After getting the top hitting prospect in the class and paying over slot for high talent, the Nationals 2011 draft was praised by most around baseball. They helped stock their farm system so much it was rated as the best in the game back in February. The groups best players, however, have got off to a rough start as two of their top three picks sit out with injuries. Overall though the class has shaped up well nine months since being drafted and some of the lesser names have emerged as names to keep an eye one in the future.Here is a look at their top picks from last year:Anthony Rendon, IF - 1st round, 6th pickRendon suffered a small fracture in his left ankle in the second week of April while playing at Class-A Potomac. It continues a long injury history for the young infielder who was only able to DH his last year in college because of a bum shoulder. Rendon wont miss the entire season, but getting helped off the field early in his first season was a huge setback to his development.Alex Meyer, RHP - 1st round, 23rd pickMeyer is the only top four pick of the Nationals 2011 class to be playing in the minors and currently healthy. The 69 flame-thrower out of Kentucky has made six starts for the Hagerstown Suns and has three consecutive solid outings. He has allowed just five earned runs in his last 16.2 innings and holds a 4.28 ERA on the season. His worst start came in his second outing when he allowed five runs in the first inning on April 12, but since Meyer has settled down and is second on the Suns with 33 strikeouts in 27.1 innings.Brian Goodwin, OF - CA, 34th pickGoodwin hasnt played in game since leaving one with a quad injury on April 9. The outfielder continues to recover, but had two home runs and eight RBI in just five games with the Hagerstown Suns. The Nats have high hopes for Goodwin to potentially slot in center field some day and hope he can get back on track soon.Matt Purke, LHP - 3rd round, 96th pickPurke is not injured right now but continues to work at extended Spring Training. He is expected to open with the Potomac Nationals and should be there relatively soon according to Mike Rizzo. Rizzo still has him down south to limit his innings this year as Purke has an injury history with his left throwing shoulder.Kylin Turnbull, LHP - 4th round, 127th pickTurnbull is the highest selected player from this class the Nationals have at the Class A Shortseason Auburn Doubledays. The pitcher has had trouble so far with a 5.12 ERA through his first four starts. He has allowed 22 hits and 11 earned runs in just 19.1 innings pitched.Matthew Skole, 3B - 5th round, 157th pickA big bat out of Georgia Tech, Skole has been the most pleasant surprise thus far out of the 2011 class. Skole leads the South Atlantic League with 34 RBI and 28 walks. His five home runs and .955 OPS are also both tops on the Hagerstown Suns. He is well on track to be a SAL All-Star and probably won't be with the Suns long into the summer.Taylor Hill, RHP - 6th round, 187th pickHill is also finding early success at Class-A Hagerstown with the starting rotations best ERA at 2.88. He is 3-2 on the year and has allowed just one home run and three walks in 25.0 innings pitched.Brian Dupra, RHP - 7th round, 217th pickDupra one of Hagerstowns other young starters and has kept an impressive 3.20 ERA in six starts this season. He has, in fact, allowed one run or less in four of those six starts and has yet to give up a home run. In his last three outings he has allowed only one earned run and just seven hits in total.Gregory Holt, RHP - 8th round, 247th pickHagerstown has used Holt in seven relief appearances so far and he has produced mixed results. He holds a 4.40 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched but has given up only one run in his last three games. He has improved on his ten appearances with Hagerstown from last season and seems to be getting better consistently.
Manager Dusty Baker was asked about Trea Turner's surprising strength on Thursday night and, well, his answer was a bit unexpected.
You could say things got a little weird. Baker started talking about Turner's build and his description got quite specific:
"He’s wiry-strong. You can tell by that ball he hit down the line. That’s a big man’s swing right there. He’s stronger than he appears. And he’s going to get stronger yet, when he gets his man-muscles or his man-bones or whatever you call it. Heh-heh. Cause today I tapped him on the butt, and I was like: ‘Man, you’re hard as a rock.’ And he said: ‘Well, I should be. It’s all bone.’”
Okay, then. Now, that's a quote.
Baker also described Max Scherzer's between-the-legs on Thursday night in terms that included the male anatomy:
"First time I’ve seen that. Good thing that ball didn’t hop up on him, know what I mean?”
Just another night with Dusty Baker, one of the funniest people in sports.
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Despite his team holding a comfortable division lead in the final week of August, there was plenty on the line to motivate Max Scherzer on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
He was tasked with stopping his team's four-game losing streak against a team in the Baltimore Orioles that was aiming for a four-game sweep. Going back to last season, the O's had won six consecutive games over the Nats. They had their number. They smelled blood. And because of the proximity of the team's stadiums, they had some of their friends lacing the audience dressed in orange.
The Nationals' bullpen also needed a favor. Rookie starter Reynaldo Lopez went just 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday and Tanner Roark was bounced after five the following night. Last week Nats relievers were plagued by even shorter outings from the rotation, rain delays and injuries.
