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Nats 2012 minor league awards

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Nats 2012 minor league awards

Syracuse Chiefs (70-74, 9th in International League)
Best Hitter: OF Corey Brown (.285 BA, 25 HR, 71 RBI, 83 R)Best Pitcher: LHP Zach Duke (15-5, 3.51 ERA, 164.1 IP)Biggest Surprise: RHP Christian Garcia (1-1, 0.56 ERA, 14 SV)

Brought in via a trade with the Athletics, Brown has perhaps been the best return in the deal that sent Josh Willingham to Oakland for Henry Rodriguez. The 26-year-old outfielder was at Syracuse last season, but this year has nearly doubled his offensive production. He led the Chiefs in homers, runs, walks, RBI, and triples, and also ranked second in stolen bases. He is now with the Nats as a September call-up and could be a late-bloomer that finds a permanent place at the major league level next season.

Duke is another September call-up after having a bounce back season with Syracuse. The Chiefs had trouble with inconsistency on the mound overall, but Duke himself was their most reliable starter. He led the team in wins with 15 and had the best ERA in the rotation. Duke also pitched two complete games with one of them being a shutout.

We could go a few ways with the teams biggest surprise, but the best choice is another Nationals September call-up in reliever Christian Garcia. A third round pick in 2004 by the Yankees, Garcia is finally at the major league level after undergoing Tommy John surgery twice. At 27 years old he is starting to find his way and looked well above his competition while at Triple-A.

Harrisburg Senators (64-78, 9th in Eastern League)Best Hitter: OF Chris Rahl (.291 BA, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 55 R, 26 SB)Best Pitcher: LHP Danny Rosenbaum (8-10, 3.94 ERA, 155.1 IP)Biggest Surprise: RHP Ryan Perry (2-4, ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 114.1 IP)

Rahl last played on July 27 due to a foot injury, but still remained atop most of the Senators offensive categories. He finished first in runs and RBI and placed second to Tim Pahuta in homers.

Rosenbaum was a workhorse for the Senators staff and earns Best Pitcher despite having struggled to an extent at Double-A. He was the best pitcher for Potomac last season and didnt have the same level of success at Harrisburg, but maintained a good ERA and logged a lot of innings.

Perry is a former first round pick of the Tigers who came to Washington in an offseason trade for Colin Balester. The flame-throwing right-hander spent time with the big league club in May as a reliever, but struggled and was demoted when other guys got healthy. The Nats have decided to convert him to a starter and the results thus far have been great. If he can continue with a sub-3.00 ERA in the minors, he just might realize the immense potential that made him a first round draft choice.

Potomac Nationals (64-75, 6th in Carolina League)Best Hitter: OF Kevin Keyes (.223 BA, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 27 2B)Best Pitcher: RHP Nathan Karns (8-4, 2.26 ERA, 87 SO, 71.2 IP)Biggest Surprise: LHP Robbie Ray (4-12, 4.87 ERA, 27 BB, 64.2 IP)

The Nats picked Keyes in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB Draft and this year at Potomac he found his power stroke. Keyes had a monster second half of the season with seven homers in July and five in August. He finished leading the team in home runs, RBI, and ranked second in doubles.

The 24-year-old Karns was named the Nationals minor league pitcher of the year just this week after thriving in the second half with Potomac. He finished second on the team with eight wins despite pitching nearly half the innings of the team-leader in that category, Matthew Grace with nine. He posted a ton of strikeouts and kept guys off base with an impressive 1.02 WHIP.

Ray was the biggest surprise in our mid-season awards and he continued to deserved the distinction in the second half. In fact, since we published that story he posted a 1-7 record and continued his season to forget. He had his worst month of all in August when he went 0-5 with a 15.51 ERA in five appearances. It is an unfortunate trend for a prospect who held a 3.13 ERA through 89.0 innings at Hagerstown just a year ago.

Hagerstown Suns (82-55, 2nd in South Atlantic League)Best Hitter: 3B Matthew Skole (.286 BA, 27 HR, 92 RBI, 94 BB, 1.013 OPS)Best Pitcher: RHP Alex Meyer (7-4, 3.10 ERA, 107 SO, 90.0 IP)Biggest Surprise: LHP Christian Meza (8-1, 2.97 ERA, 88.0 IP, 94 SO)

The 22-year-old Skole was just named the Nationals minor league player of the year just days after earning MVP honors in the South Atlantic League. Picked in the 5th round just last year, Skole has developed quickly into one of the best hitters in the minor leagues. He earned a late-season promotion to Potomac and should be one to watch for next season as he continues his rise through the system.

Meyer made just one more start with Hagerstown after our mid-season awards before moving on to Potomac, but his time their deserves the honor as Best Pitcher. The 69 former first round pick showed quickly he could dominate low Single-A hitters and should also rise quickly through the Nats farm system.

The 22-year-old Meza was picked by the Nationals in the 25th round of the 2010 MLB Draft and just this season got his first of Single-A ball after spending the previous season with the Auburn Doubledays. In 36 appearances with the Suns he posted a nice sub-3.00 ERA and showed he can attack batters with a high strikeout rate.

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Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

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USA Today Sports

Cubs, Brewers, or Cardinals: potential postseason opponents for the Washington Nationals

The regular season is winding down and there is no drama in the nation’s capital.

With a stranglehold on the National League East for the entire season, the Washington Nationals were the first team in baseball to earn a playoff spot and their division. Since June, the Nationals’ lead has been hovering around 20 games. Their record against the division is 44-26 with three NL East series forthcoming.

