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Around the NL East: Marlins make unorthodox managerial hire

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Around the NL East: Marlins make unorthodox managerial hire

ATLANTA BRAVES 

Were it not for Justin Bour's ninth inning two-out single, we'd be talking about Shelby Miller pitching the Braves' first no-hitter since 1994. Regardless, the 24-year-old righty was as dominant as you can be in what was still a complete game shutout of the Marlins. The most encouraging sign for Atlanta is that Miller's performance on Sunday was no fluke; he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in a start this year, and owns an MLB-best 1.33 ERA.  

Miller, who was acquired in a trade that sent outfielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, is quickly becoming one of the Braves' standout pieces in what the team hopes will be a short retooling period. He's the classic case of how a change of scenery can do wonders for a talented-but-inconsistent pitching prospect. If he keeps this up, there's no doubt he'll be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game.    

As for the team he nearly no-hit? Well...

MIAMI MARLINS 

Everyone in the baseball world is asking themselves the same question this week: What are the Marlins thinking? 

Just moments after losing 6-0 to Miller and the Braves and falling deeper into the NL East cellar, Miami fired manager Mike Redmond. It was a dramatic move, but not a super surprising one given the organization was clearly looking for a spark. But who did owner Jeffrey Loria tab to replace him? An assistant coach? Nope. A former player with some managerial experience? Try again. Instead, he handed the job to general manager Dan Jennings, who has no experience coaching at the professional level at all.

Loria's been known to make peculiar moves in the past, but this one has to top the list. By giving the inexperienced Jennings the nod, the Marlins have potentially created a sideshow of disastrous proportions. Will the players respect Jennings? Is he capable of managing a major league clubhouse? How will he be able to develop his instincts as a manager, as opposed to his previous role as GM? All those questions loom over a struggling ball club looking to dig its way out of the bottom of the standings. 

NEW YORK METS 

The Mets are hanging on to their slim lead in the division, and once again it's their pitching that's keeping them on top. The rotation has turned in three straight quality starts, including Matt Harvey's eight shutout frames Monday night against the Cardinals in a 2-1 extra inning victory. On the season, New York has gotten 24 quality starts, second highest in baseball. 

What's been just as impressive has been how the once-unsettled relief corps has held things together. Going into Tuesday's slate of games, the Mets own the fourth best bullpen ERA at 2.52. This is new territory for a team that for years seemed to have trouble holding on to leads late in games. 

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES  

You've got to give it to the Phillies, they're not willing to accept the the title of "NL East cellar dwellers" without a fight. Winners of six straight, they've moved ahead of the reeling Marlins and are now fourth place in the standings. Even better, it's the veteran players that Ruben Amaro hopes to trade later in the season that have helped spark the hot streak. Cole Hamels delivered his third straight quality start Monday night to lower his ERA to 3.24, and Ryan Howard has hit .360 the past week and now leads the club in home runs with seven. 

[RELATED: Harper named NL Player of Week ... again]

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

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Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

Nats prospect update: Three minor-leaguers sent to Kansas City for Kelvin Herrera

The biggest story in Nationals prospects this week is the three Washington lost to the Royals in return for closer Kelvin Herrera. Here’s a look at what the Nationals gave up to add more depth to the bullpen.

Kelvin Gutierrez, AA 3B

The infielder, formerly on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, has posted a .285/.344/.388 line through his six-season minor league tenure. One of his greatest strengths is his speed, with 55 career stolen bases and 14 extra-base hits this season. His other notable tool is his powerful arm strength, which may help explain his transition from shortstop to the hot corner.

Blake Perkins, High A OF

The Nationals chose outfielder Blake Perkins in the second round of the 2015 draft. He has quite a bit of room to improve at the plate, batting .234/.344/.290 this season in Hagerstown. However, what he lacks offensively, he makes up for in the outfield. According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, Perkins has “plus speed, mature instincts, excellent routes and an above-average arm.”

Yohanse Morel, RHP

The biggest wild card of the group, Morel is a 17-year-old outfielder-turned-pitcher from the Dominican Republic. His fastball reaches 95 mph and he certainly has huge potential for growth. He has not yet pitched in the U.S. since making his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in early June.

So, what did the Nationals gain?

Right-handed closer Kelvin Herrera is a two-time All-Star who is currently in the midst of a stellar season. In his Nats debut, he needed just six pitches to shut down the Orioles in the eight. The team is reportedly (and understandably) thrilled to have Herrera joining the roster. Adam Eaton said, "I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."

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