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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

While the Fall Classic got off to a rousing (and unexpected) start last night, the Fall League is kicking into high gear out in Arizona.

A "finishing school" of sorts, the AFL features upper-level prospects from every organization in baseball, dispersed among six teams for a six-week season. Stephen Strasburg participated in 2009. Bryce Harper was there in both 2010 and 2011.

The Nationals don't boast anyone quite as prominent as those two this fall, but there are several notable names currently playing for the Salt River Rafters. Let's run through everyone on the roster to date...

3B ANTHONY RENDON
The Nationals' first-round pick in 2011 (sixth overall), Rendon is off to a bit of a sluggish start. In nine games, he's hitting .212 (7-for-33) with two doubles, three RBI (all of them coming on Oct. 17), six walks and eight strikeouts. He has only one hit over his last 14 at-bats, but the Nationals are less concerned with the 22-year-old's numbers and more concerned that he get significant playing time after missing most of the regular season with a fractured ankle.

OF BRIAN GOODWIN
Another 2011 draft pick (compensation for losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox), Goodwin has hit well so far in his AFL debut. In nine games, he's batting .286 (10-for-35) with three homers, two doubles, three RBI, four walks and 12 strikeouts. He's already got four multi-hit games and is reaching base at a .359 clip.

1B MATT SKOLE
The Nationals' organizational player of the year after launching 27 homers in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown, Skole has picked up right where he left off at the end of the regular season. He's amassed a .387 batting average (12-for-31) in nine games with two homers, three doubles, seven RBI, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. A third baseman during the season, he's been playing first base with the Rafters (in part to keep the hot corner open for Rendon).

SS JASON MARTINSON
The 24-year-old shortstop is on the Taxi Squad (so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays), and he's struggled to produce in the limited opportunities he's received. In five games, Martinson is 1-for-18 with a double, three RBI, one walk and nine strikeouts.

RHP RYAN PERRY
After seeing time in the Nationals bullpen this year, Perry was sent to Class AA Harrisburg and converted into a starter. He dominated at that level but has yet to see that success translate to the AFL. The 25-year-old right-hander has made three starts, allowing seven runs and eight hits in nine total innings.

RHP COLE KIMBALL
Having missed the entire season while recovering from major shoulder surgery, Kimball is trying to rehab his way back to the big leagues this fall. The 27-year-old reliever has made four AFL appearances, two of them not so strong (including a three-walk debut on Oct. 12). Kimball has made two scoreless outings, though, including one in which he retired all four batters he faced (two via strikeout).

RHP PAUL DEMNY
The 23-year-old hurler didn't make much of a name for himself at Class AA Harrisburg (6-8, 5.46 ERA in 28 appearances) and he's already put a bunch of men on base in the AFL (15 in 7 2/3 innings, seven via walk).

RHP AARON BARRETT
A ninth-round pick in 2010, Barrett impressed as a late-inning reliever with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac this year, and he's been lights-out against some very tough competition in Arizona this fall. In four scoreless innings so far, Barrett has five strikeouts without issuing a walk.

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Roark and Turner lead the way as Nats hold on to top Giants

Roark and Turner lead the way as Nats hold on to top Giants

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night at AT&T Park.

How it happened: This Trea Turner and Bryce Harper combination at the top of the Nationals' lineup has potential.

Turner has been doing his part for over a week now, continuing to look like a player who can lead the Nats to new heights with his production from the leadoff spot. And on Thursday night in San Francisco, Harper followed the rookie's lead with a strong effort hitting behind him.

Turner went 2-for-4 with a walk, a run and a steal. After going hitless in his previous five games, Harper smoked an RBI double to score Turner from first in the top of the sixth. As Turner rounded third and charged home, his helmet flew off behind his head, a subtle ode to the man who drove him in.

Turner had one of three straight two-out RBI singles hit by the Nats in the top of the second inning alone. Danny Espinosa got the first to score Wilson Ramos. Tanner Roark then landed the second to score Ryan Zimmerman before Turner brought home Espinosa.

That sequence was the worst moment for Johnny Cueto, who lasted a season-low five innings. Roark, on the other hand, was surgical through seven innings of one-run ball. 

