Q&A with Nats Farm Authority

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Q&A with Nats Farm Authority

CSN: First, it's good to have you back. We - and the Nats farm system - have come a long way since the likes of Kory Casto and Mike Hinckley were known as top prospects in the organization. Cornerstone pieces Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have helped jumpstart this club to a first place lead in the NL East and to a 26-17 record. Is it shocking to you that the Nationals have done this well considering all of the injuries they have suffered? Not to mention, this organization isn't used to having this type of success, can they keep it up?

NFA: No, it's not surprising. Drafting so early in the first round so often had paid dividends. They "picked" the best two years to be so awful. Getting Strasburg and Harper, two of the top players in any draft, along with paying the price to sign players who slid due to signability has allowed the Nationals to accelerate their ability to compete.

CSN: The December trade for Gio Gonzalez sent the Athletics four of the Nats top prospects (pitchers Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and catcher Derek Norris). Yes, we're only a couple months into the first year post move, but what are your early impressions of the deal and in the long run, who wins that deal?

NFA: Loved the deal when it happened. Love the deal today. As much as you want to draftdevelop players for the Nationals, teams also need to have the pieces to deal for missing players at the major league level. Losing guys like Cole and Norris does hurt the long view of the Nationals, but getting a guy like Gonzalez to slot between Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann was a fantastic move (especially after extending him). Cole and Norris are the two pieces I am going to watch closest. PeacockMilone are nice arms but realistically would have had a hard time cracking the starting rotation over the next 2-4 seasons.
CSN: A lot of the Nats top pitching prospects can be found in the lower levels of the minors. However, in AAHarrisburg Danny Rosenbaum continues the trend of succeeding at every level he pitches at. What is your ceiling for the Nats lefty pitching prospect?

NFA: Rosenbaum is Tommy Milone revisted, though scouts don't see the same stuff as Milone. He's a great story from where he has come from and what he has done, I can see getting a cup of coffee in 2013 but realistically he's a back of the rotation guy.

CSN: While the Nationals bats are finally starting to show some signs of life, what reinforcements are on the way either via completed rehab assignment or high minors?
NFA: The guy they miss the most is Michael Morse. They've had a conga line of left fielders and lack Morse's big bat in the middle of the lineup. The guy at the higher level of the minors who can help some is Corey Brown, a LF center fielder playing in Syracuse. He's probably a 4th OF at best but he is an intriguing left-handed option in center for the Nationals. Rick Ankiel is great defensively and has a fantastic arm, but is not a threat at the plate. Perhaps giving Brown a shot would help.

CSN: Much of Washington's current success can be attributed to the job GM Mike Rizzo has done building this team through the draft. This year, the Nationals will pick in unfamiliar territory ... not near the top. Are there any names fans should keep an eye out for or is there a specific position you would like to see the club go target?

NFA: The rumors I've heard surround college arms like Andrew Heaney, a lefty from Oklahoma State, and Chris Stratton, a right-handed starter from Mississippi State. Both are nice guys but not front of the rotation guys. I'd prefer the Nationals to target up the middle bats in this draft. If a guy like Deven Marrero, Arizona State shortstop and Chris Marrero's cousin or Gavin Cecchini, a high school shortstop whose brother plays in the Red Sox organization. If those guys are gone, the player I like is Richie Shaffer, a power hitting third baseman from Clemson; he's likely to move off of third to first base or left field.

CSN: And as always, my favorite question for you, what sleepers have impressed you down on the farm?

NFA: The guy I've enjoyed following the most is Matt Skole down in Hagerstown. He's a solid left-handed hitting third baseman who is hitting .287.437.538 for the Suns. Not a middle of the lineup threat in the majors but he could develop into a solid bench guy who may be able to sneak a few starts in at third or first.

Revere makes his return to the lineup as Nats hope to rebound vs. Cubs

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Revere makes his return to the lineup as Nats hope to rebound vs. Cubs

Nationals (19-9) vs. Cubs (21-6) at Wrigley Field 

On Thursday night, the Nationals found out the hard way what makes the Cubs the best team in baseball. Despite a quality outing by Joe Ross, Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist drove in four of Chicago's five runs en route to a 5-2 series-opening win for the home team. 

But the Nats will head into Friday's game with what they hope is a big boost to their offense: Centerfielder Ben Revere makes his return to the lineup for the first time since his Opening Day oblique injury, replacing Michael Taylor atop the batting order. How long will it take him to get in a groove? 

As for the pitching matchup, the Nats will send out their ace Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.55 ERA) to oppose John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA), who was one of the Cubs' big offseason acquisitions. 

First pitch: 2:20 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Max Scherzer vs. Cubs - John Lackey

NATS

CF Ben Revere 

3B Anthony Rendon

RF Bryce Harper 

1B Ryan Zimmerman 

2B Daniel Murphy

LF Jayson Werth 

C Wilson Ramos

SS Danny Espinosa 

P Max Scherzer

 

CUBS

CF Dexter Fowler 

RF Jayson Heyward 

LF Kris Bryant 

1B Anthony Rizzo 

2B Ben Zobrist 

3B Tommy La Stella 

SS Javy Baez 

C David Ross

P John Lackey 

 

Follow along with GameView here.

Nationals' bats can't come up with enough late in loss to Cubs

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Nationals' bats can't come up with enough late in loss to Cubs

By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings, Ben Zobrist drove in four runs and the Chicago Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series between two of baseball's hottest teams.

