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Nationals relish a rare chance to celebrate

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Nationals relish a rare chance to celebrate

As Jayson Werth crawled on all fours to touch the plate, his forehead bloodied, his uniform askew, his hair flowing in every possible direction, the Nationals came pouring out of their dugout to celebrate.

Half of them approached Jose Lobaton, the man who lofted the sacrifice fly that made it all possible. The other half swarmed the still-dazed Werth, whose mad dash home secured the run that gave the Nationals a 5-4, 10-inning victory over the Marlins. Max Scherzer grabbed a bottle of chocolate syrup and restored the postgame celebration ritual he initiated earlier this summer.

In that moment, it didn't seem to matter that all the Nationals did was avoid falling 9 games behind the Mets in an NL East race that truthfully was settled last week. Ballplayers and ballplayers, and a walk-off win is a walk-off win, no matter the circumstances. So they celebrated.

"Just a great team win, everybody around," Scherzer said. "Everybody did their job today. Everybody had a hand in this and finding a way to get a W. Everybody made great plays all over the diamond, at the plate, on the mound. So it's exciting when that goes on."

Sure, it would've been even more dramatic had it drawn the Nationals within a couple of games of first place instead of merely holding the Mets' magic number at 8. But the Nats have long since accepted they don't control their own fate anymore, and the only thing they can do is go out there and try to win that game that night.

"I think we've handled it great," said Jonathan Papelbon, whose blown save in the top of the ninth made the extra-inning rally necessary. "We're going to continue to play games to win. And at the end of the day, we'll see what happens."

The Nationals nearly didn't win this one. Their beleaguered bullpen gave up two key runs late, with Felipe Rivero giving up a lead in the eighth before Papelbon gave up the tying run in the ninth. But they also got clutch hits — and clutch baserunning — when they really needed it to overcome those pitching problems.

That included some aggressive baserunning by rookie Trea Turner, who took third base on an eighth-inning wild pitch that barely skipped away from Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. All told, the Nationals picked up seven extra bases on wild pitches or passed balls.

"We saw that can make a huge difference," manager Matt Williams said. "That's an opportunity. Ninety feet is always important."

Turner's advance to third put him in position to score on Ian Desmond's sacrifice fly. Michael Taylor's subsequent RBI single up the middle brought home Bryce Harper with the go-ahead run.

The eventual winning rally also included some aggressive baserunning, with Werth (who led off the inning with a double) taking third when Realmuto couldn't handle a pitch up-and-in with Desmond squaring around to bunt. That set in motion the chain of events that left Lobaton at the plate with the bases loaded and one out, knowing a flyball to the outfield was needed.

The backup catcher delivered, sending the ball to medium-deep left field. Christian Yelich immediately fired home as Werth took off from third and 27,495 inside the ballpark held their breath.

"I saw him running," Lobaton said, "and I'm like: 'Please!'"

Werth knew the play was going to be close, so he did something he doesn't normally do: Slide headfirst into the plate. His helmet flew off. His face hit the dirt, scraping up his forehead. "An 8 on the crash-landing scale," he quipped.

Yelich's throw might've beat him, but Realmuto couldn't hang onto it. Which was a fortuitous thing, because Werth didn't touch the plate on his first pass. Tyler Moore, standing in the on-deck circle, yelled at him to touch it, so Werth crawled on all fours to get there and ensure plate umpire Chris Conroy gave the safe sign.

"I don't even know what happened," Werth said. "I hit my head too hard or something. I need to look at the replay. Desi's already got the Vine of it up on the team chat ... in super slow-mo. I'm sure it's good."

All was good for the Nationals at the end of this night. Sure, all they really did was delay the inevitable a bit longer. That's not on their mind right now, though.

"Look, I mean, in this clubhouse it doesn't matter if we're winning or losing or anything," Scherzer said. "We understand what it takes to play at this level. You have to play with absolutely everything you got. That's just the way it is. I don't care what the standings are, how you've been swinging the bat, how you've been throwing the ball. Every time you show up to the park and go out there and take the diamond, you got to bring it. Every single time. Because the other team is. Tonight, I thought we had a great A-effort out of everybody, and it showed."

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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?