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Nationals Stock Watch: Other hot bats besides Harper

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Nationals Stock Watch: Other hot bats besides Harper

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 5-1

Team slash: .286/.363/.468

Team ERA: 3.75

Runs per game: 6.3

STOCK UP    

Bryce Harper, RF:  .500 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.751 OPS

As Mark Zuckerman stated out recently, at what point is this no longer a hot streak and just what Harper is as a hitter? With the way he's going, it looks like he's about to set up permanent residence in this spot for years to come. It seems like we've thrown out about as many superlatives as we could to describe his last few weeks, and yet he continues to put up these gaudy numbers. At about a quarter through the season, Harper is on pace to finish with 59 home runs and notch 150 RBI. Obviously, those totals aren't things Nationals fans should reasonably expect come season's end. But given how locked in he is right now, who knows what his numbers will look like in a few months?

Ian Desmond, SS:  .346 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI

Yes, there are other hot hitters in the Nats' lineup besides Bryce Harper. Desmond is currently riding a six-game hit streak, and is clearly enjoying batting second in the order. On the season, he has a slash line of .316/.373/.513 with three homers hitting in the two-hole. Whether it's his comfort level with being near the top of the lineup, the protection behind him or something else entirely, for whatever reason he's thriving in that spot much more so than when manager Matt Williams had him hitting sixth or seventh. 

Denard Span, CF: .391 AVG/ 3 RBI/ .435 SLG 

He's been hitting well for a while now, so forgive Span's absence on this list in recent weeks. Regardless, the Nats' leadoff man has clearly shaken off the rust a month after coming off the disabled list and is just about back to his 2014 form. He's hit safely in nine straight games, and has posted multi-hit efforts in seven of them. If there was one thing to be nitpicky about, it's that he's only swiped three bases thus far this year. But with the way the guys behind him are mashing, it's not like the Nats offense needs to play small ball to win games these days. 

Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 2-0/ 1.38 ERA/ 13.0 IP

Outside of a tough first inning Wednesday night, Zimmermann has now turned in two straight quality starts, raising his record to 4-2 and lowering his ERA to 3.52. It may not seem like he's throwing as well as he used to, but the Nats have now won five straight games in which he's pitched. Going through his nine starts this year, he's only had one truly bad outing, when he surrendered eight runs in 2 1/3 innings against he Red Sox at Fenway Park in early April. Other than that, he's pitched at least six innings in every start this year and hasn't surrendered more than three earned runs. 

STOCK DOWN 

Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 2.0 IP/ 31.50 ERA

Fister just hasn't been himself thus far this season. His sinker hasn't worked as consistently as it did in 2014, and he isn't getting the amount of ground ball outs like he used to. As a result, he's leaving fastballs (most of which top out under 90 mph) elevated in the zone and hitters have been feasting on those mistakes. However, it turns out his struggles may have been health related, as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list late last week because of forearm tightness. Whenever he comes back, the Nats will need him to rediscover the formula that made him the club's most consistent starter last year. 

[RELATED: Harper and Williams ejected again, Nats rally again]

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

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Trea Turner goes 4 for 4 to help Nationals beat Orioles

WASHINGTON -- Presented with identical opportunities to ring up a big inning, the Washington Nationals took full advantage and Baltimore Orioles squandered the chance.

That goes a long way toward explaining why the Nationals are a contender and the Orioles own the worst record in the big leagues.

Trea Turner went 4 for 4 with a homer , Anthony Rendon drove in three runs and Washington extended its recent domination of the Orioles with a 9-7 victory Tuesday night.

The game was essentially decided in the fifth inning, which began with Baltimore leading 4-1.

In the top half, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs and scored only one run -- when Manny Machado hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Washington loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half and batted around, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Adam Eaton contributed a two-run single, Rendon hit a sacrifice fly and Bryce Harper chased starter David Hess with an RBI double.

"They did a lot better job cashing in their bases loaded, nobody out situation than we did," Orioles manager Buck Showalter conceded.

For the game, Baltimore was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals were 5 for 10.

"This team is starting to become relentless," manager Dave Martinez said. "They kept pounding and pounding and pounding, had a couple of big innings there and scored some runs."

The Nationals trailed 6-5 before getting six hits in a four-run seventh. Rendon delivered a two-run double off Tanner Scott (0-1) that made it 7-6, and Turner capped his four-hit night with a double.

Both teams noted that more than a couple of Washington's hits were bloopers and seeing-eye grounders, but the Nationals certainly weren't about to apologize.

"I feel like all year we've been hitting balls right at people," Turner said, "so it's nice to get a bunch of those in one game and come out with a win."

Washington has won six straight over its neighboring interleague rival, including four games this season by a combined 20-8.

Pitching in his second big league game, Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez gave up five runs, four hits and four walks in five innings.

Justin Miller (5-0) pitched two innings of relief, newcomer Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect eighth and Sean Doolittle gave up a solo home run to Joey Rickard while earning his 19th save.

Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini each hit two-run homers for the Orioles, who have lost 16 of 19.

This one can be blamed on an all-too-telling fifth inning.

"It's just one of those things where if they got hits they seemed to have found holes," Showalter said. "They hit some balls hard, too."

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