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Midseason report card: Pitching

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Midseason report card: Pitching

Earlier today, we graded out the Nationals' lineup and bench. Now it's time to evaluate how the pitching staff performed over the season's first half.

Obviously, the staff as a whole was the best in baseball. Individually, there were a number of fantastic pitchers, both starters and relievers, along with a couple of significantly sub-par performances. (And you can't mention a lot of these guys without complimenting their ability to deliver at the plate; the entire pitching staff boasts a .199 batting average, two homers, 10 RBI and seven doubles.)

Here are the grades for each pitcher on the Nats' roster...

SEAN BURNETT -- A
Picking up right where he left off late last season, the lefty was dominant as Davey Johnson's primary setup man. His numbers would have looked even better if not for a rare, three-run meltdown in Sunday's first-half finale.

TYLER CLIPPARD -- A
Setup man. Fireman. Closer. It didn't matter what role he served, he got the job done time and again. And he was so good in the ninth inning, he'll likely remain as closer even after Drew Storen returns from the DL.

ROSS DETWILER -- B
The Nats went out of their way to make sure he made the Opening Day rotation, and he mostly justified that decision. He still needs to learn how to sustain success into the sixth and seventh innings, but he's made impressive strides.

GIO GONZALEZ -- A
Is anyone complaining about the four prospects Mike Rizzo gave up for him anymore? Didn't think so. The lefty is tied for the NL lead with 12 wins, second in hits per nine innings and fourth in strikeouts.

MICHAEL GONZALEZ -- B
The veteran lefty was signed to a minor-league deal in May and quickly wound up in the big-league bullpen. He's been very effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to just two hits in 20 at-bats.

TOM GORZELANNY -- B-
Unable to win a rotation spot, he's done a mostly nice job transitioning into a long relief role, though sometimes he's susceptible to the long ball. Only Chien-Ming Wang and Henry Rodriguez have served up more home runs per nine innings.

EDWIN JACKSON -- B
If not for his first-inning bugaboo (17 earned runs allowed in 16 starts) he'd be among the most dominant pitchers in the NL. As it is, he's still a durable workhorse and the best No. 4 starter in the game.

RYAN MATTHEUS -- B
The right-hander has given up earned runs in only five of 29 appearances and has shown a propensity for pitching his way out of jams.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ -- D
When he's on, he's as dominant as any reliever in the game. When he's off, he's as combustible as any reliever in the game. Unfortunately, he's been off way more than he's been on.

CRAIG STAMMEN -- A-
Who knew this former starter's sinker would translate so well into the bullpen? The right-hander was brilliant through the season's first six weeks, and though he's had a few hiccups recently, he's become a valuable asset for Davey Johnson.

DREW STOREN -- Inc.
The Nats had high hopes for their young closer after he saved 43 games last season. A bone spur in his right elbow, though, required surgery. He's expected to make his season debut Friday, though he'll probably do so as a setup man to Tyler Clippard.

STEPHEN STRASBURG -- A
Any lingering questions about the state of his arm post-Tommy John surgery have been quashed. The only thing holding him back now is the Nationals' plan to shut him down at some point in early September.

CHIEN-MING WANG -- F
A freak hamstring injury in spring training derailed his latest comeback attempt, and he's battled all kinds of mechanical issues since. He's back on the DL with a hip issue, but his window of opportunity has just about closed for good.

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN -- A
He doesn't get the attention or praise that Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez do, but he's been every bit as good as his rotation mates. The only hangup: He doesn't get much run support, leading to a 5-6 record that doesn't accurately reflect his performance.

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Ex-Oriole Manny Machado homers off ex-National Gio Gonzalez in NLCS Game 1

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USA Today Sports

Ex-Oriole Manny Machado homers off ex-National Gio Gonzalez in NLCS Game 1

Sure, the Nationals and Orioles didn't make the playoffs, but that didn't stop a "Battle of the Beltways" moment from breaking out during NLCS Game 1.

Ex-National Gio Gonzalez started the game for the Brewers. In the second inning, ex-Oriole Manny Machado stepped to the plate for the Dodgers.

Here's what happened next:

If you squint, you can imagine the ball flying into the Nationals Park bullpen or the Camden Yards bleachers. 

And in case you're wondering, we have indeed entered the Twilight Zone. 

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Nationals get offseason started by acquiring righty reliever Kyle Barraclough from Marlins

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USA Today Sports

Nationals get offseason started by acquiring righty reliever Kyle Barraclough from Marlins

The Washington Nationals picked up righty reliever Kyle Barraclough from Miami in their first offseason move to rebuild the bullpen.

The Nationals said Wednesday that they gave the Marlins international slot value in the deal.

The hard-throwing Barraclough went 1-6 with 4.20 ERA and 10 saves in 17 chances, with 61 appearances this year. He allowed one hit in 36 at-bats in June, when he was chosen NL reliever of the month, but struggled with his command the rest of the season.

Barraclough's ERA ballooned to 10.24 over his final 24 games and he lost the Marlins closer's job.

He has a career ERA of 3.21 with 279 strikeouts and 134 walks in 218 2/3 innings over four seasons, all with Miami.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo is in need of relievers after jettisoning Shawn Kelley and Brandon Kintzler late this season.

The deal helps the Marlins in their pursuit of top international free-agent Victor Victor Mesa, a Cuban outfielder who tried out for major league scouts at Marlins Park last week.

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