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Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Phillies 1

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Instant Analysis: Nats 2, Phillies 1

Game in a nutshell: In the second of six head-to-head series against their fiercest division rivals, the Nationals seized control and didn't let it go (despite a very tense bottom of the ninth). Ian Desmond clubbed a second-inning homer off Kyle Kendrick to put the Nats up 1-0, then delivered an RBI single two innings later to make it 2-0. Gio Gonzalez and the bullpen then took care of matters from there. Gonzalez was dominant from the outset, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine. Craig Stammen then churned out two innings in the setup role. Henry Rodriguez tried to finish it off, but the erratic closer was yanked after issuing a walk, a single and two wild pitches. Sean Burnett was forced to enter and bail the Nats out, which he did in impressive fashion.
Hitting highlight: Has Desmond found a home in the 5-hole? It sure looks that way. Since getting moved out of the leadoff spot, he's 5-for-13 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI. His solo blast off Kendrick in the second was his seventh of the season, tying Adam LaRoche for the team lead. And his fourth-inning single drove in Bryce Harper with the game's only other run. Would Davey Johnson keep Desmond in that 5-spot after Michael Morse returns to the lineup in a couple weeks? It seems unlikely. But the guy certainly is producing there right now.

Pitching highlight: Once again establishing himself as one of the best swing-and-miss pitchers in baseball, Gonzalez thoroughly carved up the Phillies lineup. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced, all swinging. He got big groundballs when he needed them. And in the process he regained the major-league lead from Justin Verlander with 69 strikeouts. He also lowered his ERA to 1.98 while matching the NL lead with six wins. Yes, there's a really long way to go. But at this moment, Gio is a slam-dunk All-Star and would be in serious contention for the Cy Young Award.
Key stat: Stammen now has 27 strikeouts against only five walks this season. Among all major-league relievers with at least 20 innings pitched, that ranks fourth (behind Wilton Lopez, Cory Wade and Aroldis Chapman).
Up next: Jordan Zimmermann takes the mound against the Phillies for the first time since that Sunday Night Baseball incident. He'll face a stiff challenge in Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay in this 7:05 p.m. game at Citizens Bank Park.

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Nationals prospect report: Minor league season wrapping up

Nationals prospect report: Minor league season wrapping up

Triple-A Syracuse

Lucas Giolito - RHP

Giolito pitched one inning in his last start (8/23) and struck out two batters. He'll be in DC this weekend - whether it's as a starter or reliever remains to be seen. 

Austin Voth - RHP

Voth was better this week, although walks continue to be an issue. He went six innings while allowing two runs on six hits in his last start (8/20) while also walking three and striking out seven. After a quick rise through the system, he stalled out at Triple-A a bit. Can't imagine he'd be a September call-up candidate at this point. 

Mat Latos - RHP

Here's a name that hasn't been around in a while. Latos has a 0.82 ERA over 11 innings pitched, which is purely anecdotal at this point. Still, that's what Mat Latos has been up to. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Jose Marmolejos  - 1B

Marmolejos keeps hitting. He's hitting .342 over his last 10 games to raise his season average to .295. He hasn't quite shown the power he did in Potomac, but he's only played 21 games in Harrisburg. 

Eric Fedde - RHP

In his last start against Richmond, Fedde got knocked around, giving up three earned runs on nine hits while walking and striking out three. In 16.1 innings pitched at Double-A, Fedde has an ERA over 6. Adjustment time! 

Single-A Potomac

Victor Robles - OF

Potomac has not been kind to Robles. He's hitting .179 over the last 10 games and .214 as a whole in Single-A. He'll start the season there next year. 

 

 

 

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Nationals acquire LHP from Oakland

Nationals acquire LHP from Oakland

Updated: 12:06 p.m.

In desperate need of bullpen help, particularly a left-hander, the Nationals pulled off a trade Thursday morning to acquire southpaw Marc Rzepczynski from the Oakland Athletics. In order to get him, they paid a big price by parting with minor league infielder Max Schrock, who was a rising talent in their system.

Rzepczynski, 30, joins the Nats with a 3.00 ERA in 56 appearances this season. He has 37 strikeouts in 36 innings, but also 24 walks and a 1.722 WHIP. Due to his long and unusual name, his nickname is 'Scrabble.'

