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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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Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

Nationals rally against Rivero, beat Pirates 10-7

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The tag was clearly fake. What happened next was all too real for the NL East champion Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper got hurt and needs X-rays.

Harper injured his left thumb making an awkward slide to avoid a pretend tag by Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang, and the teams later cleared the benches Sunday in Washington's 10-7 win.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Harper was "sore" and would have X-rays on Monday. The reigning NL MVP had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the same thumb in 2014.

Harper led off the third inning with a triple. As he neared third, Kang acted as if a throw was coming and feigned a tag.

Harper went down, was checked by a trainer and stayed in. He scored on Anthony Rendon's double and was replaced in the field in the bottom half by Chris Heisey.

Kang insisted he merely intended to keep Harper from scoring when right fielder Josh Bell's throw was way off line.

"First of all, I meant no harm," Kang said through a translator. "During the relay play, I tried to hold the runner on third base. That's all I tried to do."

The next time Kang came up, Nationals starter A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind him and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker as the benches emptied.

Cole said he was trying to pitch inside to Kang. Baker said the entire situation wasn't ideal for a team that is focusing on a playoff run.

"We don't want guys suspended," Baker said. "But you know, boys will be boys, and you've still got to defend your teammates."

Washington's Jayson Werth was in the middle of the skirmish. Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez was ejected.

"I was very surprised I was the only one ejected considering," Rodriguez said. "I got blamed for being the one that instigated, but you can watch the film yourself."

Werth had a pinch-hit, two-run homer and Heisey had a go-ahead single during a five-run burst in the eighth. The Nationals' rally came against former teammate Felipe Rivero (1-5).

Rivero had allowed just four earned runs in his previous 25 innings since being traded from Washington to the Pirates.

Kang hit a two-run homer off Koda Glover to give the Pirates the lead in the seventh.

Shawn Kelley (3-2) wound up with the win. Former Pirates closer Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 43rd save.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli did not play after taking a foul ball off his wrist Saturday. ... RHP Neftali Feliz (arm) threw off flat ground but is not yet ready for a return to the mound.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark (15-9 2.70 ERA) had his start pushed back one day after the Nationals clinched the NL East on Saturday night. He'll looking for his career-best 16th win as Washington hosts Arizona for a four-game series.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA) will start as Pittsburgh begins a four-game series against the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. Kuhl has allowed seven earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in his two previous starts against Chicago this season.

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Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

Benches clear in confrontation between Nats and Pirates

With the division title clinched the night before, it seemed the Nationals were poised for an uneventful series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon. 

That wasn't to be, as the two clubs engaged in a benches clearing altercation in the bottom of the third inning. The tension started in the top of the frame, when Bryce Harper was injured while sliding to third base on a triple. The Nats took exception to Pirates third baseman Jung-ho Kang faking a tag on Harper, which may have led to the injury. 

So when Nats starter A.J. Cole threw behind Kang in the bottom of the inning, the near-fracas was ignited.

Cole was immediately ejected from the game, benches cleared, and each side exchanged words. The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez was also ejected from the game.