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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

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Handicapping the Nats' award hopes

The regular season has long since ended. The postseason is now over, as well. And the offseason is about to kick into high gear.

But sandwiched in between all of that is another season, one that Nationals fans will need to pay attention to more than any previous year: Award season.

Yes, the time has come to hand out plaques, statues and bats and gloves made out of precious metals. The fun begins tonight with the Gold Glove awards, then concludes Nov. 15 with the MVP awards.

Plenty of Nationals are going to be in the mix for all of the honors. Let's run through each award and handicap everyone's chances...

GOLD GLOVES
Announced: Tonight, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Previous Nats winner: Ryan Zimmerman (2009)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
Two Nationals infielders were named finalists: Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche. Desmond faces stiff competition from three fellow shortstops: Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and the Zack Cozart. Desmond has a strong case, but remember that managers and coaches tend to vote based on old-fashioned stats (errors, fielding percentage) and what they see with their own eyes. Rollins had the best fielding percentage (.978) and errors (13) of the group, with Cozart (.975, 14 errors) right behind him. Desmond committed 15 errors but spent five weeks on the DL, so his fielding percentage is a lower .970. Reyes had the most errors (18) with a .973 fielding percentage. LaRoche seems to have a better chance of winning. His .995 fielding percentage was second only to Carlos Lee's .996 among NL first basemen, and his seven errors were second only to Joey Votto (another finalist) and Lee's six. Freddie Freeman (12 errors, .991 fielding percentage) is the other finalist. What distinguishes LaRoche from the rest is his superb ability to scoop up bad throws from his fellow infielders.
Chance of Desmond winning: 25 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent

SILVER SLUGGERS
Announced: Nov. 8, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous Nats winners: Alfonso Soriano (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009, 2010)
Who votes: NL managers and coaches
There are several potential candidates off the Nationals roster, with Desmond and LaRoche in the mix as well as Ryan Zimmerman and ... Stephen Strasburg. (Yes, they give out a Silver Slugger to the best-hitting pitcher in the NL.) LaRoche has a strong case, having led first basemen with 33 homers and 100 RBI. His .510 slugging percentage was solid, too, though he trailed Joey Votto (.567), Allen Craig (.522), Garrett Jones (.516) and Corey Hart (.507) in that department. Votto's .337 batting average lapped the field, but the Reds slugger will be penalized for having played in only 111 games. Desmond has an almost air-tight case at shortstop, leading his position with 25 homers, a .292 average and .511 slugging percentage. Hanley Ramirez (24 homers, 92 RBI) and Jimmy Rollins (23 homers, 102 runs) present some worthy cases, but neither matches Desmond in overall offensive production. Zimmerman would have been a shoo-in to win his third Silver Slugger (and perhaps his first NL MVP) had he produced all season the way he did after receiving a June 24 cortisone shot in his shoulder, but managers and coaches aren't going to take that into consideration. There are plenty of worthy third baseman, from Chase Headley (31 homers, 115 RBI, .498 slugging percentage) to Aramis Ramirez (27 homers, 105 RBI, .540 slugging percentage) to David Wright (21 homers, 93 RBI, .306 average). Then there's Strasburg, who led all NL pitchers with seven RBI and five extra-base hits while finishing third with a .277 batting average behind Mike Leake (.295) and old pal Jason Marquis (.281).
Chance of LaRoche winning: 50 percent
Chance of Desmond winning: 75 percent
Chance of Zimmerman winning: 15 percent
Chance of Strasburg winning: 75 percent

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 12, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Ryan Zimmerman (2nd place, 2006)
Who votes: Baseball Writers Association of America
Bryce Harper certainly is among the favorites for this prestigious award, his 98 runs and 57 extra-base hits leading all NL rookies. He ranked second in homers (22) and stolen bases (18), third in slugging (.477) and fourth in OPS (.817). Harper's chief competition: Reds third baseman/outfielder Todd Frazier (.273, 19 homers), Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario (28 homers, 71 RBI) and Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33 ERA).
Chance of Harper winning: 50 percent

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Announced: Nov. 13, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Frank Robinson (4th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Davey Johnson has as strong a case as anyone for this award, having guided a Nationals club that had never posted a winning record to a 98-win season that led the majors. His chief competition will be Dusty Baker, who also led the Reds to 98 wins, though that team had higher expectations entering the season. Historically, the BBWAA gives the Manager of the Year to the skipper whose team most exceeded preseason expectations, which makes Johnson the front-runner.
Chance of Johnson winning: 67 percent

CY YOUNG
Announced: Nov. 14, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Chad Cordero (5th place, 2005)
Who votes: BBWAA
Gio Gonzalez is in the running for his first Cy Young Award, his case built behind the fact he won an MLB-best 21 games while posting a 2.89 ERA, leading the league in strikeouts per nine innings (9.3) and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.7). But Gonzalez is going to have a tough time overtaking knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games with a 2.73 ERA, a league-best 230 strikeouts and a league-best 27 quality starts. Clayton Kershaw (13-9, 2.58 ERA, 221 strikeouts) also has a case, as does dominant Braves closer Craig Kimbrel (1.02 ERA, 42 saves, 113 strikeouts in only 61 innings).
Chance of Gonzalez winning: 25 percent

MVP
Announced: Nov. 15, 6 p.m. (MLB Network)
Previous best Nats finish: Alfonso Soriano (6th place, 2006)
Who votes: BBWAA
There's really no legitimate chance of a Nationals player winning the most prestigious of postseason awards, but both Desmond and LaRoche should find their way on plenty of ballots (voters are instructed to list their top 10 players). It'll be interesting to see who gets more votes between the two; LaRoche was a more consistent presence all season, but Desmond carried the club for a good stretch over the summer before he was sidelined with a strained oblique muscle. As for the actual winner of the award, as the season wound down, it appeared to be a showdown between batting champ Buster Posey and reigning MVP Ryan Braun.
Chance of Desmond winning: .001 percent
Chance of LaRoche winning: .001 percent

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Scherzer starts as Nats look to keep rolling at Phillies

Scherzer starts as Nats look to keep rolling at Phillies

Nats (76-55) at Phillies (60-71) at Citizens Bank Park

After bouncing back with a 4-0 victory in the series opener, the Nats look to keep it going in Philly on Tuesday night with ace Max Scherzer on the mound.

