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Harper homers, Zimmermann cruises in San Diego

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Harper homers, Zimmermann cruises in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Bryce Harper hit his NL-leading 13th homer and Jordan Zimmermann and A.J. Cole combined on a seven-hitter to lead the Washington Nationals to a 10-0 victory against the San Diego Padres on Friday night.

Harper matched the home run total for his entire injury-plagued 2014 season, when he played 100 games. His 13 homers this year have come in 37 games.

Zimmermann (3-2) struck out six and allowed six singles in six innings to win his fourth straight start. He improved to 3-1 in five starts at Petco Park. Zimmermann allowed three straight singles opening the fifth before retiring the side to preserve the shutout.

Cole, recalled earlier from Triple-A Syracuse, allowed one single in three innings of relief to earn his first save.

The Nationals had a season-high 16 hits in winning for the 13th time in 17 games.

The Padres were shut out for the fourth time in 11 games and the sixth time this season.

Harper paused for a moment to admire his high, arcing shot off reliever Shawn Kelley into the Jack Daniel's party deck atop the right field wall in the fourth that give the Nationals an 8-0 lead. It was the second homer in five games on this trip for Harper, who hit six homers at home last week.

Harper, who had three hits, also had a hand in roughing up Padres starter Odrisamer Despaigne (2-2), who allowed seven runs and 10 hits in three innings.

The Nationals opened with four straight singles off Despaigne, including Harper's RBI single. Ryan Zimmerman drew a bases-loaded walk, another run came in when Wilson Ramos hit into a double play and Ian Desmond hit an RBI single.

The Nationals had five straight hits opening the third. Desmond hit an RBI single and Danny Espinosa drove in two runs before being thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Zimmermann doubled to left before Despaigne got the final two outs.

Despaigne has allowed 15 runs in eight innings in his last two starts.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: LF Jayson Werth was hit on the left wrist by a pitch from Despaigne in the second inning and was replaced in the bottom of the inning by Tyler Moore. ... Washington placed RHP Doug Fister on the 15-day DL with right forearm tightness and recalled Cole. Fister lasted only two innings in an 8-3 loss Thursday night, allowing seven runs and eight hits.

Padres: Manager Bud Black said OF Wil Myers (wrist) could be available for next week's series against the Chicago Cubs. ... RHP Josh Johnson, who's coming back from arm surgery, had a bullpen session.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Max Scherzer (3-3, 1.99 ERA) faced the Padres four times while with Arizona in 2009, going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA. He has faced them only once since then, losing 5-1 on April 13, 2014.

Padres: RHP Andrew Cashner (1-6, 3.07) has been tagged with the loss in each of his last four starts despite posting a 3.33 ERA in that stretch. The Padres are 1-6 in his starts and he leads the majors with 10 unearned runs allowed.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

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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