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Gio, Harper win May NL honors

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Gio, Harper win May NL honors

For a franchise that has rarely boasted any prominent award winners in its brief history, the Nationals certainly are experiencing a reversal of fortunes this season.

The Nationals learned today left-hander Gio Gonzalez was named NL Pitcher of the Month for May and outfielder Bryce Harper was named NL Rookie of the Month for May.

Gonzalez was 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts last month, leading the league with 45 strikeouts. In voting among media members across baseball, the lefty beat out the Mets' R.A. Dickey (4-0, 1.83), the Phillies' Cole Hamels (5-0, 2.25) and the Dodgers' Chris Capuano (4-1, 1.62).

Harper, meanwhile, earned the first award of his big-league career by hitting .271 with 21 runs, four triples, four homers and 10 RBI. The 19-year-old former No. 1 draft pick beat out the likes of Diamondbacks right-hander Wade Miley (3-1, 3.16), Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso (.298 average, one homer, 10 RBI), Phillies second baseman Freddy Galvis (.255, two homers, 18 RBI) and Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (.246, five homers, 11 RBI).

Thus, the Nationals' early season run on official MLB awards continues. Stephen Strasburg already earned NL Pitcher of the Month honors for April. He and Gonzalez become the first teammates to win the award in back-to-back months since the Braves' Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe in August and September 2010.

This is uncharted territory for the Nationals. In their first seven seasons of existence, they won only two monthly awards: Ryan Church was NL Rookie of the Month in May 2005, and Chad Cordero was NL Pitcher of the Month in June 2005.

So in the last two months, the Nationals have won more awards than they amassed in the previous seven years combined.

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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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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.