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Nats minor league awards at the break

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Nats minor league awards at the break

Syracuse Chiefs (44-46, 9th in International League)Best Hitter: OF Corey Brown (.296 BA, 19 HR, 52 RBI, 11 SB)
Best Pitcher: LHP Zach Duke (10-3, 3.68 ERA, 102.2 IP)Biggest Surprise: LHP John Lannan (6-8, 4.60 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)

The Nationals acquired Brown along with Henry Rodriguez in a late 2010 trade that sent Josh Willingham to the Oakland Athletics. In his second season in the Nats organization, Brown has thrived and leads the Chiefs in homers, RBI, walks, total bases, and stolen bases.

Duke was signed to a minor league deal back in March and has put together a strong first half to 2012. Duke leads the Chiefs rotation with ten wins and is tied with Yunesky Maya for the best ERA among starters.

Lannan falls in the bad surprise category as his first half struggles were not anticipated by many. He was thought before the season to be the fifth starter on the big league club and hasnt maintained his trade value in Triple-A. The second half of the year will be important for his future with the club.

Harrisburg Senators (48-41, 4th in Eastern League)Best Hitter: OF Chris Rahl (.299 BA, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 20 SB)Best Pitcher: LHP Danny Rosenbaum (7-6, 3.38 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 114.1 IP)Biggest Surprise: OF Destin Hood (.223 BA, 2 HR, 28 RBI)

Rahl, a William & Mary product, has been the teams best position player with a team-leading ten home runs and 49 runs and 20 stolen bases which ranks third on the squad. Rosenbaum has fallen off of late with a 6.27 ERA in June and a poor start to July, but overall he has had one of the best 2012s of any Nats pitching prospects.

Hood also comes in as an unfortunate surprise as the former second round pick looked poised for big things in 2012. He hit 83 RBI in 2011 and had a .809 OPS, but this year his production has fallen off dramatically. Some consider him as one of the teams best prospects, but unless he turns thing around this season he may lose that distinction.

Potomac Nationals (41-49, 6th in Carolina League)Best Hitter: C David Freitas (.286 BA, 5 HR, 39 RBI, 34 BB)Best Pitcher: RHP Neil Holland (4-1, 1.66 ERA, .189 BAA)Biggest Surprise: LHP Robbie Ray (3-5, 4.87 ERA, 27 BB, 64.2 IP)

Freitas has been the best overall hitter in a Senators lineup that has struggled for the most part in 2012. The 23-year-old catcher ranks third in homers, second in RBI, and second in walks. Holland, a relief pitcher, has been a bright spot late in games with the teams starting rotation having an off year across the board. His 1.66 ERA is the lowest on the team and he also has a 0.87 WHIP to boast.

The Senators have also not had any huge good surprises this season which leaves Ray as its biggest unseen development. Ray was stellar in 2011 with a 3.13 ERA in 20 starts at Single-A Hagerstown. This year, however, the 20-year-old has had a rough start and hasnt shown the potential and promise everyone thought he had realized last season.

Hagerstown Suns (56-33, 2nd in South Atlantic League)Best Hitter: 3B Matthew Skole (.280 BA, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 79 BB, .987 OPS)Best Pitcher: RHP Alex Meyer (6-4, 3.32 ERA, 98 SO, 84.0 IP)Biggest Surprise: OF Steven Souza, Jr. (.284 BA, 15 HR, 63 RBI, .901 OPS)

Skole has developed from a 2011 5th round pick out of Georgia Tech into perhaps the best hitter at the low-A minor league level. He leads all South Atlantic League hitters in homers, RBI, walks, and ranks second in OPS. The 22-year-old has to see a promotion soon as he has three home runs already in just seven games in July.

Meyer has come around quickly after being drafted 23rd overall by the Nationals in 2011. The 22-year-old flame-thrower has the starting rotations best ERA and is striking out batters at a rate of 10.5 per nine innings. He should see time in Double-A soon and could develop into a top-shelf prospect.

