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Robinson's seventh-inning homer good enough for 2-1 win


Robinson's seventh-inning homer good enough for 2-1 win

By Rich Dubroff

In spring training, it was no certainty  Clint Robinson would make the Nationals. The final outfield spot came down to Mike Carp and Robinson.

Carp had six years of major league experience, and at 28, had 318 major league games and a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Robinson, who turned 30 as spring training began, had played in just 13 major league games.

Halfway through the season, Robinson is providing crucial depth for the Nationals while Carp is, at least for the moment, out of baseball.

Robinson’s two-run home run in the seventh inning gave the Nationals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants before a sellout crowd of 41,693 at Nationals Park on Friday night.

After Robinson hit his fourth home run off Jake Peavy, he took a curtain call. But not at first.

“That was as big a shot of adrenaline as you could ask for. I was a little bit late with it, I think he’d already gotten two pitches into the next batter before I got out there. I was trying to calm myself down because I was messed up inside, but it was great,” Robinson said.

Early in the season, Robinson pinch hit and played in the outfield when Bryce Harper was injured, and these days, he’s getting to play some first base because Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list.

Robinson has impressed manager Matt Williams, who obviously appreciates the feel-good story, but appreciates the attributes he offers.

“It’s perseverance, isn’t it? It’s a long time in the minor leagues with success, with success at every level, and he’s finally getting to opportunity to play in the big leagues, getting an opportunity to play on a regular basis, and showing us what he can do. He’s been very productive for us,” Williams said.

Robinson, who started in the Kansas City organization, batted over .300 three times in his first six professional seasons including winning the Triple Crown in the Texas League in 2010 before he got four at-bats with the Royals in 2012.

He spent 2013 season in both Double and Triple-A with the Toronto organization before getting in nine games with Dodgers a year ago.

Now, he’s what passes for an overnight sensation.

“I know why this didn’t happen a few years ago. There’s only 750 guys in the major leagues, and there are thousands of guys trying to get one of them. It’s just about being in the right place at the right time. That’s why you hear about guys who play for years and years and everybody always asks: ‘Why?’

“Well, it’s because eventually that opportunity is going to come hopefully. Mine came this year, and I’m trying to make the most of it,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s home run made a winner out of Gio Gonzalez, who pitched seven innings, and allowed one run on Buster Posey’s homer in the seventh. He struck out six, and for the first time this season, didn’t walk a batter.

Gonzalez (6-4) was pitching on five days rest because of a truncated start last Saturday in Philadelphia when he threw just 18 pitches before the game was rained out.

For a moment in the third inning, it looked as if Gonzalez had given himself the lead when he hit a long fly ball down the left field line. It was called foul, and Gonzalez was denied his fourth career home run.

“I knew it was foul off the bat. I didn’t want him to think I was showing [him] up. I knew it was foul,” Gonzalez said.

“I was trying to keep my head down. I didn’t know what was going on. Don’t know if it’s fair, don’t know if it’s off the wall or it’s gone. That’s the signature Gio Gonzalez move.”

Jake Peavy (0-3), making his first start since Apr. 17, pitched six excellent innings against the Nationals, allowing two hits in the first innings, and nothing else until the big home run.

Matt Thornton retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, and Drew Storen polished off the Giants in the ninth for his 24th save.

The hero was Robinson, who knows his playing time will be reduced when Zimmerman returns. He appreciates what he has.

“Every day in the big leagues is a good day. As long as I’m up here, I’m going to do the best I can to help this team win and hopefully take us into the playoffs,” Robinson said.

NOTES:  Harper has equaled his season high of five games without an RBI. He walked three times. ... In his debut with the Racing Presidents, Calvin Coolidge won by pushing Teddy aside at the tape. … Madison Bumgarner (8-4, 2.99) faces Stephen Strasburg (5-5, 5.49) at 11:05 a.m. on Saturday. 


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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.


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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player.