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Nats-Braves series preview

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Nats-Braves series preview

Braves @ Nationals
70-51 2nd in NL East 75-46 1st in NL East

The Rundown
Monday, August 20 Wednesday, August 22
Series 40
Season Series Record vs. Braves: 8-4

Pitching Probables
denotes left handed pitcher

Monday, August 20 7:05 pm
Tim Hudson (12-4, 3.59 ERA) @ Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 2.38 ERA)

Tuesday, August 21 7:05 pm
Paul Maholm (2-1, 1.57 ERA) @ Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 2.91 ERA)

Wednesday, August 22 7:05 pm
Kris Medlen (4-1, 2.03 ERA) @ Ross Detwiler(7-5, 3.25 ERA)

Whos Hot & Whos Not

Braves

Hot: SP Kris Medlen 3-0, 1.05 ERA as a starter
Not: 2B Dan Uggla .156 AVG, 12 K in last 10 games

Nationals

Hot: OF Michael Morse 4 HR, 10 RBI in last 10 games
Not: RP Drew Storen 6.00 ERA, 6 BB in month of August

A Series Look

Its finally here. If you want as big of a series as you can get late in the season, this is it right here: Nationals vs. Braves. Evidence could be seen during yesterdays Mets-Nats rain delay, when the Braves game was played on the scoreboard. Every time the Braves would give up a run, the Nationals fan base would cheer.

While the Nationals may be calling it just another series, everyone in the baseball world knows whats on the line between the Braves and the Nationals this week in Washington. The Nationals, owners of baseballs best record, are nursing a 5 game lead over the Braves in the NL East. After this 3-game set, the teams meet only one more time before seasons end.

Tim Hudson, tonights starter who has generally owned the Nats in his career, has absolutely been shelled by Nats hitters this season. The veteran right-hander is 0-2 with a 8.53 ERA against the Nationals in two starts in 2012. His counterpart, Jordan Zimmermann, believe it or not hasnt faced the Braves this year. Zimmermann is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in his career against the Braves. The NL ERA leader, Zimmermann, made his MLB debut against the Braves back in 2009 (a 3-2 win).

Tonights game could set the tone for the rest of the series. This week wont make or break either teams postseason hopes, but one of two things will certainly happen. The Nationals will build upon their NL East lead; or the Braves will cut into it. Regardless, Nats fans have been waiting for years to have meaningful baseball in the late summer months. Its finally here.

Prediction: Nationals win 2-1

News and Notes>Odds & Ends:SP Gio Gonzalez needs just one more win to set a personal single season record in number of wins Closer Tyler Clippard posted his fifth consecutive scoreless appearance with yesterdays save, his 27th of the season The Nationals have sent out postseason packet information to season ticket holders.
Down on the Farm

>AAASyracuse: Expect RP Christian Garcia to not only be a September call-up, but to be a key piece to the Nationals postseason run. In 48 innings in AAHarrisburg and AAASyracuse combined, the former Yankees prospect has allowed just 4 earned runs. Garicas fastball is in the mid-90s range and has 63 strikeouts in both levels.

>AAHarrisburg: 3B Anthony Rendon, who is potentially a candidate for a September call-up (although highly unlikely), is hitting .125 since being called up to the Senators.

>A (Advanced)Potomac: 2011 1st round pick SP Alex Meyer continues to pitch well for the P-Nats. He is the owner of a 2-2 record with a 2.45 ERA.

Quote Corner
The Braves missed a chance to put some pressure on the Nationals, which they would have done had they come into the series closer than five games back. It wouldn't have been easy for them to do that, the way the Nationals have been playing, but by allowing the gap to get to five games, the Braves failed to really put the Nationals under pressure.

This team has responded well to everything so far, and there's no reason to believe they would fall apart under pressure. But we're not really going to find out, not this week, anyway.-Danny Knobler, Baseball Columnist, CBSSports.com

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Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

LAS VEGAS -- On Line 1 is a team interested in Tanner Roark.

They should be. Durable, trustworthy, rather effective, affordable. These are traits for Roark, even considering a down season in 2018.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has fielded inquiries on his 32-year-old fourth starter since signing Patrick Corbin. Other organizations wonder if the Nationals now have a pitching surplus. They don’t. For that reason, and the same ones that make Roark attractive to others, his final season before free agency is very likely to occur in Washington.

“Teams look favorably on a one-year guy that could help them,” Rizzo said. “We’ve spoken to a couple of teams about it, but nothing serious or imminent that’s happening at this point.”

Receiving a proper return would be difficult. Moving Roark would increase a risk of 2018 when the Nationals’ rotation picked up two injuries and went careening into a bad place outside of Max Scherzer. The high-end organizational depth at the spot is limited to non-existent. Washington will cross its fingers about Joe Ross or Erick Fedde in the fifth spot. It wants to move with assurances in spots 1-4. Dealing Roark undermines that idea. 

