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Washington Nationals News
Washington Nationals News



Tanner Roark struggled on the mound in last night’s series finale in Citizens Bank Park, but the Washington Nationals, who scored five runs, went 3 for 12 overall with runners in scoring position and 11 left on base in the 7-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

“We had a lot of runners in scoring position,” Dusty Baker told reporters, “… and lately we’re not hitting with runners in scoring position so we’ve just got to go the drawing board on that one and we’ve just got to pick up our overall game.”

With four games remaining in the regular season and then four days off before the start of the Nationals’ NLDS matchup with the Chicago Cubs, there isn’t much time left for getting in the at bats that some of the Nats need to get their timing down as they prepare for the postseason.

“That’s a long time, and so on one hand you can get guys healed and healthy and set your rotation,” Baker said when asked last night about the balance of keeping players rested and sharp.

“On the other hand you don’t want them to rust out by inactivity. So there’s a definite balancing act, and you don’t know if you’re doing it right until you get there.”

Baker was clear, however, that he wasn’t looking past the games that are left because there is work to be done before he and the Nationals take on the Cubs.

“My thoughts are finish the season strong and then we’ll worry about Chicago,” Baker said. “We’ve got another four days to go and we want to finish strong and go into the new season with some momentum.”

After dropping two of three to the Phillies, the Nationals try to start building up that momentum in this weekend’s four-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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The Blue Jays agreed to a one year, 13 million dollar extension with Marco Estrada, which they announced on Wednesday. What does that say about the club’s intensions for 2018?

We’ve talked about it an awful lot for it only being September, but it’s hard not to look ahead to the 2018 season after a disappointing campaign. The Blue Jays are still in last place in the AL East, but have enough talented pieces that it’s easy to visualize things haven’t gone a lot differently.

One of the offseason question marks has already been answered with the Blue Jays re-upping with Marco Estrada. His one year, 13 million dollar contract is good for both sides (as I mentioned yesterday in this article), and it probably represents a fair dollar amount for the would-be free agent. I think he likely could have gotten two years, or at least an option on the open market, but we’ll never know for sure.

One of the things Blue Jays’ writers and fans will immediately start talking about is what Estrada’s signing means for the future, and specifically for 2018. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been on record as saying they want to contend in 2018, but the fear/narrative around the Jays lately has been of a roster rebuild. Having Josh Donaldson (and also J.A. Happ) entering their final year of control has the fan base pretty divided about the best course of action going forward.

Depending on who you ask, that question has been answered by Estrada’s contract extension. Andrew Stoeten from argued that signing Estrada likely means the team is serious about contending in 2018, and he makes a few very valid points in his article.

Jeff Blair of Sportsnet has a slightly different point of view, arguing that Estrada’s signing doesn’t mean anything in regards to 2018. Blair literally starts his article by saying:

“I hate to spoil the narrative, but I’m not sure that Marco Estrada taking a pay-cut to sign a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays indicates any shift in any philosophy on anybody’s part or, for that matter, a sense that the team is re-committing itself to 2018.”- Jeff Blair

And he makes some valid points as well. The point is, Estrada’s signing can be viewed through a few different viewpoints, and they’re probably all correct. Blair goes on to say that Estrada fills a need for the Blue Jays regardless of how they see 2018, throwing some much needed innings, and providing valuable trade bait at next year’s deadline if he’s performing well. He’s absolutely correct that we’re in for a season very much like 2017 for Estrada, and hopefully a re-set will produce some more consistent results for the 34 year old.

We’ve talked about next season a lot here at Jays Journal, both on the literary side, and also on our Jays Journal Podcast. Even without our own circle of writers and show guests, the opinions are pretty divided among many baseball minds I respect. On one hand, this is a team that is at the end of a window of contention with stars like Edwin Encarnacion already gone, and Jose Bautista on the way next. With Donaldson a year away from being a free agent, the argument to trade him and start the rebuild does have validity.

On the other hand, having a solid core in place as they do now, coupled with three remaining years of control of pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and Roberto Osuna, breeds a feeling of emergency, not wanting to waste the window that those pieces bring if they can stay healthy and productive.

