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Strasburg, Nationals lose to Marlins 9-0

Strasburg, Nationals lose to Marlins 9-0

MIAMI (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg pitched as badly as his teammates have been playing.Strasburg gave up a career-high seven runs in five innings Tuesday night and the first-place Washington Nationals' losing streak reached five games when they were beaten by Ricky Nolasco and the last-place Miami Marlins 9-0.Nolasco (10-12) allowed five hits in his third career shutout and eighth complete game.Strasburg (15-6) came into the game with a streak of 27 consecutive scoreless innings against Miami in five starts since last September. But he gave up a homer to his second batter, Justin Ruggiano, and trailed 5-0 by the third inning.Strasburg, who had won his past four starts, allowed five earned runs, gave up nine hits and struck out only three. He leads the NL with 186 strikeouts.The youngster is expected to make perhaps four more starts before the Nationals shut him down for the year to protect his surgically repaired elbow.The Nationals began the night with baseball's best record, but they're saddled with a losing streak that matches their season high.Nolasco struck out five, walked none and lowered his ERA to 4.78. He retired 14 in a row and held the Nationals hitless until Kurt Suzuki singled with two outs in the fifth.Ruggiano had a career-high four hits in four at-bats and drove in two runs, while Giancarlo Stanton added three hits and three RBIs. Seven of the Marlins' runs scored with two outs, and they totaled 13 hits.Ian Desmond (hamstring) and Michael Morse (hand), both sidelined last weekend with injuries, returned to the Nationals' lineup but went hitless.The Marlins scored twice off Strasburg in the first inning. Ruggiano hit his 13th home run. Carlos Lee doubled with two outs, then came home on a broken-bat single by Stanton.Miami added three runs in the third. Bryan Petersen led off with a single, stole second, took third on a groundout and came home when second baseman Danny Espinosa mishandled a grounder for an error. Greg Dobbs' two-out single brought home two unearned runs to make it 5-0.
Ruggiano had a two-out RBI single in the fourth. Donovan Solano extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-out RBI single in the fifth that made it 7-0.
NOTES: Nolasco had been 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in his two previous starts this year against Washington. ... Jayson Werth went hitless and is 4 for 25 (.160) against Nolasco. ... The Marlins' bullpen hasn't allowed an earned run against Washington in the past 31 1-3 innings.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals made the first major trade of the season this evening. 

Midway through their Monday night game against the Yankees, the team announced that they had completed a trade for Royals' relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera:

Herrera's a major acquisition for the Nationals, as the pitcher is in the middle of a career year. He's currently pitched 25 innings so far, posting a 1.05 FIP, 2.62 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His 2.1 percent walk rate this season is a career low. 

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