Scherzer, who is 14-7 with a 2.92 ERA, tossed eight shutout innings against the Orioles his last time out. He last saw the Phillies on June 1 at CBP and gave up two runs in eight innings of work.

Ryan Zimmerman is back in there at first base after taking Monday off. The rest of the Nats lineup is the same.

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: CBS-9, MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Max Scherzer vs. Phillies - Jerad Eickhoff

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Max Scherzer

PHILLIES

TBA
RHP Jerad Eickhoff

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE STATS AND SCORES

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NL East: Cespedes' heroics keeping Mets alive in wild card race

NL East: Cespedes' heroics keeping Mets alive in wild card race

Don't count out the New York Mets just yet. 

The Nationals may be up nine games in the National League East, but their rivals from the Big Apple have slowly crawled their way back into the wild card picture.

The biggest reason why? The return of a healthy Yoenis Cespedes, who missed most of August with a quad injury. In the nine games since he’s been back, the 30-year-old outfielder has slashed .389/.450/.861 with five home runs, including Monday night’s extra-inning walk-off shot against fellow-wild card hopeful Miami Marlins.

"He's that kind of player," manager Terry Collins said via NJ.com. "You expect big things each and every time he goes up. He's one of those guys people pay to see him play. They see him come up to bat, and they know he can do something dangerous each and every time up."

After it seemed like the Mets were down and out, the Cespedes’ bat has resuscitated their playoff push. New York is 7-2 with Cespedes in the lineup since August 19, and its offense has averaged nearly six runs a game during that span. So just like 2015 postseason run, it's on Cespedes to lead the way. 

“Every time I see Cespedes at home plate, I feel like he's going to hit a homer," third baseman Jose Reyes said. "That's the way I feel in the dugout. I'm sure the other guys feel the same way. They had the opportunity to see him get hot last year, and for me, seeing him this year, it's unbelievable what he can do on the baseball field. Basically he can do whatever he wants to.”

New York's mini-surge has happened at the right time, with the club just 2 1/2 games out of a wild card spot and nearly a month left in the season. 

“We're going into September," Reyes said. "That's the way we want to play right now. That's a huge win against a Miami team that was in front of us....now we're in a better position."

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Nats creating distance, Harper keeps rolling, can Murphy still win MVP?

Nats creating distance, Harper keeps rolling, can Murphy still win MVP?

Notes and observations from the Nats' 4-0 win over the Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park…

Roark bounces back: Tanner Roark rebounded nicely from his uneven start against the Orioles last Wednesday to go seven shutout innings with just four hits and a walk surrendered against the Phillies. It was the 16th time in 27 starts this season that Roark has lasted at least seven innings. And it was the eighth time this year that Roark has gone at least seven frames with zero earned runs allowed. No other pitcher has done that more times this year than Roark.

Roark's season ERA is now at 2.87, almost exactly the 2.85 mark he put up in 2014, his last full year as a starter. His ERA+, though, is better at 146, compared to the 131 he had in 2014. And his strikeout rate (7.1 SO/9) is better than it was two years ago (6.3).

Werth hits No. 19: Jayson Werth hit another homer on Monday night, his third in his last four games. He now has 19 on the year, one away from recording the sixth 20-homer season of his career. Werth has seven in August alone which ties the most he's ever hit in a month since he signed with the Nats before the 2011 season. His career-high is eight, set back in 2010 with the Phillies.

Harper gets on again: Bryce Harper didn't get a hit on Monday night, but he did walk and score a run and has now reached base in all 16 games he's played since coming back from the neck stiffness that kept him out a week. In those 16 games he's hit 22-for-61 (.361) with three homers, 17 RBI, 11 walks, 13 runs, six doubles and three steals. His OPS during that stretch is 1.098. That's not a huge sample size, 16 games, but it's more than half a month. If he can be anything close to that for the final month of the season, the Nats' lineup could look a lot different. 

Murphy keeps it up: It has perhaps gone unnoticed by some with the emergence of Trea Turner and the resurgence of Harper, but Daniel Murphy is having another very good month at the plate. With his two hits on Monday, Murphy is now 30-for-93 (.323) with five homers, 22 RBI, 20 runs and a .933 OPS in August. 

Murphy still has the best batting average in the NL at .345, but he has some work to do if he still wants to win the league's MVP award. He's currently tied for third in fWAR with Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. They are both at 4.9, while Kris Bryant (7.6) and Corey Seager (6.9) are far ahead. It seems amazing that Murphy could be hitting .345 with 25 homers and 98 RBI on a first-place team and at this point be third in the MVP race, but that's where he realistically stands right now. Bryant and Seager also lead first-place teams. Bryant is hitting .305 with 35 homers and an MLB-best 109 runs scored, while Seager is batting .323 with 23 homers and also plays plus-defense at shortstop.

Magic number to 23: It's that time of year. With the Nats' win on Monday night and the Marlins having lost their third straight game, the Nats' magic number to win the NL East is now 23. That's pretty low for this point of the season and it could start going down very quickly. The Nats do not play a team outside of the NL East until they go to Pittsburgh on Sept. 23. And the Nats have the best intra-division record in baseball at 36-16.

[RELATED: Turner on playing like a little kid, rest helped Ramos]

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