Hendricks (2-2) allowed two hits, struck out four and walked two as Chicago began a 10-game homestand with its fourth consecutive win and eighth in nine games.

Zobrist hit a two-run single in the fourth and a two-run homer in the eighth, helping the Cubs improve their major league-best record to 21-6 for their best start since they were 23-4 in 1907.

Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper singled and walked twice against Hendricks, but the right-hander shut down the rest of Washington's lineup. Michael Taylor was stranded at second after a two-out double in the third for the Nationals' first hit.

Jayson Werth hit a long two-run homer in the ninth for Washington, which had won five of six, including a 13-2 victory at World Series champion Kansas City on Wednesday. The Nationals began the day with baseball's second-best record at 19-8.

Joe Ross (3-1) matched Hendricks for much of the chilly night, striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed five hits and walked two.

One rough stretch was enough to send Ross to his first loss since Aug. 16 at San Francisco.

Chicago's first four batters in the fourth reached safely, producing two runs. Tommy La Stella singled, Kris Bryant had a ground-rule double and Anthony Rizzo was walked intentionally before Zobrist's single to right gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Rizzo was thrown out trying to advance to third on Zobrist's hit, and Ross retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning. But the damage was done.

Clayton Richard and Justin Grimm combined for a perfect seventh for Chicago before Pedro Strop wriggled out of a jam in the eighth.

Zobrist connected for his third homer and Addison Russell added an RBI double in the bottom half, providing some valuable breathing room.

After Werth went deep against Travis Wood with two down, Hector Rondon retired Wilson Ramos on a liner to first for the final out.

Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy was greeted with a round of boos when he came to the plate in the second inning. It was Murphy's first game at Wrigley Field since he hit four homers while helping the New York Mets sweep the Cubs in the NL Championship Series last year.

CHANGE OF PLANS

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward tested his sore right wrist in batting practice and was planning to return to the lineup on Friday if he felt OK. But he ended up playing center in the series opener after Dexter Fowler was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Vic Carpazza after he struck out looking to end the third.

Heyward, who signed a $184 million, eight-year contract with Chicago during free agency, went 0 for 2 with a strikeout.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Ben Revere, who is on the disabled list with a right oblique strain, rejoined the team and could be activated soon. "I'd rather wait an extra day, especially because I've seen too many guys say I'm ready and they come back and they do it again," manager Dusty Baker said. "Hopefully he doesn't injure himself again the rest of the year."

Cubs: C Miguel Montero, on the DL with lower back tightness, hit before the game and manager Joe Maddon said trainer P.J. Mainville was encouraged with his progress.

UP NEXT

Washington ace Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.35 ERA) takes on John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA) in a matchup of veteran right-handers on Friday afternoon. Scherzer is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career starts at Wrigley. Lackey needs six strikeouts to become the fifth active pitcher with at least 2,000 Ks, joining CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez and Jake Peavy.

Ross' 9 Ks not enough to overcome Zobrist and Hendricks' big night

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Ross' 9 Ks not enough to overcome Zobrist and Hendricks' big night

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field:

How it happened: Ben Zobrist came to play. The highly prized free agent signed during the offseason to round out the Cubs infield started things off early, driving in Tommy La Stella and Kris Bryant in the fourth inning on a single to put the Cubs.

Four innings later, with the Nationals unable to make good contact off Kyle Hendricks (2-2, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO), Zobrist tacked on two more thanks to a big, two-out home run to left field off reliever Felipe Rivero.

Two batters later, Addison Russell drove in Ryan Kallish on a double off Joe Kelley to put the Cubs up 5-0.

Bryce Harper reached on a walk in the top of the ninth and Jayson Werth cleared the bases on a home run off Travis Wood, but Carlos Rodon shut the door on Wilson Ramos and the Nats, procuring the final out.

What it means: The 5-1 win moves the Cubs' run differential to an absurd +96. It's still an early-season series, but four games in Chicago will help fuel the narrative heading toward the All-Star break. The Nats' bats were cold, but Bryce Harper reaching base four times is a good sign that maybe brief slump is coming to an end.

Ross' standout start: Despite suffering his first loss of the year, Joe Ross tossed perhaps his best game of the 2016 campaign. Although he gave up a season-high two runs, he also recorded a season-high nine strikeouts and allowed just five hits and two balls.

His slider was working early, recording his first three punchouts using his go-to pitch. The 22-year-old hurler continues to dazzle early in the year and his been a pleasant surprise.

He faced his biggest test to date and while he took the loss, his performance certainly wasn't anything to scoff at.

With a 1.23 ERA, he ranks behind just Gio Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta for the league lead. That's good company to keep.

Murphy comes up empty: Daniel Murphy did not record a hit. That may sound a bit odd and with good reason. Thursday night was just the fourth time all season Murphy has failed to get a hit this season. His two strikeouts was also a rareity, just the second-time he's been sent down twice in one outing in 2016. But fear not. Each of Murphy's hitless games have been followed up by multi-hit games with at least one RBI. Friday will be different for sure.

Revere waits again: There was speculation that Ben Revere would make his return to the lineup on Thursday after spending a month on the DL due to a strained oblique he suffered during the first week of the season. But after giving it a go in pregame warmups it was determined that one more day of rest would get Revere back to 100%, and he is expected to be back on the field on Friday, 

What's next: Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.31 ERA) takes on John Lackey (3-1, 4.32 ERA) on Friday afternoon with Lackey needing just six strikeouts to become the fifth active starter with at least 2,000 Ks, joining the likes of Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Jake Peavy and CC Sabathia.