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Scherzer's fiery exchange with Williams highlights extra-inning win


Scherzer's fiery exchange with Williams highlights extra-inning win

The meeting was brief, tense and essentially spoke volumes of what Max Scherzer is all about.

In the seventh inning of a 2-2 game with two outs and a man on second base, Nationals manager Matt Williams made a visit to the mound -- not so much to remove his ace, but more so to see if he felt good enough to face the Marlins' best hitter, Dee Gordon, to get the final out of the inning.

It didn't take long before the skipper got his answer.

"I asked him 'Do you want him?' and he said, 'Yeah', among other things," said a grinning Williams. "I don't know if you can read lips."

For those watching at home, the message was pretty loud and clear. Television cameras caught the Nats' $210 million man appearing to use some colorful language during his impassioned plea to finish the inning.

"Some yelling, some four letter words and 'I want the ball' is basically the gist of it," Scherzer said of the exchange.

The 31-year-old right hander repaid his manager's trust by retiring Gordon to keep things tied, a key moment in what eventually was a 5-4 extra-inning win. And in typical fashion, he fist-pumped his way back to the dugout, hooting and hollering as he gave violent high-fives to teammates and coaches alike.

It was just the latest example of how demonstrative Scherzer can get during his starts. Whether it's stalking the mound after strikeouts, shouting out teammates after big defensive plays or dousing them with chocolate syrup after big wins (a celebratory custom that finally returned after Jose Lobaton's game-ending sac fly), there's been no shortage of outward passion displayed during his first season in Washington. So nearly nine months to the day after he signed a seven-year contract with the Nats, Friday night's episode didn't exactly surprise anyone inside the clubhouse.

"I knew that was coming," Jayson Werth said. "He’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants it in big spots. I knew if Matt made it all the way out there without signaling to the bullpen he was going to stay in the game. Just the type of guy he is."

"I've done that for a while now," Scherzer added. "I've done it to some pitching coaches and managers [Jim] Leyland and [Brad] Ausmus in the past. You just have to have the belief in yourself when your situations arise. I always know I still have my best bolt left. I know I'm good to go and I'm ready to face anybody in the league in that situation."

The fiery conversation with Williams was a moment that was particularly uplifting considering its context. Much like the Nats, Scherzer's season has tailed off quite a bit in the second half, especially after he put up first-half numbers that made him a potential NL Cy Young candidate. But even as Washington is fighting daily to stave off elimination from playoff contention, he showed the type of fight the team hopes to maintain through September -- tragic numbers be damned.

"[It] was [the] biggest spot in the ball game," he said. "I understand the importance of my job to be able to go out there and give the team a chance to win. In that situation, even though it's a tie ballgame, I'm giving my team a chance to win and that's where you're able to do your job, it's rewarding."


Watch Scherzer and Williams' exchange right here:

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

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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.