Souza, Jr. gets the nod as biggest surprise only because Skole and Meyer have already been mentioned. Still, his first half of the season has been spectacular and a huge leap for the former third round pick. He played last year at Potomac and since his demotion has raised his batting average over .55 points and already has more homers and RBI than the year before. He should get another shot at High-A ball soon unless the Nats see Double-A as his logical next step.

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Scherzer, Werth shine in Nats' thrilling victory over the Giants

Scherzer, Werth shine in Nats' thrilling victory over the Giants

Analysis of the Nats' 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night at AT&T Park.

How it happened: Sometimes when your team is in a jam, you have to do something no one has ever done before to get them out of it.

On Friday night in San Francisco, the Nats pulled off the unimaginable. Called in cold off the bench as part of a triple-switch, Ryan Zimmerman generated the first triple play in team history to end the eighth inning and essentially save a Nationals win. It was the first 3-3-5 triple play ever executed by a major league team.

With the bases loaded and Sammy Solis on the mound, Zimmerman caught a Brandon Crawford line drive, stepped on first for the second out, then threw it across the diamond to Anthony Rendon, who stepped on third. The Nats escaped with their 4-1 lead intact and one inning later secured the victory.

Few MLB players have had more publicized issues throwing the baseball than Zimmerman, yet it was his accurate throw that led to the third out. Baseball, man.

That play helped save another strong outing for Max Scherzer, who went seven innings of one run ball. Jayson Werth, Ben Revere and Rendon each landed RBI singles. Daniel Murphy added an RBI triple, as the Nats won their third straight game.

The Nats' bullpen again showed its ugly side by loading the bases in the eighth and then seeing two baserunners reach in the ninth. They got out of each situation, though, to their credit.

What it means: The Nats are now 2-0 against the Giants this season and 61-42 overall. They hold a six-game lead over the Marlins and a 7 1/2 advantage over the Mets, as both teams lost on Friday.

Scherzer carves again: It may be flying under the radar after his slow start and with how good his teammate Stephen Strasburg has been, but Scherzer is having arguably the best season of his career. The Nats ace was efficiently dominant against the Giants on Friday with just one run allowed on five hits, two walks and six strikeouts on 116 pitches in seven innings of work. It was the seventh straight outing that Scherzer has gone at least six innings with two runs or less. Six times during that stretch has he given up one run or less.

Scherzer's worst game of this season was back on May 11 at the Chicago Cubs. But in the 15 starts since - roughly half a season - he has a 2.13 ERA and 141 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit just .169 with a .529 OPS against him in those 15 games.

Scherzer has lowered his season ERA in six consecutive starts, all the way down to 2.85, which is very close to his career-best mark of 2.79 set in 2015. His 146 ERA+, 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine rate and 6.2 hits-per-nine are all career-bests. 

Werth gets them started: The Nationals ended up having their way with Jeff Samardzija, but it didn't start out like that. Samardzija limited them to just two walks and no hits through the first three innings. Then, in the fourth inning, things started unraveling for the Giants right-hander. He gave up a one-out double to Wilson Ramos, then an RBI single to Werth. For Werth, it was the 32nd straight game he's reached base. Werth's overall numbers during that streak are largely unremarkable, he's hitting just .248 with 29 strikeouts. But on Friday, he was a big help for the Nats with two hits, a walk, an RBI and a run.

Murphy's triple: Good things came in threes for the Nats on Friday, as Murphy's triple was another big play in their win over the Giants. It was Murphy's fifth triple this season, which is a new career-high. Twice had he notched four on one season, most recently in 2013. Murphy has been on fire lately. In his last 15 games, he's 21-for-54 (.389) with six homers, 20 RBI, eight doubles and a triple.

Up next: The Nats carry on with the Giants as rookie Reynaldo Lopez (0-1, 11.57) makes his second career start. He'll pitch opposite veteran Jake Peavy (5-9, 5.42)

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VIDEO: Nats pull off first ever 3-3-5 triple play

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VIDEO: Nats pull off first ever 3-3-5 triple play

It's not often you see something in a baseball game that has never happened before, as the sport has been played for over 100 years.