To me, Estrada represents the best of both worlds in that philosophy. Some might call it “sitting on the fence”, but I like this particular move for a number of reasons. The Jays will need some innings, especially without knowing what they’ll get some Aaron Sanchez, and Estrada provides that. Jeff Blair was also correct in pointing out that he’ll be a potentially valuable trade chip if the Jays struggle again next year. But mostly, he’s a worthwhile investment because it’s a one year deal with a known commodity, and someone who has a really good chance of giving the Blue Jays a bargain in 2018.

Pitching is never cheap, and even if the Blue Jays are in need of a rebuild, having an arm like Estrada under contract for just one year at a reasonable cost is a plus for the team. It may not tell us all we would like to know about their philosophy for 2018, but that’s okay for now. The free agency rumours will begin soon enough.

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The U.S. Supreme Court won’t intervene in a dispute over Michigan’s ban on straight-party voting.

The court turned down an appeal Friday, which means the ban will go into effect in the November election. Voters can’t use a single mark to quickly pick all candidates of a single party.

A Detroit federal judge said the ban violated the rights of black voters. But an appeals court this week suspended that decision and said the ruling likely will be overturned.
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal, although justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted to hear it.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder eliminated straight-party voting, saying people should study candidates instead of simply choosing a party.

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DENVER — Rockies fans have grown accustomed to seeing Nolan Arenado save runs — and games — with his glove, leading all third basemen with defensive runs saved in each of the past two seasons. In Friday night’s nailbiter between two teams vying for the National League West lead, the pendulum swung the other way, as an Arenado error in the fifth — challenged, unsuccessfully, by the Rockies — led to two unearned runs and was the difference in the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over Colorado.

With the loss, the Rockies’ lead atop the standings shrunk to a half-game over the Dodgers, and one-and-a-half games over the D-backs, who beat the Braves Friday.
The moment of truth came when the Rockies lost a big challenge on what would have been an inning-ending groundout with the game tied 2-2 in the fifth. Pinch-hitter Alex Verdugo drove a ball to the hole at shortstop, and with the shift on, Arenado ranged to his left, fielded and fired to first while backing up to get his footing. The throw ultimately pulled Ian Desmond off the base a split-second before Verdugo touched the bag, but it wasn’t clear if he’d remained in contact with the bag until he caught the ball.
The moment of truth came when the Rockies lost a big challenge on what would have been an inning-ending groundout with the game tied 2-2 in the fifth. Pinch-hitter Alex Verdugo drove a ball to the hole at shortstop, and with the shift on, Arenado ranged to his left, fielded and fired to first while backing up to get his footing. The throw ultimately pulled Ian Desmond off the base a split-second before Verdugo touched the bag, but it wasn’t clear if he’d remained in contact with the bag until he caught the ball.
After the Dodgers got the early lead with a run-scoring double from Cody Bellinger in the first and a solo homer from Puig in the second, Colorado caught up in the bottom of the inning when Matt Holliday hit his second homer since his return, a solo shot to left, Desmond doubled to center, and Drew Butera plated Desmond with a single to right.

The Rockies were poised to turn the game after Kershaw left at the end of six. Pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta beat out an infield single to second off reliever Caleb Ferguson, and DJ LeMahieu kept the inning alive with a single to right that prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to go to his ‘pen again. Dylan Floro walked Arenado, bringing Trevor Story to the plate with the bases loaded. He struck out on a slider, low and away.

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TORONTO — With Jose Ramirez’s first-inning steal of second in Sunday afternoon’s 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays, he became the 39th player in Major League Baseball history to reach 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs in the same season, joining Grady Sizemore (2008) and Joe Carter (1987) as the only Indians players to reach the mark.

“I feel really happy about that,” Ramirez said through a translator. “I kind of feel the same way about both [the steals and home runs].”
Ramirez added eight steals to his previous season high to join Tommy Harper, Howard Johnson and David Wright as the only third basemen to accomplish the feat. It was just the 60th time the 30-30 mark had been reached in MLB history.

• Every 30-30 season, ranked by club

“Not a lot of people do it in history,” Francisco Lindor said. “It’s a special number, he’s having a great season, and I’m very happy for him.”
After Sunday’s game Ramirez has 37 home runs and 30 steals on the season with a .282 batting average.

“It’s not just the 30-30,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Everything he does, he impacts the game in so many different ways.”

The stolen base adds another impressive milestone in Ramirez’s MVP candidacy. The 25-year-old third baseman entered Sunday ranked third in MLB Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs.
“He’s our three-hole hitter,” Francona said. “He plays good defense, he runs the bases, he’s one of the best players in the league.”

