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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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Why Trea Turner’s ‘jealous’ of Loudoun South, LLWS competitors

Why Trea Turner’s ‘jealous’ of Loudoun South, LLWS competitors

When Trea Turner sees the Little League World Series – or even thinks about it – there’s one feeling that comes to mind: Jealousy.

“I always wanted to go to this tournament,” he told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “Tried every year. We had some good teams and made some good runs, but never got a chance. I’m a little jealous.”

The team is in Pittsburgh this week – a nearly 200 mile drive from where Virginia’s Loudoun South Little League team is looking to advance after two impressive no-hitters. And while it might be a longshot for them to make it to the big leagues one day Turner wasn’t the only current Nationals player whose dream started back in Little League.

Turner played in Little League from the age of five to 13. “My dad coached,” he said. “Most of my best friends to this day are still from of that age group and their fathers as well were coaches.” They were a close-knit group, he said.

Erick Fedde remembers his time in Little League – as a catcher. “I didn’t really pitch much until my sophomore year of high school,” he said. “Everybody pitches when they’re little. I think I was playing left field or something. I was always like I want to pitch [in high school], but I don’t want to tell the coach.”

Luckily, his mom intervened. 

“My mom pushed me,” he said. “[She told me] ‘you should tell them you want to pitch.’”

Hunter Strickland’s dad also coached him in Little League – and seeing the Little League kids, he said, brings back memories with his dad and brothers. “He definitely pushed us,” he said of his dad as a coach. “But, I respect it. It’s made us into the people we are today. It makes you a better player, a better person just from the discipline.”

Andrew Stevenson played in the Little League World Series in 2005 with his team from Lafayette, La. His heroics in a game against a team from Kentucky lead the Associated Press roundup of the tournament at the time. He scored the winning run after making it to first on a bunt single and then getting to home from third on a throwing error.

“He may be the fastest player up here,” his team manager, Mike Conrad, told the AP at the time.

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Hunter Strickland explains the weight-room mishap that broke his nose

Hunter Strickland explains the weight-room mishap that broke his nose

PITTSBURGH -- Hunter Strickland’s face has been fixed. A small piece of tape still resides in the middle of his broken nose, but the good news is the break was clean. When he went to a local hospital for X-Rays, his nose was reset and clearance to pitch was provided. His ego remains a work in progress.

Strickland broke his nose Tuesday when a weight-lifting bar was inadvertently pulled onto his face. The Nationals large reliever -- 6-foot-3, 225 pounds -- went to use a red cord tethered to a squat rack above the empty bar for hip mobility exercises. And, well, we’ll let him tell it:

“So I pulled the cord in front of the bar so this wouldn’t happen, and obviously it didn’t work out too well,” Strickland said. “When I sat down to get on the ground to do the hip stuff, I went to reach up and grab the cord, and I guess one of the loops still got hung up behind it. And when I grabbed it, I guess my weight pulled the bar off it, and it crushed me.”

Tuesday, Strickland went to throw afterward and felt fine. The doctors also told him he couldn’t further damage his reset nose -- harken back to the wise words of Max Scherzer, “You don’t pitch with your nose” -- so he felt ready to pitch. Davey Martinez opted not to use him a few hours after the incident. 

Strickland had never broken his nose prior. He comes from a large family which jousted in athletics, where he is the middle child with two older brothers, a younger brother and two younger sisters, but never broke his nose. So, the shot to the face was a surprise, to say the least.

“I had no idea,” Strickland said. “I didn't know what happened. Obviously, it hit me pretty good so it kind of dazed me for a second there. After that, I looked up in the mirror. My nose was crooked and bleeding everywhere. Just kind of put two and two together -- got knocked out by a bar.”

Members of the Nationals medical staff immediately came to him in the cramped visitor’s clubhouse workout space. The area is so tight, players were throwing a medicine ball off the concrete wall just outside entrance Wednesday. Blood and confusion made Strickland briefly worry something more significant had happened. Wednesday, he was relieved and available.

“That’s why I’m thrilled it’s not as bad as it could be,” Strickland said. “That’s one of the things they look at with the X-rays, to make sure the passages are still straight and clear. I’m able to breathe and get the blood out of there, so we’ll be good to go. It’s good. Everything checked out.”

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