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Ian Desmond Shows Signs of Life

Fan favorite, team leader and pending free agent Ian Desmond has had the exact definition of a nightmare season. Following his second straight Silver Slugger award in 2014, general manager Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals front office offered the franchise shortstop a deal that would keep him in a Nationals jersey for the rest of his productive years. However, citing reasons of fairness and equality for future generations, Desmond turned down the reported 7-year, $107 million contract, seemingly assuring that he would test the free agent waters this coming offseason. And to say that things have not gone his way so far this season would be an understatement, as he has produced a meager .225/.269/.356 slash line while committing 17 errors (eight of which came in the team’s first 12 games).

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Roark Struggles as Nats Split Doubleheader

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams added suspense to game two of Sunday’s doubleheader by waiting until immediately after game one to announce that Tanner Roark would start the endcap. Sadly for the Nationals (42-34), the delayed announcement was about the only source of exhilarating drama they offered, as they surrendered a seemingly infinite number of singles to the Philadelphia Phillies (27-50) in an 8-5 loss.

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Strasburg Shreds Phillies In Game One

In game one of Sunday’s doubleheader in Philadelphia, the Washington Nationals (42-33) overcame an early deficit to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies (26-50) by a final of 3-2. With Stephen Strasburg keeping the game close, the Nationals’ offense cashed in on some sloppy defense by the Phillies and took control of the game for good.

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Scoreless Streak Ends as Nats Win Seventh Straight

The Max Scherzer signing was a mistake, and it has never been clearer than it was Friday night.

Scherzer committed the unforgivable sin of allowing a run, become the first Washington Nationals starter to do so in 48 innings, the longest such streak since 1974. But even a depleted Nats lineup was able to overcome his comparably poor outing as the Nationals (41-33) won their seventh consecutive game, triumphing 5-2 over the Philadelphia Phillies (26-49) hours after their manager, Ryne Sandberg, resigned abruptly.

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The Implications Of Losing Anthony Rendon

 

On Wednesday, a full three weeks since returning from the disabled list, Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon capped a three game stretch when he went 7-for-12. The stretch, although limited, raised Rendon’s average from a meek .230 to .290. It wasn’t terribly surprising, as Rendon has always been seen as an elite player. Raising his batting average was likely just a matter of getting his timing back.

However, Rendon is now DL bound again, with no clear timetable on when he’ll be ready to return. His injury puts the Nationals in a delicate place. They have the middle infield depth to mask his loss, but absolutely cannot absorb injuries beyond what they’ve already sustained. Continue reading…

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Michael Taylor Is Evolving

On June 2nd, the Washington Nationals played a double-header. Michael Taylor went a combined 2-for-8, striking out six times. The games dropped his overall line to .223/.281/.393 and bumped his strikeout rate to an even 40%. He was exactly as advertised: A free swinger with power, but a .281 on-base percentage isn’t exactly passable at the major league level.

I’ve done some research, and it doesn’t seem that anything notable happened the night of June 2nd. No comets with mystical powers passed the earth, nor did any planets align. It rained a bit, so it’s possible (though unlikely) there was a lightning strike to initiate some crazy body-switching magic.

But some way or another, Michael Taylor woke up a new man on June 3rd.

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Fister, Offense Power Nats Past Braves In Sweep

Things are starting to click for the Washington Nationals (40-33).

They polished off a sweep of the Atlanta Braves (35-38) with the help of a rolling offense behind a gem of a start by Doug Fister. The 7-0 win was the Nats’ sixth in a row, tying their season-high winning streak. If the pitchers keep dominating and the hitters keep producing like they have over the past six games, this all-star team could be in the midst of a very exciting run. Continue reading…

United States pitcher Erick Fedde (33) winds up during the second inning of an exhibition baseball game against Cuba in Cary, N.C., Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Federal Reserve: Examining Nats’ Short-Season Rosters

Over the last year, the coverage on the Federal Reserve has typically focused on prospects on the Washington Nationals’ full-season affiliates, and for a reason. Full-season players not only are closer to the majors, but also typically have more experience than their short season counterparts and offer more certainty by playing over a larger sample size.

This year, though, the Short-Season A Auburn Doubledays and the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Nationals deserve a closer look, thanks to an infusion of recent draft picks and intriguing prospects on both rosters. Continue reading…

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Desmond Walkoff Lifts Nats to Fifth Straight

As they often do, an early pitcher’s duel turned into a dramatic battle of the bullpens. After a fast-paced start to the game, a tumultuous ninth and exciting extras ended in the Washington Nationals’ (39-33) favor, as Ian Desmond hit a sac fly to left field that gave the Nats a walkoff win over the Atlanta Braves (35-37), 2-1 in 11 innings. With the win and Mets loss, the Nationals now lead the NL East by 3.5 games after five straight wins.

Zimmermann Cruises With Some Help

It had not been the best season for Jordan Zimmermann to date, as he entered Wednesday with a 3.75 ERA on the year. But he mowed through a paper-thin Braves lineup, going eight scoreless innings and allowing six hits and no walks. The sterling outing dropped his ERA a third of a run to 3.42 and pushed the Nationals’ rotation’s scoreless streak to 34.1 innings, a new Nationals record.

On the opposite mound, Zimmermann was matched pitch-for-pitch by Shelby Miller, who allowed just one run in seven innings and retired the first 10 Nats. But a Bryce Harper RBI single in the seventh was all the Nats would need in the game’s first nine innings.

The one knock on Zimmermann’s line was his low strikeout total, which came in at just three. A few of the balls he let into play were decently hard hit, especially as the game wore on. But fortunately for Zimmermann, Denard Span borrowed the winged sandals from Hermes for the night. He was everywhere, making a sliding catch on a shallow popup and a leaping one on a ball drilled to the wall. He even delivered an excellent throw on the sacrifice fly that tied the game, getting Joey Terdoslavich at second to perhaps prevent the Braves from taking the lead.

Storen Blows It

Drew Storen has been among baseball’s best closers this season, by any standard. He entered the night with an even 2.00 ERA, an even better 1.70 FIP, a monstrous 34.0% strikeout rate and a miniscule 4.7% walk rate. On top of that, he had blown just one save all season, converting his last 17 in a row and ranking third in the NL with 21 total. But a pair of singles, including one on a weak grounder up the first base side, and a throw to third put men on second and third with nobody out.

An intentional walk loaded the bases and made Span’s double play (with a cutoff throw from Danny Espinosa) possible after Kelly Johnson’s sac fly. With a man on third and two outs, Andrelton Simmons grounded out to second to end the threat. Fortunately for the Nats, Storen’s run would be the only one they would cede.

Desmond Delivers

Desmond, like all of the Nationals, was playing with a heavy heart today. Bench coach Randy Knorr’s wife Kimberly passed away Tuesday, and Knorr was not with the team. His jersey was hanging in the dugout, and Desmond wore Knorr’s number 53 on his helmet as an emblem of the closeness between the two.

So it was only fitting that Desmond would be the hero. After Harper doubled, Wilson Ramos was intentionally walked and Clint Robinson drew an unintentional one to load the bases with one out. Desmond lined the first pitch from David Aardsma to left, where ex-Nat Eury Perez made the catch but was far too deep to have a chance at home.