MVP candidates Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are both close to eclipsing the 30-30 mark. Trout came into Sunday with 33 home runs and 22 steals, while Betts had 29 homers with 27 steals.

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CINCINNATI — Given Homer Bailey’s spot in the Reds’ rotation, Tyler Mahle has the final month of the season to get another look in the big leagues and position himself for 2019. The first start back from Triple-A Louisville didn’t go well on Sunday against the Padres.

Mahle threw 74 pitches in three innings and made 35 of them in two-strike counts. Although he had five strikeouts, he also walked three batters and allowed two runs on five hits, out early from the 7-6 loss to San Diego at Great American Ball Park that was decided on Eric Hosmer’s home run in the top of the ninth inning against Raisel Iglesias.
“It obviously didn’t go the way I planned it,” said Mahle, who is scheduled to make his next start on Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Mahle, who was pitching for the first time since Aug. 30 with Louisville, is usually pitch efficient but often struggled to put hitters away Sunday. He started out in a 0-2 count against Franmil Reyes in the first inning but lost him to a two-out walk on 10 pitches. Another missed two-strike chance came in the third inning, when Mahle fell into a full count with Austin Hedges before allowing a two-out, two-run homer to left field.

“It was just taking a lot of deep counts, foul balls,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “[Mahle] got the outs, but I felt like he was in trouble his first two innings, and then the third inning, they got him.”
Mahle never got to take an at-bat as he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the third.

“We decided to cut it short and go to the bullpen,” Riggleman said. “We’ve got the luxury of doing that here in September. Tyler is a really good pitcher and we’ve seen really good things from him last year and earlier this year. But today, he just didn’t look sharp.”

After he went 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven starts for the Reds from June 1-July 6, Mahle was 0-3 with a 16.88 ERA over the next four big league starts before he was optioned to Louisville. He is 7-9 with a 4.96 ERA in 23 starts for Cincinnati.

“He was a little tender in his shoulder about a month ago,” Riggleman said. “I think he’s still working back from that, because earlier he would pitch at 90 [mph], and then next thing you know, he’s at 95. Right now, I’m not seeing that ball come out of his hand the way it was earlier, where he was reaching back when he needed to get 95. Now he’s more in the 92 range. We’re not obsessed with velocity, but it’s just an indication that maybe he’s not feeling the same. It is September.”

Cincinnati was trailing, 6-1, when a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth against Padres starter Jacob Nix evened the game. The first four batters collected singles, including one for Billy Hamilton when Reyes surprisingly pulled up and let the ball bounce in front of him in right field.
Joey Votto followed Peraza by slugging a 3-1 Nix pitch to center field for a three-run homer — his second in two days.

Reliever Lucas Sims did not fare better after replacing Mahle, allowing four earned runs over 1 2/3 innings — including Luis Urias’ two-run homer in the fourth inning that made it a 4-0 game.

Including Matt Wisler, who picked up the third out of the fifth, the Reds’ bullpen stabilized and retired a stretch of 10 of the next 11 batters as showers soaked the field. Jared Hughes retired the side in the order in the top of the eighth before the game was halted by a 1-hour, 32-minute rain delay.

When play resumed, Tucker Barnhart hit a leadoff double for Cincinnati against Craig Stammen, but was left stranded. Pitching for the first time in a week, Iglesias’ second pitch of his outing was a 1-0 sinker that Hosmer lifted into the first row of seats in left field.

“We don’t make too many excuses for the home runs we give up. We give up a lot of homers, but that one was a Great American Ball Park homer,” Riggleman said. “Hosmer is really a good player, but that might be the only ballpark in the league that it goes out.”

Votto goes deep: Votto endured a 36-game stretch without a home run from July 9 until Saturday, the second-longest drought of his career. His second homer in two days was a big one as it tied the game. It was Votto’s 11th homer of the season.

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CHICAGO — There was no win to be had for Reynaldo Lopez during one of his best starts of the 2018 season, with the Angels completing the weekend sweep of the White Sox via a 1-0 shutout Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But missing out on that particular individual accolade is nothing new to the White Sox right-hander. Over his last eight starts, Lopez has a 1-0 record and seven no-decisions. The work he did Sunday was more important than improving his 5-9 ledger..Lopez pitched six scoreless innings, striking out 10, walking three and allowing two Mike Trout singles, while throwing 71 of his 105 pitches for strikes. In his last four trips to the mound, Lopez has given up four earned runs on 15 hits over 25 2/3 innings to go with eight walks, one home run and 29 strikeouts.

