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Nats' Espinosa has tough day all-around, Gio trending in wrong direction

Nats' Espinosa has tough day all-around, Gio trending in wrong direction

Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field…

Espinosa has tough day all-around: Danny Espinosa committed two of the Nats' season-high five errors on Sunday and one of his mistakes proved costly. His first was a throwing error that allowed Dansby Swanson to reach first to lead off the bottom of the first. But then Espinosa started a 6-4-3 double play in the very next at-bat. It was his second error that helped lead to a run. Espinosa allowed Nick Markakis to advance to third on a throwing error in the third inning and Markakis tagged up to score in the next at-bat on a flyball by Matt Kemp.

The two defensive blunders were just part of a rough game overall for Espinosa, who also went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at the plate. Espinosa has just five hits in his last 11 games across 50 at-bats with 17 strikeouts to five walks in that span. Since Espinosa's amazing series against the Reds June 30-July 3, he's hit just .165 (22-for-133) with a .270 on-base percentage in 38 games. What's perhaps even more troubling, is that he has no home runs during that stretch. Usually you can count on Espinosa to bring some power, even at the expense of strikeouts and a low OBP. That has not been the case for about six weeks now.

Gio falls a bit short: Gio Gonzalez wasn't terrible by any means on Sunday, but the Nationals certainly could have used a better and longer outing from their lefty starter. Gonzalez went 5 2/3 innings on 112 pitches with four runs (3 ER) allowed on six hits and three walks. In only going 5 2/3 frames, Gonzalez forced the Nats to go to longman Yusmeiro Petit in order to save the rest of their bullpen. That plan, however, was disrupted by a rain delay after Petit had thrown just 1 1/3 innings.

A rain delay was part of the story of Gonzalez' last game, too, but this time it didn't affect him personally. He simply didn't pitch well enough to go deep into his start. And after giving up three earned on Sunday, Gonzalez has surrendered nine earned runs on 17 hits in his last 13 2/3 innings across three starts. After making a midseason turnaround through July and the early part of August, Gonzalez is currently trending in the wrong direction.

Heisey is killing it again: Remember earlier this season when Chris Heisey began the year with four homers in his first 31 at-bats, which was pretty darn good for anyone, much less a bench player? Well, it took Heisey from then - May 13 - all the way until Aug. 2 to hit another home run, but that seemed to spark him back into gear. He homered again on Sunday and now has four in his last 25 at-bats across 11 games. 

Getting Heisey back going could be important for the Nationals as they enter September. Their bench has been a strength for much of this season, but Stephen Drew remains out with an inner ear issue. Without Drew, Heisey's role is more important and we know Dusty Baker feels comfortable with him in big spots.

[RELATED: Harper homers, but Nats bullpen cracks in loss to Braves]

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Andy Martino of SNY refutes the reports that the Nats are out on Harper

Andy Martino of SNY refutes the reports that the Nats are out on Harper

Despite Mark Lerner's comments to NBC Sports Washington that the team hasn't been in recent contact with Bryce Harper and has filled out the roster, SNY's Andy Martino says not to give up hope.


"Do not believe that the Nationals are out on Harper," Martino said. "People I talk to around the situation are saying don't rule the Nationals out until the moment that Harper signs elsewhere."


Martino believes that the clearest options may not be what they seem.


"The Phillies of course are pursuing him, but I continue to hear they have a tough road to get Harper to come to Philly," he said. "The Phillies are possible but I don’t know that I would call them frontrunners."

After the news of Manny Machado signing with the Padres, all eyes turn to Bryce Harper and how long this continues to drag out. 

The clock is ticking.

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How to watch NBC Sports Washington's full interview with Nationals owner Mark Lerner

How to watch NBC Sports Washington's full interview with Nationals owner Mark Lerner

When Nationals principal managing owner Mark Lerner  see his team lose, he has a postgame ritual that rivals one of the most ordinary passionate fan.

“ I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas in an exclusive interview in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Friday. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”

Lerner also spoke about Bryce Harper's future - or lack thereof - with the team, Anthony Rendon and what he expects from the team this season.

The interview is now available in full on the MyTeams app, which can be downloaded here.

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