Nationals

Quick Links

Wilson Contreras powers Cubs past the Nationals, 7-4

Wilson Contreras powers Cubs past the Nationals, 7-4

CHICAGO -- Although it was supposed to be a day off for Willson Contreras, the Cubs regular catcher was in the lineup playing left field on Saturday.

As far as manager Joe Maddon is concerned, Contreras can rest when he's not red hot at the plate.

Contreras homered and drove in three runs, Alex Avila homered for his first hit with the Cubs and Chicago beat the Washington Nationals 7-4 to even the series between division leaders.

Contreras is batting .444 (8 for 18) with three homers and 11 RBIs in the five games of the current home stand and has reached base in 19 straight.

"I had to keep him in the lineup," Maddon said. "I mean, he's swinging the bat so well."

Kris Bryant and Jon Jay each added a run-scoring hit as the Cubs snapped a three-game losing streak.

Bryce Harper hit his 28th homer and threw out a runner at third base for the Nationals, but struck out in two key spots.

John Lackey (9-9) allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in five innings to win his fourth straight start. Wade Davis got the final three outs -- striking out Harper, the potential tying run, to end it -- for his 23rd save.

"He's definitely tough in that situation," Harper said of Davis. "I had one pitch that I could drive and I hit it foul. I knew if I missed a pitch against him, it would be a tough at-bat."

Harper also struck out against Lackey in the fifth with a runner in scoring position.

Washington starter Edwin Jackson (2-2) allowed four runs and six hits in five innings. Harper's solo shot in the first gave the Nationals a quick lead, but the Cubs responded with four in the bottom of the inning. Bryant drove in the first run with a double and Contreras followed with an RBI single to score Bryant. After a single by Ben Zobrist -- Contreras was thrown out by Harper trying to advance to third -- Avila's two-run shot made it 4-1.

"It felt really good," said Avila, who was acquired on Monday to back up Contreras. "I glad to get it over with and out of the way."

Washington scored twice in the fourth to make it 4-3. Anthony Rendon had a sacrifice fly and Matt Wieters added an RBI single.

Contreras' two-run blast off Matt Grace in the sixth was for a 6-3 lead and Jay's RBI single in the seventh made it 7-3.

The Nationals added an unearned run in the eighth to cap the scoring.

Contreras believes the key to his hot streak is simply taking advantage of the pitches he can handle.

"That's what hitting is all about," he said. "Just being ready for your pitch, and if you get it, take advantage of it."

Quick Links

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

bryce-harper-usat.jpg
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 one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

MORE NATS NEWS:

Quick Links

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. 

MORE NATS COVERAGE: