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Around the NL East: Mets don't look like they're going away

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Around the NL East: Mets don't look like they're going away

ATLANTA BRAVES  

The Braves headed into the All-Star break reeling on multiple fronts. For one, they were swept in a four-game series in Colorado, dropping their record to a season worst five games below .500 at 42-47. 

But worst of all, Atlanta lost closer Jason Grilli for the season with a ruptured achilles tendon when he attempted to cover first base on an infield chopper in Saturday's game vs. the Rockies. Not only are the Braves now without their best option in the 'pen, but they'll have one less veteran to move at the trade deadline. 

MIAMI MARLINS 

You know the Marlins are snake bitten when Dee Gordon, who was selected to his second All-Star Game, dislocated his thumb just days before being set to play in the Midsummer Classic. Gordon's setback, in addition to Giancarlo Stanton's earlier injury meant that Tuesday's festivities in Cincinnati were without a Marlins player actually playing in the game.

It looks like it'll be up to phenom Jose Fernandez to cheer up Marlins fans once the second half of the season resumes this weekend.

NEW YORK METS  

If nothing else, the Mets have proven that they're an imperfect-but-scrappy club that's clearly not going away anytime soon. As play resumes this weekend, they're just two games out of first place in the NL East, so Nationals fans shouldn't be printing out playoff tickets just yet. 

As we've mentioned here in previous weeks, the Mets must ask themselves if they're really committed to going big this year for an impact bat at the deadline. So far, it seems they're leaning towards treading the tires on more affordable options. Rumors are swirling that they are currently in a bidding war with the crosstown Yankees for the services of Oakland Athletics left fielder Ben Zobrist. The 34-year-old's production has steadily declined in recent years (he hasn't hit 20 home runs since 2012), but he could still help the run-starved Mets. Would he be enough to put them over the top? Who knows, but he's a relatively low-cost bat that doesn't compromise the team's future prospects.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

The Phillies' deliberate attempts to trade veterans is taking so long that even the players are starting to get a little impatient. Closer Jonathan Papelbon has reportedly reiterated his desire to be moved to a contending team before the deadline. It's hard to blame the 34-year-old veteran for how he feels; he's on the worst team in baseball and won't get many more chances in his career to compete for championship. You almost wonder if guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and others are thinking the same thing. 

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

With a win on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals come into the All-Star break at 48-48. 

That's not great! It's certainly an underperformance given all the expectations, but the season hasn't been without some stellar individual performances . 

Take, for starters, Max Scherzer. Scherzer's on pace to have an even better year than his 2017 Cy Young-winning effort, which is mind-boggling. 

An even-more-refined command is what's made him better this season, as his walk rate is down below seven percent again after creeping up to 7.1 last year. It hasn't affected his strikeout rate, either, which has stayed steady at 34 percent. If the season ended today, it'd be the 4th straight year where he set a career-best in that department. 

Of all starting pitchers, he ranks second in WHIP, and K/BB percent. He has the third-lowest average against (.178) and third-best strikeout percentage (34.5). He's got a top-10 ERA and FIP as well. He's been the best pitcher in baseball this season, and will probably be in the conversation for N.L. MVP as well. 

If only the Nats could just go from Scherzer to Doolittle. The closer stopped walking people, too, and already has 22 saves after ending last year with 24. Had he not been put on the D.L. with a toe injury about a week before the All-Star game, he more than likely would have set his career high in saves before the break. 

He's currently on pace to post the second-best year of his career when it comes to strikeouts, too. He's getting Ks 37.1 percent of the time, which would be the highest since he posted a 37.7 in 2014. Same goes for his K/9. He also has a top-10 ERA and FIP. He's been one of the few relief pitchers that have been consistently reliable through the first half, and the Nats will need his toe to get real healthy real quick. 

And lastly there's Bryce Harper, who you've surely heard is not having an All-Star caliber season. His batting average is hovering around .200, he's striking out more than he has in four years, and he's getting eaten alive by the shift. He's also on pace to have one of his best power-hitting seasons ever and finish with close to 40 home runs, so even his bad years still find a way to be impressive. 

Harper also benefits from being one of the faces of baseball playing in front of his home fans. He's one of the most popular players in the league, and All-Star games find a way to get those people in. An All-Star game in D.C. without him would be objectively less enjoyable, so it was in everyone's interest to have him there. Stars just get the calls sometimes. 

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