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Nats offense continues to stall; Storen stumbles again


Nats offense continues to stall; Storen stumbles again

For the second time in a month, the Nationals were dominated in consecutive days by the Los Angeles Dodgers' duo of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. But this time the Nationals fielded a mostly healthy lineup, as their offense continues to lose its footing in the month of August.

Greinke and Kershaw could be the two best pitchers in today's game, but the Nationals were not able to score a single run off either of them. They looked like an offensive powerhouse in Monday night's 8-3 win in the series opener, only to wilt once the big boys took the mound.

In Wednesday night's 3-0 loss, only Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor got hits off Kershaw. Taylor somehow registered two, including a double. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-21 against the three-time Cy Young-winner. He tossed eight scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks.

Kershaw also shut the Nats down for eight innings with three hits allowed and now walks on July 18. Except that day he struck out 14. The Nats vs. Kershaw this season are scoreless through 16 innings with 22 strikeouts and no walks drawn.

Kershaw is, of course, the best pitcher of his generation. He dominates everybody at some point. But this was a Nats lineup on Wednesday that for the most part does not have the excuse of injury. They had a banged up Bryce Harper and were missing Denard Span, but the rest of their lineup was as Mike Rizzo intended it to be before this season. Seven of their eight best offensive players were on the field, yet Kershaw took a perfect game into the sixth inning.

It has become a troubling trend that the Nats' offense hasn't followed with the expected production since it got mostly healthy. Ryan Zimmerman has done his part, and Harper has continued to get on base, but the lineup collectively has not found it's groove. It is a big reason the Nats are now 3 1/2 games back from the Mets for the first time since May 10.

Anthony Rendon returned from the disabled list on July 25 and both Zimmerman and Jayson Werth came back July 28. That was over two weeks ago, yet the Nats are 18th in runs scored in the month of August. Rendon has shown flashes at times, but holds a .238 average and .662 OPS in the 17 games since he was activated. Werth has been the weakest link in the Nats' lineup with a .151 average and .440 OPS in the 15 games since leaving the DL. Those were two of the Nats' most dependable and productive players when they won 96 games in 2014.

The continued problems the Nats are finding at the plate, coupled with the uncertainty of Denard Span's injury, makes you wonder if the Nats should do something creative through the waiver wire. We've seen them acquire significant pieces in August before and the need for an offensive boost is being highlighted on a nightly basis. The Nationals face the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night, the defending world champions. The Giants seem intent on bringing in a veteran bat, perhaps Chase Utley whom they have been tied to in trade rumors. Maybe the Nats should take note and do something similar for their own sake.

Drew Storen stumbles again

For how good Drew Storen looked in the first four outings he pitched after the trade for Jonathan Papelbon, he has been an unmitigated disaster in his last three games. Storen's struggles continued on Wednesday night as he allowed two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Dodgers.

Storen now sports the unfortunate line of eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings since he became the setup man. Contrast that with the seven earned runs he gave up in 37 1/3 innings as closer this year and, well, you have a pretty interesting statistic.

Storen, in fact, has given up more earned runs in his last three outings than he did all of last season in 65 appearances. He has also allowed as many earned runs in his last three games than he did in his previous 67 combined.

Here, take a look:

Storen's last three games: 2.2 IP, 8 ER, 6 H, BB, 3 SO
Storen's previous 67 games: 62.1 IP, 8 ER, 44 H, 13 BB, 67 SO

Whether this has anything to do with Papelbon's acquisition is difficult to tell, Storen certainly wouldn't admit it. But if it doesn't, that sure is a major coincidence.

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.


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Here's why one writer voted for Max Scherzer over Jacob deGrom for NL Cy Young

USA Today

Here's why one writer voted for Max Scherzer over Jacob deGrom for NL Cy Young

Jacob deGrom could've been a unanimous Cy Young award winner Wednesday. Instead, he won with 29 of 30 first-place votes.

The only voter who chose not to give deGrom a first-place vote was John Maffei of the San Deigo Union-Tribune

"What is stunning to me is the blowback from the fans, especially in New York," wrote Maffei. "Dozens of emails — some venomous — ranging from 'hey dumbass,' 'incompetent,' 'idiot,' 'moron' and 'clown.' Several called for my head, my job."

Shocking. Keyboard warriors furiously typing out their frustration and overreacting to something they didn't like.  

Maffei joined Steve Somers of WFAN in New York as well, which ended up being the shortest interview in the history of interviews.

Maffei points out that he chose to vote for Scherzer over deGrom for many reasons. One being, despite a 1.70 ERA over 217 innings, he had 10 wins and nine losses.

After he talked with other baseball experts, looked at Scherzer's 2.53 ERA and his historic 300-strikeout season — making him one of only 17 pitchers to do that since 1900 — Maffei says his vote was swayed in the direction of the Nats' ace.

One thing's for sure, Maffei may not have made any friends in New York, but he's made plenty of new ones in Washington.