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Wang takes win in relief as Nats beat Braves

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Wang takes win in relief as Nats beat Braves

By CHARLES ODUM ATLANTA (AP) -- Rick Ankiel hit a two-run triple in Washington's four-run first inning, Ryan Zimmerman padded the lead with a three-run double in the seventh and the first-place Nationals beat the slumping Atlanta Braves 7-4 Friday night. Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (1-0) won in his season debut. He gave up one run in three innings after taking over for Ross Detwiler in the fifth. The Nationals moved two games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East. Ian Desmond had a two-run single in the Nationals' first inning. The Braves cut the lead to 4-3 before Zimmerman's bases-loaded double off Tim Hudson in the seventh. Jason Heyward homered in the eighth, Martin Prado had two doubles and a triple and Matt Diaz drove in three runs with two hits for the Braves. Atlanta has lost five straight, its longest streak of the season. Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his second save. Wang entered the game after Prado doubled and Detwiler walked Dan Uggla with one out. Wang gave up a two-run double to Diaz, who was thrown out going for a triple.

Wang allowed three hits and one run, on Heyward's homer, in three innings. A left hamstring injury in spring training kept Wang out this season before he came off the disabled list on Tuesday. The Nationals took a 4-0 lead off Hudson (3-2) in the first. Desmond's bouncing single up the middle drove in Bryce Harper, who singled, and Zimmerman, who doubled. Hudson hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch before giving up Ankiel's two-run triple to left-center. Hudson recovered with five scoreless innings. He retired the first two batters in the seventh before walking Wang, giving up a double to Steve Lombardozzi and a walk to Harper. Zimmerman's three-run double to center field gave the Nationals a 7-3 lead and knocked Hudson out of the game. Hudson gave up a season-high seven earned runs on eight hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. The four runs he allowed in the first inning topped the three he gave up in his previous three starts. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones missed his seventh straight start with a bruised left calf. Brian McCann missed his fourth straight start with flulike symptoms but took over in the second inning after David Ross left the game because of a strained right groin. Ross grimaced after moving out of the way of ball four from Detwiler. Ross walked to first base before leaving the game. NOTES: OF Michael Morse, who has missed the first two months with an injured back muscle, is playing in extended spring training and is expected to begin a rehab stint at Class A Potomac on Monday. ... 1B Freddie Freeman, wearing new contact lenses, was back in the lineup. He missed Thursday's game at Cincinnati due to vision problems caused by dryness in his eyes while wearing contacts. He also was fitted for new sports glasses on Friday. ... Nationals ace RHP Stephen Strasburg will face Braves struggling LHP Mike Minor when the series continues on Saturday. Scotty McCreery, the 2011 American Idol winner, will have a postgame concert.

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

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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 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. 

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