Simply put, the Nationals needed Scherzer to be the ace they paid him $210 million to be. They needed 'Mad Max.'
So, Scherzer stepped out of the dugout and into the view of a sellout crowd on Thursday night with that crazed looked in his eye, that 20-strikeout, 'you'll be lucky to get any hits at all' kind of look. He was ready to be the aggressor against an Orioles lineup that is as aggressive and powerful as they come.
"They have a lot of guys that have a lot of thump in their lineup and the past three nights, I had really been watching them," Scherzer said. "I was going through my experience and really coming up with a gameplan of how I needed to pitch against them."
Scherzer used that preparation to charge out to a fantastic start with six strikeouts in his first eight at-bats. He carved up the Orioles to the tune of eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, no walks and just two hits allowed. That set the stage for just the fifth time the O's have been shut out this season.
"That’s what aces do," manager Dusty Baker said. "He shut down a very high–powered offense. There were only a couple balls hit hard off him. Had quite a few strikeouts. Boy, that was a masterful, masterful job by Max."
It was the 11th time Scherzer has posted double-digit strikeouts in a game this season, more than any other MLB pitcher. That tied the Nats club record he set himself just last year.
His 10th strikeout was against Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in the eighth inning. He then got J.J. Hardy to fly out to end the frame and his night after 95 pitches.
Scherzer had every reason to keep pushing late in his start, but there was something in the park on Thursday that gave him some extra motivation.
"I gave everything I got there in the eighth, the O's fans started making noise there in the eighth and that really kind of ticked me off. When they're sitting out there cheering at our park, I didn't like that," he said.
That, of course, was a minor consideration for Scherzer. More important to him was saving the aforementioned bullpen, which has been taxed more than any part of their roster during this current stretch of 20 games in 20 days.
"I knew I needed to pitch deep into the game tonight. Our bullpen has been taxed, and I really needed to try and get deep into the game to try and help those guys out. That was huge to get into the eighth and complete the eighth and just turn the ball over to Mark [Melancon], so that was a first and foremost thing that I knew I needed to do tonight," he said.
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Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
How it happened: In order for the Nationals to finally beat the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, Max Scherzer had to pull out all the tricks.
Per usual, he dazzled with his electric fastball, sometimes as an out-pitch, sometimes simply to set up his breaking stuff. He didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning and struck out six of the first eight batters he faced.
Scherzer even fielded a groundball through his legs, from behind. Like, he was turned and facing the outfield, reached down and grabbed the ball, then threw it to first.
Now, that's something you don't see every day. What you do see often, is the dominance Scherzer displayed on Thursday night. He ended up going eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks along the way. That performance led the Nats to a win, their first against the Orioles in their last seven tries.
Jayson Werth put them on the board in the fourth inning with a solo homer to center field off O's starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez was actually pretty good, as he usually is against the Nats. He went six innings with just one run allowed on five hits and no walks. He now has a 2.24 ERA in nine career starts against the Nats.
Daniel Murphy added another run on an RBI single in the eighth. He drove a hard groundball down the first base line to score Trea Turner and notch his 96th RBI of the season. Bryce Harper added a two-RBI double to opposite field in the eighth inning to give the Nats some extra insurance.
The Nationals snapped a four-game losing streak with the win and prevented the Orioles from handing them their first sweep since June 20-22 against the Dodgers.
What it means: The Nationals got back in the win column to move to 74-53 on the year.
Scherzer ties his own record: With 10 strikeouts on Thursday night, Scherzer notched his 11th double-digit strikeout game of the year. That leads the majors and matches the Nationals club record for a single season. Scherzer, in fact, tied his own record, set last season. Thursday night was Scherzer's 47th career double-digit strikeout performance.
Werth hits No. 17: Werth obliterated an 89 mile per hour fastball to dead center off Jimenez for his 17th home run of the season. The ball traveled 436 feet and ricocheted off the green wall in the groundskeepers pen. For Werth, it was fifth homer of August, a season-high for one month for the Nats left fielder. He had four homers in April and May, and had just four total between June and July. His 17 are the most he's hit in a year since 2013, when he finished 13th in NL MVP voting.
Harper hits two marks: Harper reached two mini-milestones on Thursday night. One was his 18th steal of the season, which matches the career-high he set as a rookie back in 2012. Harper only had 19 total steals from 2013 through 2015. Now that he's healthy and under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, he's returned to being a significant threat on the basepaths.
Harper also singled and landed an RBI double and has now reached base in all 12 games since he returned from his neck injury nearly two weeks ago. He's 18-for-46 (.391) with 13 RBI overall during that stretch. The single on Thursday gave him his 100th hit of the season in his 117th game. He got to No. 100 in his 89th game last year.
Up next: The Nats next host the Colorado Rockies, who won two out of three in their series at Coors Field earlier this month. Gio Gonzalez (8-9 4.30) will get the start opposite right-hander Jeff Hoffman (0-1, 13.50) in the Friday night opener.
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