“I am feeling good. I feel strong,” said Lopez through interpreter Billy Russo. “My mindset in every outing is to go at least six. If I can go more, that’s even better. Go at least six innings and try to finish strong.”

“He had a really good fastball today. Really good life on the fastball,” White Sox catcher Welington Castillo said. “Our game plan was to attack those hitters with fastballs, throw a couple good changes. That was the game plan and he executed well.”

Against the Angels, Lopez recorded 16 swinging strikes and 22 called strikes per Statcast™. Ten of those swinging streaks came on the fastball, which topped out at 98.6 mph, and 16 of the called strikes were on the fastball. Lopez made liberal usage of his changeup, throwing it 23 times against 72 fastballs, with six swinging strikes and three called strikes off the pitch.

An adjustment with his arm angle upon delivery helped give Lopez a little more life on his fastball, according to the hurler.

“When you use that arm angle and you are consistent with it, you are getting more speed with your fastball and at the same time you are being more effective with your changeup,” Lopez said. “That was the case today. If you are able to stick with that arm angle during the whole game, you are going to be more effective with all your pitches.”
“I thought his fastball was really good today,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He was elevating and when he needed to throw a strike early, off-speed, get a swing, he was working it very well. He just looked really composed today.”

Andrew Heaney was every bit as good as Lopez for the Angels. The southpaw set a career-high with 12 strikeouts and did not issue a walk.
.The Angels scored the game’s lone run in the seventh, charged to Ian Hamilton, when Kole Calhoun’s single off Caleb Frare brought home Jose Fernandez. It left the White Sox with five straight losses and a 3-7 mark on this second-to-last homestand.

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REEN BAY — Just over nine minutes of game action and halftime was all that was needed for a quiet Lambeau Field to erupt in cheers Sunday night, as Aaron Rodgers ran out of the Green Bay Packers’ locker room to his sideline after ending his first half being carted off the field.

The final 30 minutes of game play nearly brought the house down as Rodgers led the Packers to a 24-23 comeback victory.

Rodgers returned with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter and fired an 8-yard pass to Davante Adams on the next play. He led a 12-play drive that produced a Mason Crosby field goal that trimmed the Bears’ lead to 20-3.

The scare woke up the Packers offense, as Rodgers brought the Packers to within 20-17 with touchdown throws to Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams in the fourth quarter.

More: 32 things we learned from Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season

More: Khalil Mack terrorizes Green Bay Packers in Chicago Bears debut

After Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky led a 14-play, 61-yard drive that took up 6:22 and ended in a 32-yard Cody Parkey field goal to put the Bears up 23-20, Rodgers had 2:39 and 75 yards in front of him to win the game.

He only needed 26 seconds.

On third-and-10, Rodgers found Randall Cobb in the middle of the field and the receiver raced up the field untouched, outrunning Khalil Mack. Rodgers drifted out of the pocket to his left, and Cobb cut away from Bears safety Eddie Jackson. It was a relatively easy pitch-and-catch and Cobb was home free.

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BOSTON — Fittingly, the win that officially propelled the Red Sox into the postseason had more of the late-game heroics that have been on display all season.

It was Brock Holt who came up with the big hit this time, a pinch-hit, three-run home run to right field with two outs in the seventh that led the Sox to a 7-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
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At 99-46, the Red Sox are assured of no worse than playing in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3. However, it is far more likely Boston will emerge as the AL East champions for the third straight season and open the AL Division Series at Fenway Park on Oct. 5. With 17 games remaining, the Red Sox have a magic number of nine to clinch the division after the Yankees lost to the Twins, 10-5.

The Red Sox became the first team in the Majors to clinch a postseason berth this season.

“We’ve got a shot now,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We’re in, we have the elimination game now. We know we’re in a great position to win the division and to accomplish other things. Credit to them.”

This wasn’t a night to cover the lockers with plastic type, but Cora led the group with a toast after the game.

“I just told the group I’m very proud of them regardless of what’s going on around us, the winning streaks, the losing streaks, we stay together,” Cora said. “They’ve been very consistent as far as showing up every day and preparing for the game and playing the game, and I’m very proud of that.”
After being shut down by Blue Jays starter Ryan Borucki through six innings and trailing, 2-0, Steve Pearce ignited the Red Sox with a one-out RBI triple to center field in the seventh. Then, when Eduardo Nunez came to the plate, Mitch Moreland was in the on-deck circle, and it appeared he would hit for Sandy Leon.

