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Rollins on N.L. East: 'It still runs through Philly'

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Rollins on N.L. East: 'It still runs through Philly'

When the Nationals beat the Phillies on October 3 to clinch the N.L. East, Philly shortstop Jimmy Rollins had a hard time congratulating the new champs. He said the only reason that Washington won was because the Phillies had so many injuries.

Rollins took a lot of heat for his statements, but according to CSNphilly.com he still strongly believes the Phillies are the best team in the division. Here is what he said at a charity event on Monday night:

"It still runs through Philly," he said. "[Washington] had one year to win it. It was just like when the Mets took it from Atlanta, it was still up for grabs. I'm sure Atlanta felt it was still theirs, but fortunately we were able to come in and take it the next five years."

"We were undermanned," Rollins said. "It was written -- you'd write the lineup every single day and we're undermanned against a lot of teams.

"As soon we got healthy, you start to see us turn back around and catch our rhythm."

Rollins was one of the only Phillies players to be healthy for the majority of the season. Philly saw significant time missed by Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, and Carlos Ruiz. They finished 81-81, a full 17 games behind the Nationals in the division. Though they were injured, it wasn’t really close.

And Rollins’ assertion suggests the Nationals themselves were healthy. But the Nationals, in fact, had more starters lost to injuries. Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth all saw significant time on the disabled list. If the Nats were healthier they could have won even more than 98 games. 

Rollins' comments provide a great offseason debate, but nothing can be settled until next season. The Nationals and Phillies first play on May 24.

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

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Podcast - 'Baseball in the District' - Harper's slump, trade deadline

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It's a busy time of the year for the Nationals as they approach the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Will they make a deal and who are they willing to part with?

Tim and I went in-depth on that subject and more including Bryce Harper's slump and how it may affect his contract future with the Nationals. Does this change either side's thinking when it comes to a long-term contract extension?

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

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Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Triple-A Syracuse

Reynaldo Lopez: 9 inn, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB

Surprise, surprise: Lopez threw a gem last Sunday. The righty threw 96 pitches, 66 for strikes as he went the distance and shutout Rochester. He'll be back in DC, in some form or another, soon. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Phillips Valdez: 7 inn, 6 H, 2 R, 2 K, 2 BB

Slimer pickings in Harrisburg. Valdez pitched well enough to get the win against New Hampshire. A week ago, he went 7 inn, 8 H, 2 R, and 4 K in a win against Richmond, if you prefer more walks hits to less walks. Still, Harrisburg is feeling the pinch of no more Giolito/Lopez. 

High-A Potomac

Whit Mayberry: 6 inn, 5 H, 1 R, 4 K, 3 BB

Mayberry, whose 3-1 on the year with a 4.00 ERA, pitched one of the best games of his season yesterday. It was only the second time this year he's held a team under two runs, and his 4 strikeouts were one shy from his season best (7) on June 30th. 

Low-A Hagerstown

Everyone who pitched for the Suns on 7/24: 9 inn, 7 H, 2 R, 7 K, 2 BB

It was a group effort in the Suns win against Charleston last Sunday. It was also a Nats reunion, with rehabbing starter Joe Ross getting the start and Sammy Solis continuing to rehab as well. It was James Borque, however, who got the win, pitching 4 innings while allowing one run on two hits. 

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Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .240/.307/.410

Team ERA: 4.56

Runs per game: 4.1

 

STOCK UP

Trea Turner, 2B/CF: .320 AVG, 4 RBI, 4 XBH, 4 SB, 5 R

It’s going to be hard for Dusty Baker to keep Turner out of the lineup, isn’t it?

In a short period of time, the recently-promoted 23-year-old infield prospect has already shown he deserves to be the Nats’ leadoff man for the foreseeable future. In the last nine days alone, the speedster notched three triples (two away from tying the team lead), two doubles and five stolen bases. That’s the kind of production Washington has sorely missed atop the lineup.

When the Nats played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, an American League ballpark, they had the luxury of playing Turner in center field, putting Ben Revere in left and making Jayson Werth the designated hitter. But when they begin their upcoming series in San Francisco, they’ll lose the DH, essentially forcing Baker to choose between Turner and Revere.

Are the Nats ready to make Turner the everyday center fielder over Revere?

Wilson Ramos, C: .478 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.346 OPS

For those who thought Ramos might come back to earth after the all-star break, think again. The 28-year-old catcher’s career year rolled on with another big week, raising his average to .336 — second-best in the NL to teammate Daniel Murphy.

Ramos now leads all big-league catchers in average, RBI, OPS and is tied for the top spot in home runs. Not too shabby.  

 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .050 AVG, 7 K, .180 OPS

At what point does an extended slump simply become a down season? Because after nearly three months of under performance, that appears to be where the Nats are with the reigning NL MVP.  

It's hard to explain why Harper hasn't quite looked like himself for so long — have pitchers found a weakness in his swing? Is he dealing with an unknown injury? Something else entirely?—but the 23-year-old phenom hasn't given any indication that he's going to get out of his funk anytime soon. He has just seven hits in his last 54 at-bats and a paltry .491 OPS over that span, which has dropped his average below .238 for the first time this year. For context, he's never finished below .270 for a season. 

So how do the Nats handle this? They've already tried moving Harper to the cleanup spot, and later bumped him up to the two-hole. Neither move has worked so far. So it looks like all they can do is keep putting him in the lineup and hope that his bat can somehow reignite during the stretch run.   

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 4 GP, 2.2 IP, 1-2, 6 ER, BS

It seems fairly obvious that the Nats might have second thoughts about their closer. That’ll happen after someone allows the game-winning runs to score in consecutive losses, as Papelbon did earlier this week.

But even if the Nats openly admit they have an issue at the back end of the bullpen, then what?  

Well, in a weird way, Papelbon’s struggles have actually come at a fortuitous time. With the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Nats still have time to acquire an additional ninth-inning option. The problem is that the top arms that are available like New York Yankees setup man Andrew Miller or Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis will cost prospects that the Nats are unlikely willing to part with. 

In the meantime, the club still needs Papelbon to rebound down the stretch — whether that's in the closer role or not.