An eight-year MLB veteran, Rzepczynski will be a free agent after this season. This is the fifth time he's been traded in the last six years, having also spent time with the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Indians and Padres. He holds a 3.87 ERA in 405 career MLB appearances. Rzepczynski also has 18 postseason appearances under his belt.

Rzepczynski throws a fastball in the low- to mid-90s and relies heavily on a slider/changeup combination. Among relievers with at least 30 innings pitched this season, he has the second-best groundball percentage to only Orioles closer Zach Britton. Nats right-hander Blake Treinen is sixth.

Rzepczynski will help the Nats in the short-term as they currently have a bullpen beaten up by injuries, rain delays and short outings by their starters. He is also now their best lefty reliever with Sammy Solis on the disabled list and Oliver Perez suffering through a long stretch of ineffectiveness.

But in the long-term, losing Schrock could be a tough pill to swallow. The Nats took him in the 13th round of the 2015 draft and signed him despite concerns he would return to school at the University of South Carolina. The 21-year-old has emerged as a star in the minors with a .333/.378/.456 slash-line and nine homers, 68 RBI and 22 steals at Single-A this season. Schrock is a year or two away from the majors, but when he gets there he could be a valuable offensive player.

Rzepczynski, though, is just what the Nats need at the moment and they have to do all they can to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them this season to potentially win a World Series.

RELATED: WHAT CAN'T TREA TURNER DO?

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Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Turner's eight consecutive hits adds another feat to impressive rookie season

Trea Turner has known he’s been white-hot at the plate the in recent days. Notching eight straight hits will do that.

“I mean, if you don't, you're lying,” Turner said. “Everyone thinks about it.”

But the 23-year-old speedster didn’t realize he was franchise-record hot until it was too late in Wednesday's 10-8 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

After tying Dmitri Young and Andre Dawson’s Nationals/Expos mark with eight hits in consecutive plate appearances earlier in the night, Turner struck out in the ninth inning to end his shot at history. It was only then, upon seeing his whiff on a computer replay, that he saw a note on the screen saying he was one hit shy of standing alone.

“If I would have known that, I wouldn't have struck out, probably,” he joked. “I'm just kidding. I didn't know that until then."

If your only struggle of late is having to settle for tying a franchise record, chances are things are going well.

Turner’s time in the majors this season has lasted all of 37 games, and yet rookie has made a huge impression on his team by making the game look easy on a nightly basis. Whether that’s being the needed sparkplug at the plate or a terror on the base paths, the much-ballyhooed prospect might be even better than some in the organization initially believed.

“Trea’s been playing great,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He had a great night at the plate. He’s also a very determined young man. That determination and youthful exuberance I think has rubbed off on the team.”

Perhaps even more impressive than Turner’s ability is his aptitude. In addition to having to adjust to big-league pitching, he’s had to learn center field, a position he hadn’t played in college or in the minors prior to this season.

And on Wednesday night’s first play, Turner showed why the Nats believe he’ll be just fine at his new home. He sprinted and dove at full speed rob Orioles’ leadoff man Adam Jones’ of extra bases.

“We’re both about the same speed,” veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman deadpanned. “For him to do that [is impressive]. He’s been playing center field for a month, maybe.”

Of course, he still has his hiccups, as he had later in the game when he leaped and couldn’t haul in ball near the wall in deep center field. But given everything else he brings to the team, the Nats will surely endure whatever growing pains he goes through.

“I feel good [in center field],” he said. “I feel like I'm kinda picking it up as I go and continue to do that in [batting practice] and also the games."

Since the day he became an everyday player, Turner has looked like he belongs. With a slash line of .335/.359/.544 to go along with nine doubles, six triples and four home runs, he may already be establishing himself as one of the most dynamic leadoff men in the game.

"I think it's an empty mind,” Turner said of his approach. “You're not really thinking too much. You just react. I think the more you can do that, the better you'll be, the more success you'll have.”

And if this is only the beginning, the Nats have to be awfully excited about what's in store for the Lake Worth, Florida native.  

“He’s still so young,” Zimmerman said. “He’s still learning how to play and learning himself. His baseball IQ is through the roof. I think he makes adjustments really quick. He’s really observant of what goes on around him. He’s going to be a really good one.”