“We always talk about depth,” Rizzo said. “And to eliminate a pitcher like Roark, we would certainly like to strengthen that strength, if we were to make a deal for him.”

In other words, thanks for calling.

Taylor is wintering in the Dominican

Michael A. Taylor typically spends his winters in Florida. He’s spending a chunk of this December in the Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball.

Taylor knew at the end of a dismal offensive season he wanted to do extra work in the offseason. The plan was for him to get with hitting coach Kevin Long.

An idea came up: What about winter ball?

Taylor was reluctant at first. He’s entering his age-28 season with five years in the major leagues behind him. Going to winter ball is atypical for such a player.

But, there’s a lot to fix. Taylor’s voluminous strikeout rate and lack of overall contact have undermined his plethora of other abilities. The Nationals need him to make more contact so he can also be a problem on the basepaths. Taylor stole 24 bases in 2018.

The Nationals don’t expect him to be is a .300 hitter. Anything close to the .270 Taylor hit in 2017 would be more than fine. 

“Hopefully he hones down in his swing and puts the ball in play and help us out a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. 

Martinez sees a path for Taylor to play quite a bit. Victor Robles will need breaks. Adam Eaton will need breaks. Juan Soto … not so much. But, that leaves room for Taylor to tag some starts as well as certain spot usage later in games defensively or on the bases. If his swing is improved, all the better for the Nationals. 

What is Corbin bringing?

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo watched Corbin for two seasons. What he saw was someone who adopted the gameplan born of analytics, added an effective off-speed pitch while shelving another, then turned into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball. 

“I think he was sent to the bullpen [earlier],” Lovollo said. “In '17 he started to develop a lot of confidence in a couple different pitches that he was landing at any time. And that's all that hard work that he's putting in behind the scenes to make good things happen.

“He believed in scouting reports. He believed in pitching plans that we put in place. And he was starting to have a lot of success that he carried over into 2018.

“When I first met Patrick, he had a lot on his mind. He was frustrated by a lot of things and maybe being a little bit misunderstood. I encouraged him to be himself and trust those around him. He did that. He had a couple of pitching coaches and really good catching corps that he developed a strong relationship with. And you could see it yielded very, very good results.

“So Washington is getting a very special player. We're going to miss him in Arizona. We knew that was a strong possibility that was going to happen.”

Interesting to hear is Lovullo suggesting Corbin wasn’t all-in with what analytics were saying about pitch selection. That changed after further conversations with the coaching staff. So did his results.

“I think at the beginning when we were bringing some new normals into the organization, the start of the '17 -- more specifically, in Spring Training '17, he was kind of resisting it and he was going to rely on some of the things that he was good at that worked prior to that point in his career,” Lovullo said. “But the more he trusted and began to develop relationships with very important people inside of that, inside of that pitching room, he started to see some really good results.

“So I know that, like I said, he delivered the pitches. He made all good things happen by him going on the mound and dialing it up. But he went out there with a lot of confidence, had a great plan in follow-up. Took some time for him to develop that relationship, and it became very powerful.”

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Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

The specifics of the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals have come out, and unsurprisingly, much of the money is backloaded. 

Here are the details, courtesy of Jon Heyman:

As you'll notice, the Nats will be paying Corbin $35 million in 2024, his age-35 season. That's an $11 million jump from the previous year, and $22.5 million more than he'll be making in the 2019 season. 

That may sound like a lot of money to be paying an aging pitcher in the final year of his deal. But with the Nats, that's standard operating procedure.

To demonstrate, let's take a look at the contracts of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Washington's other two marquee starters (contract details found on spotrac.com)

Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats before the 2015 season, the average annual salary sitting at $30 million. However, he's only been receiving a base salary of $15 million a year -- plus signing bonus money and incentives -- through his first four years in D.C.

Why? His contract is very backloaded: starting in 2019 until his contract expires in 2021, he'll start earning a base salary close to or more than $30 million. In addition, much of his money is deferred: from 2022-28, Washington will be paying Scherzer $105 million, good for $15 million each year. 

As for Strasburg, his contract includes an even more dramatic salary jump than Corbin's or Scherzer's. Since he signed his seven-year $175 million deal, he's earned base annual salaries of $10.4 million, $15 million and $15 million from 2016-18. 

In 2019, that number balloons to $35 million, then down to $25 million in 2020 and back to $15 million in 2021 and 2022, before rising once again to the tune of a whopping $45 million in 2023!

In conclusion, the Nats will be paying their top three pitchers a ton of money, but Washington has decided to delay cutting those checks to give themselves more financial flexibility in the present. 

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