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Gio leads Nats past Rockies

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Gio leads Nats past Rockies

For Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, a native of Hialeah, Florida, triple-digit heat and humidity is just part of the game of baseball. On Saturday afternoon he battled through 102 pitches in record heat, but left with his 12th victory of the season in the Nationals 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies in front of 28,032 on South Capitol St.

In Florida we know that heat. I was just trying to adapt to it and keep going. Ive lost a ton of weight from it, but at the same time I got my liquids in me, thats for sure. Just got to keep fighting right through it, he said.

Gonzalez left after the sixth inning with the game tied at one. He allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six, all along the way tying Livan Hernandez for the Nationals record for wins heading into the All-Star break. He is now tied with R.A. Dickey for the major league lead.

I dont know what kind of run support he got over there in Oakland, but hes been stingy giving up runs here, and hits, manager Davey Johnson said. Hes been very consistent. Hes been fun to watch. My whole staffs been fun to watch. But these last two times out, in the heat, hes pitched well. Against very good offensive clubs.

Gonzalez only earned run came in the fourth inning. Michael Cuddyer led off with a double down the third base line, a hard grounder that found its way just under the glove of a diving Ryan Zimmerman. Cuddyer then advanced to third on a fielders choice by Gonzalez. He was brought home by Jordan Pacheco on a sacrifice fly to right field, a play that ended close at home on a throw attempted by Michael Morse.

Despite allowing one run, the Rockies made solid contact on Gonzalez throughout his outing. He benefitted from some good defense including diving stops by Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche.

It was unbelievable that each one of these guys came in today with hot weather and they still came out and competed. They did a great job. I was just doing my best to just keep us along in the game and save the arms in the bullpen, he said.

Gonzalez was relieved by Ryan Mattheus who struck out the side in the seventh inning. Sean Burnett escaped the eighth with a runner in scoring position and Tyler Clippard earned his 13th save of the season after allowing two to reach base.

Even though the last two innings were made interesting, Gonzalez said he never doubts the men behind him.

Each one of those guys are All-Stars in my mind and Im honored to have them right behind me. Every time they come in there it almost feels like you can close your eyes and guarantee it.

The Nationals took the lead initially off an Ian Desmond solo homer to right-center field in the second inning. It was Desmonds 16th of the year which ranks sixth in the National League and tops all N.L. shortstops.

Washington scored their other three runs in the sixth inning during an interesting sequence with relief pitcher Josh Roenicke on the mound. Rockies starter Jeff Francis started the inning and let up a leadoff double by Danny Espinosa off the out-of-town scoreboard. He then allowed a floating single by Harper to move Espinosa to third, Harper almost got caught going for a double on the play but reached first safe because no one was covering the bag.

Roenicke replaced Francis to face Zimmerman who quickly pelted a line drive into left-center field. Espinosa scored on the play and Harper advanced to third. Then, on a wild pitch by Roenicke, catcher Wilin Rosario attempted to pickoff a stealing Zimmerman. The throw was off, Zimmmerman was safe, and Harper reached home for the teams third run.

Ian Desmond grounded to second later in the inning and was safe at first as the Rockies couldnt pull the double play on he and a walked Adam LaRoche. Roenicke, Desmonds brother-in-law, then tried to pick off Desmond at first. Zimmerman, who was standing at third, scored the teams fourth run as the ball got past Cuddyer at first.

The Nationals took the win and now sit at 49-33 on the season. They will go for the series win on Sunday afternoon with Jordan Zimmermann on the mound against Jeremy Guthrie of the Rockies. As the weather is expected to cool down slightly, the Nats will look to continue their momentum heading into their midseason break.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals made the first major trade of the season this evening. 

Midway through their Monday night game against the Yankees, the team announced that they had completed a trade for Royals' relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera:

Herrera's a major acquisition for the Nationals, as the pitcher is in the middle of a career year. He's currently pitched 25 innings so far, posting a 1.05 FIP, 2.62 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His 2.1 percent walk rate this season is a career low. 

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