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Johnson sets the tone for Nats

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Johnson sets the tone for Nats

When the 2012 Nationals began their season, manager Davey Johnson was tasked with taking a team that had won 80 games the previous season to the next level, to make them a playoff team. He had to take a team overflowing with talent and help them realize their potential as a contender in the National League. But at 69-years-old and the leagues oldest manager, it was a road he had traveled many times before.

Johnson took over as manager of the New York Mets before the 1984 season and saw them improve by 22 wins. In 1996 with the Orioles he helped them climb by 17 victories and make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. And now, after Washingtons 4-1 win over the Dodgers, Johnson has his team in the playoffs and with 11 more wins than they won the previous year.

At 91 wins and counting, Johnson has played a central role in yet another dramatic franchise turnaround. His been there presence and experience is something not lost among his players.

Theres a lot of people around here that you can point fingers at that had a lot to do with the change in direction and everything that goes into that in the ballclub and the organization, but none any bigger than Davey, Jayson Werth said.

When I got here last here, this place was a mess. It was upside down. We had a lot of work to do. At times it felt like we would never get to play in October. Then Davey took over in the middle of the season and kind of did things his own way, went about business the way Davey goes about business and he was the guy that he is. You could start to sense and see that the shape was starting to turn around.

Johnson took over as manager with 83 games left to go in the 2011 season, but was just getting to know his team by the time the year was over. Coming in to 2012 he had a roster built for his style of coaching. He has a deep bench with powerful bats and an A and B bullpen, as he likes to say. But with all the players that make up the Washington Nationals, Johnson has somehow found a way to make them collectively play as the best team in baseball.

One method of coaching that his players say has worked, has to do with downplaying praise aimed towards him and instead keeping focus on the team.

I think that says a lot about it right there, that he downplays everything. He doesnt want the praise going in his direction. He has been phenomenal all year, and not just the things you guys see on the field and the moves he makes, Adam LaRoche said.

The way he handles the young guys and the older guys in here when media and other people arent around, hes a first class guy. He cares about his players and hes made that known, he shows it. He is a great manager.

Second baseman Danny Espinosa describes a sort of hands-off approach by Johnson, something that seems to give his players confidence.

He let us be ourselves. I dont think he ever over-managed any of us. He never tried to control us and say, youre this type of player or youre that type of player. He just allowed us to go out there and prepare the way we prepare and let us play good ball.

With a World Series ring as the skipper of the 1986 Mets, and a baseball life lined with accomplishments, Johnson has handled situations like Thursday night before. As to how he conducted the moments after the game in the locker room, just minutes after the first clinching the first playoff berth for a D.C. baseball team since 1933?

Well we had a little champagne and I guess they wanted me to say something. I said, 'What's this? We ain't done yet.' Something like that. They all had the same feeling. That this was just a baby step to get to the playoffs. But we want to win the division, Johnson said.

You know Davey, hes not going to give a 20 minute speech. He had some brief words, kind of the same thing, congratulations but lets go, we got a big game tomorrow and keep working. He gets it, he knows it is big deal for the organization and the city. But for us, this wasnt the goal coming out of spring, LaRoche said.

The Nationals will be in the playoffs, this they know. But the magic number to clinch the National League East and ensure at least a five-game series remains at eight. Having their season come down to just one game is something Davey and the Nationals know they want nothing to do with. Johnson is making his first appearance in the postseason since 1997 with Baltimore, a span of 15 years, and he wants to make it count.

So as they move forward, with just 13 games left, Johnson must keep his team on the same level they have been all season. Though the Nationals have undoubtedly come far, the transformation isnt quite yet complete.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

 

It's a fun time of the year in fantasy baseball. Now that we're seven-to-eight weeks into the season, teams are starting to realize they may need the help of their top prospects in order to compete this year, which means lots of young talent getting the call. Plus, many players who began the season injured are getting healthy. Between the prospects and players returning from the Disabled List, fantasy owners should have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to setting their lineups this week.

As always, we're here to help you sort through those painful roster decisions, and we're going to keep it simple to avoid paralysis by analysis. As a reminder, It's your team, and your decisions you ultimately have to deal with, so don't treat this advice as the gospel. That said, it doesn't hurt to gain as much information as you can when making your decisions. Good luck!

