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Nationals continue to slump, drop fourth in a row

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Nationals continue to slump, drop fourth in a row

MIAMI (AP) -- The Washington Nationals' untimely slump left even Bryce Harper flailing Friday.

The NL batting leader struck out three times and stranded five runners, and the Washington Nationals lost their fourth straight game, 2-1 to the Miami Marlins.

"Bryce has had a fantastic year for us," manager Matt Williams said. "He had a couple of opportunities tonight, and it didn't happen for him. We'll try to give him those opportunities again."

Shorthanded Washington out-hit the Marlins 7-5 but went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, and the Nationals' lone run was unearned.

Washington, swept in a three-game series by the Mets earlier this week, fell 8 1-2 games behind first-place New York, which beat Atlanta 5-1, in the NL East.

"It's not over yet," said Gio Gonzalez, who allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings. "Things change -- a lucky rabbit's foot or something comes through. We're going to stay positive most of the time. We still have a lot of fight in us."

Mike Dunn (2-5) struck out Harper, the only batter he faced, with two on to end the seventh and keep the score 1-all.

J.T. Realmuto led off the bottom of the seventh with a double off Casey Janssen (1-5). After the Nationals misplayed a sacrifice bunt, Realmuto scored the tie-breaking run on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Rojas.

"A little unlucky, I feel like," Janssen said.

Jarred Cosart, sidelined much of the season because of vertigo, pitched five shutout innings for Miami before departing for a pinch-hitter. His last pitch might have been his best: He struck out Harper swinging on a nasty breaking ball with two runners on to end the fifth.

Dunn, a left-hander, came on to face the left-handed hitting Harper with two on and two outs in the seventh, and struck him out swinging on a 95 mph fastball. Harper is 2 for 17 lifetime against Dunn.

"He and Dunn have a history," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "In that situation it was the right time for Dunn. He made the quality pitches that he needed to make."

A.J. Ramos pitched around a two-out walk in the ninth for his 26th save in 32 chances.

ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE

Rolf Koehler, a first responder on 9/11 as a member of the NYPD, was introduced between innings along with his son, Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler.

ROSTER MOVE

Before the game, the Nationals recalled RHP Taylor Jordan (0-2, 5.29) from Triple-A Syracuse for his fourth stint in the majors this year.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: 1B Ryan Zimmerman (left oblique), sidelined since Monday, again sat out and may miss at least a few more games. "The experience with obliques is that it takes a while," Williams said. "We're trying to get him to the point where he can swing a bat." ... 2B Danny Espinosa, who hurt his right wrist fielding a ball Wednesday, also sat out. ... 1B-OF Clint Robinson missed the game to be with his wife, who was about to deliver a baby.

Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton (left hand) hit in an inside cage before the game and showed progress, Jennings said. ... SS Adeiny Hechavarria (left hamstring) is improving and might be available to play within a week, Jennings said.

UP NEXT

Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez, returning from a right biceps strain that has sidelined him since Aug. 7, will try to become only the third pitcher since 1914 to win his first 16 career home decisions. Fernandez (4-0, 2.30) is 15-0 at Marlins Park with an ERA of 1.14. ... RHP Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.41) will start for the Nationals.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player. 

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