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Ross continues to impress, but Mets showing their worth


Ross continues to impress, but Mets showing their worth

For the second straight night, the Nationals fell to the division rival New York Mets by just one run thanks to mistakes made late in the game by their bullpen. This time it was Mets first baseman Lucas Duda who had the big swing and Nats reliever Matt Thornton who gave up the decisive score.

The Nationals now lead by just one game in the NL East and that advantage could disappear on Sunday when the Mets will aim for the series sweep. Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 3.36) and Noah Syndergaard (5-5, 2.70) will be the starters in what is about as big a game as you will see in early August.

The season series between the Nats and Mets is now deadlocked at six games apiece. Thanks to their 3-2 win on Saturday, New York now holds a 33-32 lead in runs overall. Six of the 12 games they have played were decided by one run and another was decided by two runs. So far this season, the Nats and Mets have proven to be quite the even matchup.

It is, of course, important to note all the injuries the Nationals have endured this season. They have yet to field their full regular lineup once this season. But they are very close to being healthy now, at least on offense, and here the Mets have won two straight to begin this series.

After Sunday's series finale, the two teams will play six more times this season. Included in those plans is a three-game series in New York to finish the regular season schedule. With the way these teams are going, there's a good chance there will be plenty on the line for that weekend.

Ross has another impressive outing

Each baseball season has its fair share of surprises, and the 2015 Nationals have had plenty. In terms of positive developments, the emergence of rookie starter Joe Ross has to rank up there with the most positive of them.

When he debuted on June 6, few even within the organization knew what he was capable of. Many just noticed how he was the first teammate Bryce Harper had played with at the major league level that was younger than him. In the time since, however, Ross has proven his worth as an important part of the Nationals' future.

Ross dazzled once again on Saturday night in his sixth career start. He allowed only two runs - both on Duda solo homers - on four hits and one walk.

Through six MLB outings, Ross has five quality starts. He has yet to allow more than three runs in a game or more than one walk in 6 1/3 innings.

The consistency Ross has shown so far is remarkable. In each of his outings he has struck out at least four batters with one walk or less. He is the first pitcher since at least 1914 (as far back as Baseball Reference's play index goes) to began his career like that.

Back to the quality starts. Ross has five of them in six outings. For a comparison, it took Max Scherzer 12 career starts to get five and Gio Gonzalez needed 20. Stephen Strasburg has just two quality starts in 13 outings this season.

After Saturday's start, Ross now has a 10.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 40 Ks so far to just four walks. He has the best SO/BB ratio among rookie starters this season by a longshot and the best of any rookie pitcher through six starts since at least 1901. Coincidentally, Scherzer (2008), Strasburg (2010) and Tanner Roark (2013) all led their respective rookie classes in the category.

I've been asked several times in recent weeks about the future of Ross in the Nationals' organization both on Twitter and on the radio. After his first few outings and especially in early July, the thought of 'selling high' and trading him at some point seemed reasonable. But with the way he has pitched this season not only in the majors, but in each of his minor league stops, it's becoming clear that Ross will end up being a big part of their 2016 plans.

Jordan Zimmermann and Fister are both impending free agents and the likelihood they will keep both, if either of them, seems low. Many expect Lucas Giolito to be ready to make the Opening Day roster next spring, but he will almost certainly be on an innings limit in 2016, given he is still recently removed from Tommy John surgery. It is unlikely the Nats will allow him to pitch beyond 160 innings or so next season.

Ross is the more likely candidate to step right in if Fister and/or Zimmermann leave and become a mainstay in their rotation. And with what he's shown so far, the Nationals could have a potential star in the waiting.

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.


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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

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Saturday's Nationals game rained out, to be postponed

Following a dicey matchup between the Nats and Braves Friday night which featured a heated argument between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are getting a much-needed opportunity to regroup.

The Washington Nationals' official Twitter account announced that Saturday evening's matchup will be postponed due to inclement weather just after 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

The Nationals had planned to host "JMU Night" at the ballpark as a part of their "College Day" series, and due to more forecasted inclement weather Sunday, the Nationals decided to call the game off sooner rather than later.

The Nationals have yet to announce when the game will be made up.

If Sunday's game is played as scheduled, Max Scherzer will start.

This post will be updated when more information regarding a makeup date has been announced.