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Nats Stock Watch: Zimmerman re-emerging at the right time

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Nats Stock Watch: Zimmerman re-emerging at the right time

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

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .265/.348/.416

Team ERA: 4.50

Runs per game:   4.85

STOCK UP  

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .435 AVG/ 8 RBI/ 1.375 OPS 

It appears that treating the plantar fasciitis in his left foot was all that Zimmerman needed to turn his season around. Now healthy, he's finally resembling the power-hitting corner infielder that Nats fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Since coming back from the disabled list, the 30-year-old first baseman is hitting .327 with four home runs and 11 RBI, providing the middle of the order with exactly the kind of thump it needs -- and just in the nick of time, too. With the team scuffling to get rolling these days, Zimmerman's reemergence has to be seen as one of the big positive developments as the stretch run draws nearer. 

Ian Desmond, SS: .391 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.331 OPS 

He hasn't found himself listed here much this season, but Desmond and the Nats have to hope that the shortstop is the midst of salvaging what's been a pretty disappointing season thus far. He's had a few hot stretches at the plate this year where Nats fans have asked whether or not Desmond is "back", only to see him regress again. But he's starting to produce over a larger sample size, so you wonder if this is the breakout everyone has been waiting for. Consider this: Before the All-Star break, Desmond had a slash line of .211/.255/.334 with seven home runs and 24 RBI in 323 at-bats. Since the break, he's hitting .274/.337/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in just 87 at-bats. It's hard to believe based on the rough start to his season, but he has a realistic chance of reaching the 20-homer plateau for the fourth straight year. 

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 2 GS/ 1-0/ 1.38 ERA 

Nats fans have been concerned about the rotation's lack of consistency (and rightfully so), but Gonzalez has quietly put together a pretty impressive string of starts. Since June 21, he's 5-0 with an ERA of 1.48, and hasn't lost since June 15. Surprisingly, he now ranks second on the team in wins (9) and has lowered his season ERA to 3.50. He still has issues here and there with command and pitch efficiency, but he's done so without allowing the big inning. Unfortunately, his recent run of success comes at a time when the rest of the starting staff needs to get in a groove as well.

STOCK DOWN  

Drew Storen, RP:  3.0 IP/ 0-2/ 18.00 ERA 

It was just last week where we were talking about how dominant Storen had looked since taking over the eighth inning role. Then the Rockies series happened. He turned in his two worst outings of the season, blowing a 4-1 lead on a go-ahead grand slam to Carlos Gonzalez Friday night and yielded a two-run single to DJ LeMahieu that broke a 4-4 tie on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, Storen has been so dominant for most of the season that he has earned a mulligan here and there, a sentiment his teammates echoed over the weekend. But the issue right now is timing, and the Nats can't afford to have the back-end of the bullpen -- an area they believed was addressed after acquiring closer Jonathan Papelbon -- have hiccups as the team attempts to make a push for the playoffs.  

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.