Tag Archives: Stephen Strasburg

Streaking Nationals come to Citizens Bank Park on a roll

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Red-hot Juan Soto leads the streaking Nats into South Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) and Washington Nationals (47-42) return to play following four days off for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game break with a Friday night contest at Citizens Bank Park.

These two NL East Division rivals currently control the two National League Wildcard playoff positions in the league standings. However, for nearly two months they have been travelling in opposite directions.
On May 29, the Phillies were 33-22 and held a 3.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings. That same day, the Nats were 24-32 and 9.5 games behind the Phillies.
But since May 24, Washington has forged a 28-11 mark. That is the best record in all of Major League Baseball since that date.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have slumped to a 14-21 record since their May 20 high-water at 11 games over the .500 mark. That is the same record in that time frame as the last place Miami Marlins have fashioned. Only the 13-22 record of the New York Mets over that period has been worse in the division.
All of that – the Phillies hot start, the Nationals recent hot stretch – is now in the rear view mirror. The ultimate story of the 2019 season for these two division rivals is going to be written over the next two and a half months. If the Phillies want to begin to turn their season back around, it has to begin this weekend.
For more than three weeks, the Phillies have faced nothing but NL East Division rivals on the schedule. The club has gone just 9-13 in those games. That stretch ends with this three-game weekend tilt with the Nationals.
The Phillies are going to come out of the stretch with a losing record. But winning this series would still mark a big step forward. It would also move them past the Nationals in the standings heading into a very tough four-game series to open next week with the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both teams have a middle-of-the-road offensive attack. The Nationals rank 14th in all of baseball with their average of 4.94 runs scored per game. The Phillies are right behind, their 4.91 runs per game ranking 15th among the 30 MLB ball clubs.
There is a big difference on the mound. Washington’s pitching staff ranks 5th in the National League with a .247 batting average against, and their .720 OPS against is 3rd in the league. Their pitchers collectively rank 4th in MLB in strikeouts.
The Phillies struggling staff is 14th in both AVG (.265) and OPS against (.799), and they have surrendered 153 home runs, far and away the highest total in the league and third-most in all of baseball. They are also just 22nd in strikeouts.
For the Phillies to actually win this series their pitching staff is going to have to begin stepping up. If the pitchers who are here and healthy right now cannot demonstrate improvement across the board, then the Nationals will keep up their winning ways and begin to pull away in the standings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: (29) 3B – .304/.386/.611 with 20 home runs, 44 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs, 65 runs
Trea Turner: (26) SS – .288/.343/.491 with 7 home runs, 26 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 36 runs, 17 steals (missed 39 games)
Victor Robles: (22) CF – .246/.320/443 with 13 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 47 runs, 12 steals
Howie Kendrick: (35) UT – .327/.378/.563 with 12 home runs, 25 extra-base hits, 47 RBIs, 39 runs
Adam Eaton: (30) RF – .281/.368/.383 with 6 home runs, 18 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 50 runs
Kurt Suzuki (35)/Yan Gomes (31): catching tandem combined for 14 homers and 58 RBIs

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Juan Soto: The 20-year-old left fielder was the runner-up to Ronald Acuna Jr.for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Soto has caught fireand helped lead the Nationals charge back to contending status.
Since May 17 when he was hitting just .228, Soto has slashed .354/.452/.628 with nine home runs, 23 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and 36 runs scored over 164 at-bats across 46 games.
The Nationals manager (see below) was quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr as this series prepares to open:
I think his overall game has gotten better. Everybody talks about his hitting, but I think his outfield play has gotten better. His baserunning’s gotten better. In that aspect, he’s become that polished player. Still young, still learning. Works incredibly in all aspects of the game. But I think we still haven’t seen what he potentially can do as he gets older.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

FRIDAY – Stephen Strasburg (30): 10-4, 3.64 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 3.18 FIP, 92 hits over 116.1 IP across 18 starts with a 138/29 K:BB ratio. That Nationals come out of the break by throwing their three best starting pitchers against the Phillies. Strasburg has largely been dominating in what has been one of the big right-hander’s most complete seasons.
SATURDAY – Patrick Corbin (29): 7-5, 3.34 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 3.34 FIP, 93 hits over 113.1 IP across 18 starts with a 129/33 K:BB ratio. Signed as a free agent this past off-season, Corbin has been everything the Nationals could have hoped. He provides the club a lone southpaw rotation presence, and a very good one.
SUNDAY – Anibal Sanchez (35): 5-6, 3.66 ERA, 1.327 WHIP, 4.53 FIP, 78 hits over 83.2 IP across 16 starts with a 75/33 K:BB ratio. This was supposed to be a turn for ace Max Scherzer. But ongoing back stiffness is causing the Nationals to skip him and go with 14-year veteran righty Sanchez. 

