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Yankees get to Nats' bullpen again

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Yankees get to Nats' bullpen again

The Nationals were swept by the New York Yankees on Fathers Day Weekend despite a quality start by their starting pitcher each game and an overall ERA of 3.50 from their rotation. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson all labored through their starts with high pitch counts, but each left the game with their team in position to win the game. The patience of the Yankees lineup, however, paid off as their offense was able to come alive late in each outing while the Nationals bats continued to struggle.

Jackson allowed just two runs in six innings in Sundays 4-1 loss, but threw 110 pitches along the way. He said afterwards the outing was harder than your usual six-inning start.

They made me work today, I threw 100 pitches in six innings and thats what they are notorious for doing, make the pitcher work the pitch count, he said.

Facing a lineup as deep as New Yorks, you cant really ask for much than what Jackson did. He left the team in good shape moving into the later innings, but the Yankee approach was steady.

Jackson explained what makes them so tough:

They arent afraid to hit with strikes on them, theyre not afraid to hit with two strikes. They make you throw strikes and make you continue to throw strikes, he said.

They get two strikes and they still feel like they are able to come and get a hit off you.

New York broke through in the very next inning after Jackson was relieved. Robinson Cano hit a home run into center field off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny as the second batter. Then, Mark Teixera scored on a passed ball from reliever Ryan Mattheus to catcher Jhonatan Solano. It became the same story seen the two previous games as the Yankees ran away with the victory.

Overall the Nationals relievers allowed eight runs in 14 innings of work in the series, a total ERA of 5.14. Manager Davey Johnson said he had a tough time managing as there really is no letup in the Yankees batting order. Even on a day opposing skipper Joe Girardi played his backup catcher Chris Stewart, the guy got two hits.

They are a little hard to match up against, they have a lot of power and guys that can hit for average, Johnson said.

It is a tough offense. When you try and go create match-ups for your pen, it is a lot tougher.

Johnson said he tried to pitch around Cano for most of the series, but even he got to them in Sunday. Curtis Granderson hit another home run, this time off a right-handed Jackson, but on Friday hit an RBI double and a home run off Nationals lefties. The balance of the Yankee order and their ability to hit all types of pitchers was impressive to Johnson.

Their left-handers are not really susceptible to lefties, they can hit them just as good as right-handers. It is a tough lineup, he said.

The Yankees currently hold the best record in the American League and showed this weekend they are at least a little better than the Washington ballclub. But as an A.L. team, they really have no effect on the Nats moving forward. The only other time they could meet would be the World Series.

But despite all that, Johnson and the Nationals see themselves as in the same category, that they are in a race with all of the leagues best teams.

They got a good ballclub, they will be tough to catch, he said.

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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 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. 

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