the center field wall. No more tie game. Colorado led, 6-5.

Suero’s advanced numbers suggest he is a better pitcher than his ERA, which is now 5.79. Numbers like xFIP- (expected fielding independent pitching adjusted for the park), xFIP and hard-hit percentage portray Suero as a solid reliever. His results counter that.

Which puts Davey Martinez in a bad spot. It’s easy to quibble with his bullpen decisions at times. He also has who he has. Once in the game, someone needs to get outs. He put Suero in against the most lethal part of the Rockies’ lineup. Suero threw a cutter down and in to one of the best hitters in the league. Home run. Lead lost.

Kyle Barraclough allowed a home run, too. A solo shot by pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia. Just 376 feet, but out.

Hard to manage when so few can get outs.

3. Better for Brian Dozier. Three home runs in the last four games.

Monday brought a three-run homer and Colorado closer Wade Davis pitching around Dozier with a runner on in the ninth.

The Nationals are going to give Dozier every chance to get going for multiple reasons. First, he can hit 30 homers as the second baseman. Second, he’s easily their best defensive choice at the position. Third, he is making $9 million this season. That’s not about to be plopped on the bench in April. Last, as enticing as Carter Kieboom’s bat is, the reason he’s not in the major leagues is his defense. Only time can enhance that.

Keep an eye on Dozier’s fly ball percentage. He’s from the same school as hitting coach Kevin Long: pull and lift. His fly ball percentage coming into the night was down about six percent from his career average. If that goes up, so will his home run total.

4. Jeremy Hellickson and Coors Field is a dangerous mix. Hellickson needs to be fine -- up and down, in and out, never much on the plate -- to have success. The Denver air does no pitcher favors. It’s just that much more dangerous for a pitcher with less margin for error.

And Monday was rough: nine hits, five earned runs in five innings. A key hit came from former Nationals bench player Mark Reynolds. His two-run, fifth-inning homer tied the game. It was homer 297 for Reynolds, who tied Rickey Henderson on the all-time list via the drive to center field.

The outing also dinged an impressive string for Hellickson. He allowed three runs or fewer in 20 of his 21 starts since joining the Nationals. Monday went on the other side of that total.

5. Jake Noll is back.

One of the fun stories of spring, Noll was again summoned to the major leagues Monday in order to beef up the Nationals’ short bench. Rendon remains out of the lineup. He also remains off the 10-day injured list. Which means the roster has a dead spot.

Noll can play multiple infield positions. He’s also a right-handed bat off the bench.

Reliever Austin Adams was sent back to Triple-A Fresno to make room for Noll. The move leaves Washington with seven relievers and four available bench players.

Sunday, the Nationals were able to play with a short bench because Stephen Strasburg pitched eight innings. Going into offensively fueled Coors Field short on bench players is a bad idea. So, Noll, the unlikely 25th man on the Opening Day roster who drew a walk for a walkoff win in Game 5, has returned. But, probably not for long.

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Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounds off on Max Scherzer's stance that players already took a pay cut

Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounds off on Max Scherzer's stance that players already took a pay cut

One days after Nationals ace Max Scherzer released a statement saying MLB players had no reason to engage the league in further compensation reductions, Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay sounded off on the stance.

Scherzer, a member of the players’ union’s eight-member executive subcommittee, said in his statement Wednesday that players had already negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries. “There’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received,” he said.

[RELATED: Scherzer continues to steer union on a united front]

Kay took to his ESPN radio show Thursday to say Scherzer is incorrect.

“The one thing that I want to amplify, I’m not on either side. The players are taking a chance by playing during a pandemic, the owners are taking a financial chance,” Kay said. “But when the players, and this is something that Max Scherzer said, when the players say they’ve taken a pay cut … Stop! You have not taken a pay cut. You have not worked. You have not played. You don’t deserve to get paid. That’s all there is to it. So that’s not a pay cut.”

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The original pay cut Scherzer was referring to is the deal negotiated between the league and union in March, which prorated player salaries. But a recent proposal from MLB owners would further reduce salaries, placing them into tiers where the highest-paid players would have their salaries cut the most.

Under the new proposal, Scherzer would make around $4.333 million of his $28,777,759 million base salary. Stephen Strasburg would make just $5.313 million of his $35 million base salary.

Kay contends the original deal from March wasn’t a pay cut.

“You can make the argument, ‘Well, it’s guaranteed money.’ Well, the owners aren’t locking you out. The virus is locking you out,” he said. “We’re not playing baseball because of health concerns, because people are dying all around the country to the tune of over 100,000 people. Please don’t say you took a pay cut. You didn’t take a pay cut.”

Kay added that he is contracted to work 135 Yankees games this season for YES Network, but said he wouldn’t look at it as a pay cut if games were canceled and he wasn’t paid.

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Nationals' Sean Doolittle makes statement on death of George Floyd

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Nationals' Sean Doolittle makes statement on death of George Floyd

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle released a statement on Twitter on the death of George Floyd. 

Floyd, a black man, died in police custody after a police officer kept his knee on his neck for several minutes. His death has sparked civil unrest in Minneapolis, MN and in several other areas across the country.

Doolittle's screengrab text read: 

Racism is America's Original Sin. It was here before we even forged a nation, and has been pased down from generation to generation. And we still struggle to acknowledge that it even exists, much less atone for it. The generational trauma of racism and violence is killing black men and women before our eyes. We are told it is done in the name of, "law and order", but there is nothing lawful nor orderly about these murders.

My heart is heavy knowing that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others should still be alive. We must not look away from the racism and the violence. We must never condone racism or extrajudicial violence in the name of "law and order." We must take action and call it out for what it is. We must recognize our shared humanity and atone for our Original Sin or else we will continue to curse future generations with it. RIP George Floyd. 

Earlier this week Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal was among several athletes that tweeted about Floyd's death.