But after Nunez drew a walk, Cora did something unusual when he called Moreland back to the dugout. Holt then emerged to pinch-hit, and he belted a 93.1-mph sinker from Ryan Tepera a projected distance of 388 feet, according to Statcast™, into the first row of the grandstands in right.

“The game sped up on me at that point,” Cora said. “I looked to the bullpen and they had a lefty. I wasn’t going to hit for Mitch in the lefty-lefty matchup I didn’t like there. So it went to Brock, they stayed with the righty, and it paid off.”
Holt was elated to come through in that spot.

“We try and stay ready the best we can down in the batting cage throughout the game,” Holt said. “Mitch was on deck there and figured he would hit, but we made a change and I did my best to stay ready and was able to do something good for the team. Any time you can help out, it’s a good night. So that was pretty fun for me.”

Though Holt only has four homers this season, two of them have been go-ahead blasts coming off the bench. Holt also lifted Boston to a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Aug. 14, when he hit a pinch-hit solo home run.

“I guess I would rather be in there from the start than to come in and pinch-hit. If I keep hitting homers, I’ll take it,” Holt said. “We’re having fun. Tonight was pretty fun.”

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The issue is command, though there’s obviously concern — with good reason — about his health. Bundy — who will start Thursday — has insisted he’s fine, and the Orioles will continue to weigh whether to shut him down for the season.

Bundy seemed particularly frustrated after his last outing against the Rays — calling it a level “10 out of 10,” and admitting he has little idea where the ball is going right now. The O’s Opening Day starter, Bundy is within his innings limit for the year. But you have to wonder how much good it’s doing to keep running him out there every fifth day.

How long does the front office expect this rebuild to take?
— Ellie F., Baltimore

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has referenced a three-year plan several times, but with an expiring contract, there’s no guarantee Duquette may oversee the rebuild. It depends on how you view a rebuild: Could they be competitive in three years? Sure. Will they be a true division contender by then? It remains to be seen.

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As with all rebuilds, it’s going to hinge on whether the trades the Orioles made of their veteran players actually pan out. The O’s farm system has improved in recent years, but they still aren’t in a position where there’s an heir apparent for guys like Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop in the infield. The bullpen — without Darren O’Day, Zach Britton and Brad Brach — also remains in flux, as does the catching situation in the future. There are a lot of question marks and I think in the next year or two you’ll have a much better idea of how this rebuild is shaping up.

Do you think Adam Jones has a role with the 2019 Orioles and do you think he wants to be part of that team?
— Todd, Earleville, Md.

I think there was a time he wanted to stay and finish his career in Baltimore. I’m not so sure that will be an option, though.

Jones was already moved off of center field and now his playing time has dwindled in right. The 33-year-old wants to win and this could be his last chance to do so. I would hope the front office realizes what an important role he’s played in the winning years in Baltimore and what kind of impact he’s had on the community. But unless the Orioles can get him on a good deal, it’s tough to see how signing him as a free agent fits in with their plans to rebuild and reduce the big league payroll.

What’s the clubhouse morale like?
— Richard F., Glen Burnie, Md.

About as good as it can be given that the Orioles have cleared the 100-loss mark. Manager Buck Showalter talked at length on Sunday about checking in with the younger guys to make sure this experience isn’t something that sticks with them negatively.

“It’s something you look for,” Showalter said. “Everybody’s morale is challenged. Your whole life you’ve lived in an arena where you’re competing and trying to win the game … there’s a lot of, I call it a negative feeding frenzy and a positive feeding frenzy. You’ve got to be careful about drinking too much of that Kool-Aid on either side.”

Is there talk of Duquette and Showalter coming back?
— Daniel B., Baltimore

Both have said, on the record, that they’d like to stay and continue with this rebuild. But there’s obviously going to be some changes within the organization as the O’s march toward becoming the worst team by record in franchise history. There’s no way to handicap what ownership is thinking right now, and I’d hate to speculate on people’s futures in print. Still, I’d be surprised if everything remained status quo. Keep in mind, there are a lot of reasons why things went wrong this season and pinning it on just those two wouldn’t be fair.