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 8 (5/21-5/27)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

This is the second week in a row where every Nationals pitcher is only scheduled to pitch once. Last week, we recommended Max Scherzer because duh, and while we still think you should start him, it's also worth using Gonzalez. Gio has had a lot of success this season, sporting a 2.36 ERA in the middle of May, plus the Padres are notoriously poor against lefties (8th-worst batting average and OPS vs LHP in the majors).

Gonzalez isn't a must-start stud, mostly due to his high walk rate and resulting WHIP, but he's good enough to take advantage of the right matchups, and this qualifies.

One Nationals position player to start: Anthony Rendon, 3B

Just in case you're thinking about getting cute and sitting one of your studs, let this be a reminder that Rendon is great at what he does. In the past, we've recommended sitting him when working his way back from injury, but he's gotten enough reps at this point to get back into the swing of things.

It looks like he's struggled recently (one hit in the last seven days), but don't forget the Nats missed five straight days thanks to weather/planned off days. Plus, the Nats are set up to faces lefties in half their games this week, and Rendon has hit better against southpaws all season long.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Tanner Roark

The Marlins have scored literally the fewest runs in baseball against right-handed pitching this season, and Roark hasn't been bad in 2018, despite the poor W-L record. Still, you're not sitting Scherzer or Strasburg, and we already recommended Gonzalez.

Roark has struggled against the Marlins in past years, as his 5.14 ERA vs the Marlins since 2015 is his 5th-worst number against any opponent, and while this year's Miami lineup looks far worse than in past seasons, and since Roark isn't the type of pitcher who gets enough strikeouts to raise his on a start-by-start basis, it's good enough of a reason for us to sit him this week. 

One Nationals player to sit: Juan Soto, OF

It's always fun when one of a team's top prospects gets called up, and that excitement doubles when the player is a teenager. It's always easy to see the high upside and imagine him taking the league by storm right from the get-go. That said, while it's worth a speculative pickup, we'd strongly recommend leaving Soto on the bench until we see A) how he hits against Major League pitching and B) what sort of playing time he'll get.


That's especially true this week, as his new manager Dave Martinez is already talking about sitting Soto against lefties, and wouldn't you know it, the Nats are scheduled to face southpaws in at least three games this week. It's possible Soto will be worth starting in the near-future, but for now, just be happy to add him to your rosters, not your starting lineups.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

No. Not all starters have been scheduled yet, but the five-straight days off the Nats had last week threw a wrench into the works for their rotation, and as of now, no one is projected to make two starts.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

It's a really weak week for two-start streaming options. Beyond the seven or so obvious starts, who are almost certainly owned in your leagues already, there's not a lot to choose from. We'll go with the calculated risk Jake Faria of the Rays. Faria gets two starts at Tropicana Field this week, and he's been much better pitching at home during the course of his career. He'll be facing two scary opponents on paper, but the Orioles have struggled at the plate all season long (with the exception of a recent hot streak, hence the risk), and Faria has already pitched well against the Red Sox this year, allowing just one run over the course of two starts.

This isn't our most confident recommendation, but there are far worse options you could turn to in a brutal week.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Andrew Heaney, SP (Angels) 

Heaney continued his recent stretch of strong play, as while he allowed four runs and walked on Saturday, none of the runs were earned, and he struck out seven. Heaney is a former top prospect, having once been considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and he has a superb 10.5 K/9 this season, to go along with a quality 57 percent groundball rate. That means he's not allowing a lot of contact, and the contact he is allowing isn't doing much damage.

Given his prospect pedigree and strong peripherals to start the year, Heaney is well worth an add if you find him available on the waiver wire. He's not just a speculative pickup, but somebody worth inserting into your starting lineup right away. Hopefully, because he plays on the west coast and isn't a household name, he's still available in some of your leagues.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners) 

If somehow Cano is eligible in a DL spot in your league, and you don't have the spot filled with another star, then you can disregard this one. But, if he's listed in your league as suspended and not injured, then he likely won't be worth holding onto during his time away. 80 games is a lot, obviously, and a guy who's going to miss half the games in a season needs to be sensational in the other half to make up for it. Cano's past his prime, and while when healthy he's obviously still worth starting, he's not the type of guy you tie up a bench spot with, unless you're in the deepest of leagues.

Plus, if you're savvy, you can always remember to pick up Cano again a week or two before his suspension is up, since no one else in your league is likely to snag him in the meantime. For now, though, feel free to use the roster spot on somebody who will contribute over the next three months.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Too Soon For Soto?: Nats make a bold call-up
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?