The Nats pitching staff hummed like a well-oiled machine until the bottom of the ninth inning when Jonathan Papelbon took over. He faced one batter - Brandon Crawford - who flew out - before manager Dusty Baker got Oliver Perez warming in his bullpen. Papelbon would stay in to allow two baserunners before getting the hook. That simply does not happen if he had not given up six earned runs in his previous two outings. Clearly the Nats do not have confidence in their closer at the moment.

Perez replaced Papelbon, but didn't finish the inning. He loaded the bases by walking Trevor Brown, then allowed a run on a Gregor Blanco infield grounder that was charged to Papelbon. Blanco hit a laser to Anthony Rendon, who bobbled it before throwing it to second, where Espinosa also bobbled it to botch the forceout.

After Perez, it was Shawn Kelley who came in and shut it down with a strikeout of Angel Pagan with the bases loaded. Papelbon, by the way, has now been tagged with earned runs in three straight outings.

The Nationals won their second straight game after losing six of their previous eight.

What it means: The Nats beat the Giants in their first head-to-head matchup of the season. They moved to 60-42 overall and sit five games up on the Miami Marlins in the NL East with exactly 60 games left to play.

Roark too much for Giants: Roark entered Thursday as the less-heralded of the two starting pitchers, but the Nats right-hander thoroughly out-dueled Cueto in a performance that was typical of his strong 2016 season. Roark went seven innings with one run surrendered on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts on 111 total pitches. It was the eighth time this season that Roark has gone at least seven innings with one earned run or fewer allowed. Only Cubs lefty Jon Lester, with nine such starts, has done that more. Roark moved to 10-6 on the year and currently holds a 2.96 ERA.

Turner lights the fuse: The Nats' issues in the leadoff spot may soon become a distant memory. Turner continued to set the table brilliantly on Thursday night with two hits, a walk, a run and a steal. He fills up box scores like no one else on the Nationals right now and the impact he's having on their lineup as a whole as profound. This was the fifth time in his last nine games that Turner has reached base at least twice and the second straight outing he's been on three times. Turner's steal pushed him to 6-for-6 on attempts this season in just 14 total games. Including the minor leagues, he's 31-of-33 this year.

Turner also fared well defensively. Despite being new to center field and playing in a new ballpark, Turner made all the outs that were hit to him. He even reeled in a leaping catch at the wall for the first out of the bottom of the fifth. Turner backed up all the way to the wall and jumped to catch a Mac Williams flyball. The jump may not have been necessary, but he displayed solid instincts near the wall for a guy who is learning on the job out there.

Harper shows some life: Before Harper's RBI double to the left field corner in the sixth, the reigning MVP was 0-for-19 in his last 21 at-bats. As off as he's looked at times this season, Harper had reached one of his lowest points. The double, though was absolutely crushed and it gave the Nats a nice insurance run against a team that has proven resilient in the past.

Up next: The Nats and Giants play another late one with a 10:15 p.m. ET start on Friday night. Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) will take the mound for the Nats opposite right-hander Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22).

[RELATED: 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline]

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GIF: Foul ball results in weird moment between Braves player and fan

GIF: Foul ball results in weird moment between Braves player and fan

Uh, that's not supposed to happen.

A fan at Turner Field on Thursday night reached into the field of play to catch a flyball and got a lot more than just a souvenir. He caught it right before Braves outfeilder Chase d'Arnaud came charging in. d'Arnau coudl not stop his momentum and ended up face-to-face with the fan, appearing to nearly give him a kiss on the replay.

It was weird. See for yourself:

[RELATED: 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

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NL East: Mets targeting All-Star catcher for deadline trade

NL East: Mets targeting All-Star catcher for deadline trade

Being aggressive at least year's trade deadline paid big dividends for the New York Mets, who saw Yoenis Cespedes help lead them to a World Series berth. They could be looking for something similar this year, as a new report has them targeting one of baseball's best catchers.

The news comes from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says the Mets have shown interest in Milwaukee Brewers backstop Jonathan Lucroy.

Rosenthal notes that no deal is close, but time is running out before Monday's deadline. The Mets appear intent on adding a bat to their lineup and Lucroy would certainly provide some help.

An All-Star this season and back in 2014, the 30-year-old is batting .300 with 13 homers and 50 RBI through 93 games. He would be an upgrade at catcher for most teams, the Mets included.

We'll see if anything comes of this. The Mets could use some help and getting a player like Lucroy would definitely change their outlook in the NL East.