THE SKIPPER

54-year-old Dave Martinez had 16 years of playing experience in Major League Baseball with nine different organizations between 1986-2001. Four of those seasons from 1988-91 were with the Montreal Expos, the franchise from whom the Nationals are descended.
After retiring as an active player, Martinez became a spring training instructor for the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he had played during the 1998-2000 seasons. In 2007, Martinez was hired as Joe Maddon‘s bench coach in Tampa, and was in that role as the club won their lone AL pennant and reached the 2008 World Series against the Phillies.
Martinez interviewed for a number of managerial positions over the next few years. When Maddon left following the 2014 campaign, Martinez was passed over for the Rays job and joined Maddon once again as the Chicago Cubs bench coach. In that role he helped the Cubs defeat the Nationals in a 2017 National League Division Series.
On October 30, 2017, Martinez was hired to take over as the Nationals manager. He has a contract running through next year, with a club option for the 2021 season. The Nationals overall record during his first year and a half at the helm is 129-122. His club finished 82-80 last year, good enough for second place in the NL East, but not good enough for a playoff spot.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Unless you are allergic to sunshine and warm temperatures, weather will play little role in this weekend series down in South Philadelphia. Each day is expected to include high temps right around 90 degrees, lows around 70 degrees, and very few clouds in the sky. A modest breeze each day should keep humidity levels at reasonable summertime levels.
The Nationals have won seven of the 11 meetings between the two division rivals. Bryce Harper has two home runs and eight RBIs in those first 11 games against his former ball club.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies series opposition preview: Washington Nationals

Mickey Moniak beginning to look like a worthy top draft pick

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Moniak was the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft

During their recent half-decade plummet to the bottom of the National League standings, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves picking at a high position in the annual MLB Amateur Draft on a regular basis.

The Phillies had such a horrendous season in 2015 that their 63-99 record proved to be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. That set the club up with the #1 overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.
This was going to be far from a slam-dunk selection. Sure, the draft has yielded some true impact players with that first overall pick. Since the turn of the century, that top pick has produced stars in Joe MauerDavid PriceStephen StrasburgBryce HarperGerrit Cole, and  Carlos Correa.
However, there have been as many misses as hits. Players selected #1 overall since the year 2000 also include Bryan Bullington (2002), Delmon Young (2003), Matt Bush (2004), Mark Appel (2013), and Brady Aiken (2014). Some were injury casualties. Some simply never developed as hoped.
Others made an impact, but it would be hard to say that they justified a first overall draft selection: Luke Hochevar (2006) and Tim Beckham (2008) fall into this category.
Even Justin Upton, taken first overall in 2005, has to be considered an overall disappointment when considering he was the top draft pick. Dansby Swanson, the top selection in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is just emerging this year as an impact player after being traded to the Atlanta Braves.
In June of 2016, Matt Klentak was overseeing his first draft as the general manager of the Phillies. Johnny Almaraz was the club’s head of amateur scouting at the time. When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium to announce the selection, he called the name of Mickey Moniak, an outfielder from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California.
Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft,” said Almaraz at that time, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star.”
Per Salisbury, a rival talent evaluator also delivered a glowing appraisal of Moniak: “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.
Moniak knew that the pressure would be on him, and seemed ready to accept the responsibility. “I am honored by this and I’m excited to prove the Phillies right,” Moniak said in an interview with the MLB Network after the pick was announced.
After passing a physical exam with the team, Moniak inked a contract that paid him a $6.1 million signing bonus. Financially set, it was time to play baseball.
Almaraz doubled down on his assessment of Moniak’s abilities, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com: “I think you’ll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team,” Almaraz said.
As an 18-year-old, Moniak was assigned to the Phillies rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. He slashed .284/.340/.409 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 194 plate appearances across 46 games. It was a solid beginning to his professional career.
Moving up to Low-A Lakewood the following season, however, Moniak struggled mightily. He slashed just .236/.284/.341 in the summer of 2017 and frequently appeared to be over-matched, striking out in more than 20% of his plate appearances.
Still, the organization liked his maturity and believed he was up to another promotion for last season. It didn’t look that way early on, as things started out even more poorly with High-A Clearwater. Over his first 172 plate appearances across 43 games, Moniak slashed just .217/.233/.253, striking out in more than 25% of the time.
Then, something seemed to suddenly click. In his next four straight games, and five of his next six, Moniak produced a multiple-hit effort. He would slash .303/.346/.464 over his final 71 games and 293 plate appearances, with 30 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs. Moniak also cut down his strikeout rate to below the 20% mark over those final two and a half months.
With that performance his confidence grew, and Moniak moved up to Double-A Reading for this 2019 season. He turned just 21-years-old on May 13, and was playing so well that he was named to the Double-A All-Star team.
Unfortunately, a strained hamstring suffered while making a sliding catch in center field on June 30 has put Moniak on the minor league injured list. He will be in Richmond, Virginia for that Double-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night, but his ability to actually participate is questionable.
Moniak was slashing .266/.324/.437 with 32 extra-base hits, 42 runs scored, and nine stolen bases over 314 plate appearances in 75 games. In his last 13 games prior to the injury, he was hitting .318 with a .436 on-base percentage.
While Moniak had become a strikeout victim in 22% of his appearances this year, the now 6’2″, 185-pounder has quite obviously shown the ability to compete at the second-highest level of the minor leagues at more than three years younger than the average player age.
No, Mickey Moniak is still not demonstrating that he will be a difference-making impact player to the levels envisioned by the organization when he was drafted. But neither is he the bust that many were beginning to call him just one year ago.
I think it’s a lot of hard work in the offseason, but it has to do a lot with the past few years,” he said per Jackson Satz of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The seasons I’ve had, the good, the bad, learning from everything that’s happened to me throughout my professional career so far. Ultimately, that’s going to work for me to become the best player that I can be.
Now, mission one is to recover from the hamstring and get back into action. The Phillies have advanced him in a patient, yet consistent manner. One minor league level at a time. Moniak has continued to develop, gotten bigger and stronger, and it is now finally possible to envision him wearing a Phillies uniform at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans should expect to see him finish the year with Reading, and then move on to Triple-A Lehigh Valley when next season opens. He is likely to spend most of the 2020 season continuing his development. At that point it will be all about performance and production.
It may not yet be time for Phillies fans to get excited about Mickey Moniak. But it is beginning to become possible to see him as a contributor at the big-league level within the next two years. And it remains possible that he could still become the impact player that Almanzar and others believed him to be.
NOTE: Special thanks to Cheryl Purcell for her picture of Moniak at Reading accompanying this piece, and RIP to a truly good boy, Jax: https://jack-jax.com/

