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Nats even Beltway Series

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Nats even Beltway Series

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Edwin Jackson took a one-hitter into the seventh inning, Adam LaRoche homered, and the Washington Nationals beat rookie Wei-Yin Chen and the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Saturday night. Michael Morse had two hits and scored a run for the NL East-leading Nationals, who improved to 10-7 in interleague play and 2-3 against Baltimore. Adam Jones hit his team-high 19th home run for the Orioles, whose six-game home winning streak ended. Jackson (4-4) gave up one run, four hits and a walk in 6 1-3 innings. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and permitted only one runner past first base through six innings. After Jones ruined Jackson's shutout bid by leading off the seventh with a homer, the right-hander retired Matt Wieters on a deep fly before giving up successive singles. Former Oriole Michael Gonzalez came in and got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to line into an inning-ending double play. Sean Burnett worked the eighth, and Tyler Clippard got three straight outs for his 12th save in 13 tries.

Chen (7-3) allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits in five innings. The Taiwan native won his three previous starts, over Boston, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Chen is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his two outings against Washington and 7-1 in his other 12 starts. The game attracted 46,298 fans, the fifth sellout at Camden Yards this season. The first was on opening day, and the Phillies and Nationals each drew two packed houses. Washington went up 2-0 in the second inning. With runners at second and third and two outs, Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit ranged to his left to grab a grounder by Xavier Nady, then bounced a throw to first that eluded Mark Reynolds. Nady received credit for an RBI single, and the other run came home on the throwing error. LaRoche led off the fourth with his team-leading 13th homer, a towering fly that dropped over the center-field wall. Eleven of his last 16 hits have been for extra bases. Baltimore's first runner came when Jones reached on an error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman leading off the fifth. He took third on a one-out single by Wilson Betemit, and after a walk loaded the bases with two outs, Jackson retired Steve Pearce on a popup. NOTES: Jackson is 6-1 lifetime against Baltimore, 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA over the last four seasons. ... The Orioles released 49-year-old LHP Jamie Moyer at his request. Moyer pitched in three games for Triple-A Norfolk after signing a minor league contract on June 6. ... The Orioles and Nationals wrap up the series, as well as interleague play, on Sunday. Jake Arrieta (2-5 with a 6.85 ERA at home), starts for Baltimore. Ross Detwiler (4-3) goes for Washington. ... Baltimore's Chris Davis went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his last 28 at-bats. ... Chen has allowed nine homers this season, seven of them solo shots.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals made the first major trade of the season this evening. 

Midway through their Monday night game against the Yankees, the team announced that they had completed a trade for Royals' relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera:

Herrera's a major acquisition for the Nationals, as the pitcher is in the middle of a career year. He's currently pitched 25 innings so far, posting a 1.05 FIP, 2.62 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His 2.1 percent walk rate this season is a career low. 

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