Beyond that, positioning has not been a factor in the National League either. It was a near forgone conclusion that the Nationals were going to earn the No. 2 seed in the NL side of the postseason. There was a slight chance last week that Washington could pass the Los Angeles Dodgers with them losing 16 of 17 games. Alas, the Dodgers took two out of three in their series, solidifying their No. 1 seed hopes.

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Dusty Baker then basically threw in the towel for that race. He spread out his rotation to six pitchers and gave his players consistent rest. Focusing on the postseason more than the playoff race, he does not appear to care about their positioning.

With that, the Nationals are all but guaranteed to finish second behind the Dodgers. Floating between four and six games back, there is no sense of urgency.

There is no worry about the team in third either. The Chicago Cubs, as of September 22, sit seven games behind the Nationals and are in the thick of a Divisional race.

Either way, even if the Nationals were to collapse and the winner of the National League Central was to rocket up to second, the Nationals will play against whoever wins the division in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 match-up.

The Central has actually been the Nationals Achilles heel this year. They finished with a 17-13 record vs. NL Central teams. It is not the whole division the Nationals have to worry about though, just the one that comes out.

Entering Friday’s action the Cubs are well on their way to winning the division, according to fangraphs.com. Below are the current odds to win the division:

Chicago Cubs                     97.8%
Milwaukee Brewers          0.9%
St. Louis Cardinals            1.3%

This is slightly misleading though, because the Central could completely flip before the postseason. The lead is 4.5 over the Milwaukee Brewers and 5.0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. However of their final 10 games, three are against the Brewers, four against the Cardinals, all seven on the road.

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In the five-game NLDS the Nationals will face one of these teams. Even if it is the defending World Series Champions, you have to like the Nationals’ odds.

CHICAGO CUBS PREVIEW

Current record: 85-67
2017 Record vs. Washington: 2-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Jon Lester (11-8), Jake Arrieta (14-9), John Lackey (11-11), Kyle Hendricks (7-5), Jose Quintana (6-3)
Top position players: Kris Bryant (.292 BA, 28 HRs, 69 RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.278 BA, 32 HRs, 107 RBIs)

If these two teams were to meet up, it would be easily the best starting pitching match-up in the National League. Likely the Cubs would only go to four guys, maybe three if they get desperate. With Jake Arrieta on the mind, that would be a dicey move to start the postseason. They have not played to the level that the 2016 did a year ago, but a majority of the position players are still in place and can still put together a run.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS PREVIEW

Current record: 81-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-4
Last head-to-head postseason series: Never
Starting pitchers: Zach Davies (17-9), Chase Anderson (11-3), Brandon Woodruff (2-2), Brent Suter (3-2)
Top position players: Domingo Santana (.281 BA, 28 HRs, 80 RBIs), Travis Shaw (.274 BA, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs)

As one of the hottest teams in the first half of the season, the Brewers are only relying on their early success. Their team has quickly cooled off and their number two starter Jimmy Nelson is out the remainder of the season. The rest of the roster is shaky at best as they are trying to stay relevant in the postseason chase. If the Nationals are fully prepared for the playoffs there should be no worries if Milwaukee represents the Central.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS PREVIEW

Current record: 80-72
2017 Record vs. Washington: 3-3
Last head-to-head postseason series: 2012; Cardinals won 3-2 in NLDS
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (12-5), Carlos Martinez (12-11), Lance Lynn (11-7), Michael Wacha (12-8), Luke Weaver (7-1),
Top position players: Yadier Molina (.276 BA, 18 HRs, 82 RBIs), Tommy Pham (.311 BA, 21 HRs, 168 RBIs)

With both the Brewers and Cubs you know what you are getting, with the Cardinals it could be anything. The starting pitchers have a history of success, just not in 2017. Also how Wainwright comes back will be a huge factor in how the Central race will play out and how their odds in the postseason increase. With a mix of a young and aging line-up, the Cardinals can both win with the long ball and piece runs together by playing small ball. St. Louis is easily the most interesting team of the three and could be the scariest if the Wainwright comes back at 100%.

Both the Brewers and the Cardinals have to rely on each other to win the NL Central. They cannot do it on their individual series's alone. 

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

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Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

ATLANTA  -- R.A. Dickey frustrated Washington with his knuckleball for eight innings, Ozzie Albies had three hits and the Atlanta Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 on Thursday night.

After Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff homer in the second inning, the 42-year-old Dickey gave up only one hit -- a two-out single by Trea Turner in the third -- over the next five innings. Turner was picked off first base.

Dickey (10-10) gave up two runs, four hits and no walks. He made a strong case that the Braves should pick up his $8 million club option for 2018.

Zimmerman lined his homer into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1. He set a career high with his 34th homer, his fourth off Dickey this season.

Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances. It was a strong return to form after Vizcaino walked all three batters he faced in a blown save Wednesday night.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth off Tanner Roark (13-10). Albies singled, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' wild pickoff attempt and scored the go-ahead run on Freddie Freeman's fly ball to deep left field. Nick Markakis doubled past Zimmerman at first base and scored on Johan Camargo's single up the middle.

The Nationals trimmed the Braves' lead to one in the eighth. Anthony Rendon doubled to left field and scored on Wieters' two-out single.

Ender Inciarte continued his push for 200 hits when he led off the first with a triple to right field. It was his 191st hit, the third-highest total in the majors. Inciarte scored on Albies' single.

The game was delayed several minutes in the middle of the eighth. There was confusion as Nationals manager Dusty Baker attempted to make several defensive changes and had to go over the changes with home plate umpire Nic Lentz, who also took questions from Braves manager Brian Snitker.