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Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer's masterpiece tops the week

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Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer's masterpiece tops the week

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

Record: 4-2

Team slash: .300/.333/.405

Team ERA: 2.00

Runs per game: 4.16

STOCK UP 

Max Scherzer, SP: 9 IP/ 0 H/ 10 K/ 0.00 ERA 

There was no way that Scherzer was going to be able to top his magnificent one-hit shutout of the Brewers last Sunday, right? Wrong, apparently, because all he did was go out in his very next start and make history last weekend at Nats Park. Dominating a pretty good Pirates lineup, the 30-year-old ace hurled the second no-hitter in club history in front of a sold out crowd. Were it not for Jose Tabata taking an inside slider to the elbow (something Nats fans are still steamed about), we'd probably be talking about a perfect game. But, alas, Scherzer had to "settle" for the no-no, a problem most starting pitchers would love to have. With his latest performance, you could easily make the fact that he's just turned in the best back-to-back starts in baseball history. And given the way he's going these days, this may not be his last no-hit bid we see from him this season. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP:  1-0/ 0.00 ERA/ 5 K

Whatever Strasburg did to address the early-season struggles during his time off, it certainly showed in his first start back from the disabled list. The right hander looked like a completely different pitcher Tuesday night against the Braves, and in doing so provided the Nats with hope that he might be able to turn his season around. He only went five innings, but he looked about as crisp as he has all season long. His fastball touched 98 mph at times, and his command was much improved. If this is the new Strasburg (who, by the way, looked a lot like the old Strasburg), then the Nats rotation is in pretty good shape moving forward. 

Yunel Escobar, 3B: .364 AVG/ HR/ 5 RBI 

Maybe a change of scenery did Escobar some good, because he's quietly having one of the best seasons of his career in his first year in D.C. He's hitting .325 and is on pace for 59 RBI, which would be the most he's had in a season since 2009. It probably doesn't hurt that he's hitting atop one of the better lineups in the NL, but Escobar has yet to go through a prolonged slump at any point of the season. Who'd have guessed that at the beginning of the year? 

STOCK DOWN

Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 8.44 ERA

With four straight good outings by Nats' starters, it's east to forget that the last time one of them struggled was late last week vs. the Rays. To be fair, that was Fister's first start back from the DL, but his results were eerily similar to earlier in the season; he allowed five runs on nine hits in just over five innings of work. It was the fourth time in eight starts that he allowed five or more runs. At some point, the Nats a need Fister to recapture his 2014 form. If he can, then this staff might finally be able to live up to all the preseason hype. 

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.