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State of the Nats: Wins piling up, but tough stretch awaits

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State of the Nats: Wins piling up, but tough stretch awaits

Team Record: 14-4

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About Strasburg's start - With Bryce Harper and Chris Heisey's homers, and a lot of other stuff through 16 innings, Stephen Strasburg's Sunday start sort of got lost in the shuffle. The right-hander posted the 23rd double digit strikeout game of his career and was dominant through seven innings. But he found trouble in the eighth inning when he allowed a three-run homer to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. 

One part of his outing, in particular, was interesting. That was the fact he threw 114 pitches. He has now reached the century mark in three straight outings. Now, 114 isn't ridiculous, but it is early in the season to push a pitcher longer than they usually go. On this day, though, manager Dusty Baker wanted to give his bullpen as much rest as he could. That was, of course, before the game unexpectedly went to 16 innings.

“My bullpen was spent," Baker said. "We were hoping he could get through that one inning. Plus we gave him a chance to try to win that game. This guy has been dealing, and the worst thing is to take a pitcher out who’s been dealing all game, and then you bring in a reliever and it might not be his fault, but in a matter of seconds the work he did for the day ends up in a loss. That’s certainly what I don’t wish for my players.”

Strasburg had no problem going out for the eighth inning. He also had a funny joke about how the homer he gave up helped set the stage for Harper and Heisey.

"Happy to oblige, I guess."

Tough road ahead - The Nationals have three games against the Phillies this week before embarking on a brutal road swing through St. Louis, Kansas City and then Chicago to play the Cubs. That's all before the Nats return home to face the Tigers and Marlins. After that it's the Mets, Marlins, Mets and then the Cardinals again. That's nine straight series for the Nats against teams that pose difficult matchups.

The first road trip, in fact, will put the Nats up against three of the top four teams in baseball in 2015 based on record. The Cardinals had the best record in baseball with 100 wins, the Cubs were third overall with 97 and the Royals led the AL with 95 wins and went on to with the World Series.

The Nationals look great right now and could ultimately prove themselves as a very good team. But it's hard to judge a club when they are beating up on bad teams like the Braves and the Twins. Pretty soon we'll find out exactly what the 2016 Nationals are made of.

Heisey is a Redskins fan - Just like Reed Johnson the year before him, the Redskins have another bench outfielder who loves the Redskins. This time it's Chris Heisey, who hit the game-winning homer on Sunday, a day Skins guard Brandon Scherff just happened to be in attendance. Heisey grew up in Pennsylvania in a family of Eagles fans, but learned to like the Skins because of trips to their training camp in Carlisle, Pa. with his uncle when he was a kid.

NL East Standings

Offensive game of the week: Jose Lobaton 4/22 vs. Twins - 2-for-3, 3B, 3 RBI, R, BB

Pitching line of the week: Tanner Roark 4/23 vs. Twins - 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 15 SO, 3 BB, 121 pitches (78 strikes)

Quote of the Week 

"When I was half between second and third I was like, 'Oh my god, what am I doing here?... I couldn't control my body." 

catcher Jose Lobaton on his April 22 triple vs. the Twins

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road Ahead

Mon. – OFF
Tue. - 7:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Scherzer vs. Velasquez)
Wed. – 7:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Gonzalez vs. Hellickson)
Thu. – 4:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Roark vs. Nola)
Fri. – 8:15 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Ross vs. Garcia)
Sat. – 2:15 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Scherzer vs. Martinez)
Sun. – 2:15 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Gonzalez vs. Volquez)

 

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

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USA Today Sports

National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

In less than a month, the 2018 MLB All-Star game will take place at Nationals Park.

There are plenty of details that still need ironing out, but none are more important than the 64 players that will be taking the field at the Midsummer Classic.

Surely the Washington Nationals are hoping that many of their hometown stars will make the cut.

So, lets clear the air. How are the MLB All-Star rosters created? Well it is a combination of the fan vote, the player ballots, and the MLB Commissioners Office. No, it is not a 33-33-33 split, but rather a political (yet fair) process. Here is how it shakes out for there to be 32 players on each team:

  • Fan vote: eight position players in NL/ nine in AL (DH); plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 16 players in NL; 17 players in AL (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players) and five AL players (four pitchers, one position player)

Keep in mind, the MLB Commissioner’s Office merely is just there to ensure that there is one representative from all 30 MLB teams. Additionally, the player’s ballots are generally in-line with statistics and name recognition.

So let’s see how this shakes out for the National League All-Star Game roster. This factors in the latest fan vote returns:

National League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Buster Posey, Giants (Fan Vote), Wilson Contreras, Cubs (Player Ballot)
1B – Freddie Freeman, Braves (Fan Vote), Jose Martinez, Cardinals (Player Ballot), Justin Bour, Marlins (Commissioner’s Office)
2B – Ozzie Albies, Braves (Fan Vote), Scooter Gennett, Reds (Player Ballot)
3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Fan Vote), Kris Bryant, Cubs (Player Ballot)
SS – Brandon Crawford, Giants (Fan Vote), Chris Taylor, Dodgers (Player Ballot)
OF – Nick Markakis, Braves (Fan Vote), Bryce Harper, Nationals (Fan Vote), Matt Kemp (Fan Vote), Albert Almora Jr., Cubs (Player Ballot), Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (Player Ballot), Corey Dickerson, Pirates (Player Ballot), David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Commissioner’s Office), Christian Yelich (Commissioner’s Office)

SP – Max Scherzer, Nationals (Player Ballot), Sean Newcomb, Braves (Player Ballot), Jon Lester, Cubs (Player Ballot), Aaron Nola, Phillies (Player Ballot), Jacob deGrom, Mets (Player Ballot), Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Brad Hand, Padres (Player Ballot), Sean Doolittle, Nationals (Player Ballot), Josh Hader Brewers (Player Ballot), Wade Davis, Rockies (Commissioner’s Office), Kenley Jansen (Commissioner’s Office), Jeremy Jeffress (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Dave Roberts, Dodgers

After this, there will be one more player chosen by another fan vote. The MLB Commissioner’s Office, along with the manager, choses five players to be selected in the penultimate vote. 

This puts three Nationals on the All-Star team with the Braves leading the charge with five selections.

Now of course nothing ever goes to plan, but heck its baseball, not everyone will be happy.

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