On Friday night, however, the Nationals accomplished something that has never been done before.

In the eighth inning of their win over the Giants, the Nats pulled off a 3-3-5 triple play. 

It looked routine, but it was something that no baseball player has ever pulled off before:

That's just crazy.

[RELATED: Nats place C Jose Lobaton on disabled list]

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Triple play helps Nationals hold off Giants 4-1

Triple play helps Nationals hold off Giants 4-1

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Washington Nationals made history by turning the first 3-3-5 triple play ever in the major leagues then watched as third baseman Anthony Rendon tossed the ball from the milestone moment into the crowd at AT&T Park.

Getting a second straight win over the Giants and securing their hold on the second-best record in baseball was far more important than the souvenir to manager Dusty Baker and his ballclub.

Washington turned the first triple play in its 12-season history, holding on in the eighth inning to help preserve a strong outing by Max Scherzer and beat San Francisco 4-1 on Friday night.

"Crazy," Zimmerman said. "Couldn't have happened at a better time for us. Great job by Sammy (Solis) coming in and getting two pitches and three outs."

The Giants loaded the bases in the eighth with two walks sandwiched around a single. Brandon Crawford then lined an 0-1 pitch from Sammy Solis to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who had entered the game moments earlier as a part of a double switch.

Zimmerman quickly stepped on first base for the second out then threw to third baseman Anthony Rendon to catch Denard Span to complete the triple play.

"Once I caught it I knew I had the double play," said Zimmerman, who was moved a few steps back before Crawford swung. "Then Tony was jumping up and down with a smile on his face so I just tossed the ball over to him. Got out of a jam just like that."

It was the first 3-3-5 triple play in history, according to Sabr.org, and alos the first Baker has ever seen as a player or manager.

"There was one other one but I went to the bathroom and missed it," Baker said.

Scherzer (11-6) had lost four of his five career starts against the Giants and a no-decision in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series before holding San Francisco to one run over seven innings.

The four-time All-Star retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts and two walks.

Over his last six starts Scherzer has allowed just five earned runs in 41 1/3 innings.

"Once we got that lead he knows how to smell the finish line," Baker said. "Max was awesome."

Four relievers combined to retire eight batters.

Four players had two hits apiece for the Giants. San Francisco fell to 2-11 since the All-Star break.

San Francisco put two runners on base in the ninth but Shawn Kelly struck out Eduardo Nunez -- making his Giants debut -- for his sixth save.

"We're just having a hard time getting runners in," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a tough go but you have to be big boys and come out here and put your big boy pants on and keep fighting. That's all you can do."

Jayson Werth had two hits for the Nationals to extend his on-base streak to 32 games, tied with Boston's Dustin Pedroia for the longest active streak in the majors, and Ben Revere hit a tiebreaking single in the fifth.

Daniel Murphy added an RBI triple while Wilson Ramos doubled and scored to help the Nationals win their second straight in this four-game series between division leaders.

All of Washington's runs came off Giants starter Jeff Samardzija (9-7).

FAN CHARGES FIELD

The game was interrupted in the top of the seventh inning when a fan ran onto the field. The man avoided security guards for a few moments then dropped to one knee near Giants SS Crawford before being tackled and escorted away.

TRAINER' S ROOM

Nationals: Backup C Jose Lobaton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow tendinitis. The move is retroactive to July 20. ... Pedro Severino was called up from Triple-A Syracuse.

Giants: Nunez, obtained a day earlier in a trade from Minnesota, was added to the 25-man roster and was in uniform. To make room, OF Jarrett Parker was optioned down to Triple-A Sacramento. ... 3B Matt Duffy (left Achilles strain) took infield and ran the bases before the game in anticipation of beginning a rehab assignment.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-1) will be called up from Syracuse to face San Francisco on Saturday. Lopez lost in his major league debut against the Dodgers on July 19.

Giants: RHP Jake Peavy (5-9) will make his 14th career start against the Nationals franchise. Peavy's first came during his rookie season of 2002 against the then-Montreal Expos.