For Nationals it’s win now, or possibly lose two superstars

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The Nats already lost Harper, could Rendon be next star to go?

The Washington Nationals, who play host to the Phillies in a four-game series this week, have spent the better part of the last seven seasons dominating the National League East Division standings.

In 2012, the Nationals ended the Phillies five-year grip on the division by capturing the franchise’ first-ever NL East crown. Their direct predecessors, the Montreal Expos, were considered to have finished in first place back in 1994, but that was the strike-ended season that was never completed.
From 2012-18, the Nationals registered a winning season each year. They captured division titles four times in that span: 2012, 2014, and 2016-17. In each of the other three years, the Nats finished in second place.
The club was always in the hunt for a playoff berth until suddenly falling into a deep funk from June 10 through September 6. They struggled all summer at 32-46 during that stretch, falling from first place to finish 10 back of the Atlanta Braves in the east and nine games out of a Wildcard.
In the off-season, the Nationals lost the player who had arguably become the face of the franchise over those seven seasons. Bryce Harper left the team at age 26 to sign as a free agent with the rival Phillies.
The Nationals brain trust believed that it could cover for the loss of Harper. They had a pair of exciting young Dominican outfielders ready to make an impact on an everyday basis in now 20-year-old Juan Soto, who was the runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award, and 22-year-old Victor Robles.
But when the season opened, things didn’t go as planned in our nation’s capital. Injuries and inconsistent play resulted in a horrendous first two months. The Nationals woke up on Friday, May 24 back home after getting swept in four games at Citi Field by the division-rival New York Mets. They were a disheartening 19-31, and were already 10 games off the pace in the NL East.
Since that time, the Nationals have begun to regain some of their lost mojo. They have fashioned a 14-7 record over the last three weeks, and though still 8.5 out in the division, the Nationals are now just six games behind the Phillies in the race for the final NL Wildcard spot. Of course, there are also five other teams ahead of them in chasing that spot.
If the Nationals cannot continue to win consistently and make a serious move up in the standings, that brain trust is going to have a couple of extremely difficult decisions to make a month from now as the August 1 MLB trade deadline approaches. Those decisions involved two key players, their third baseman and their top starting pitcher.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon has been, as Harper was before him, a career Nationals player. Like Harper, he was a first round draft pick, taken by Washington at sixth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. That was right after the club had made Stephen Strasburg and Harper the top overall pick in the two previous drafts.
He turned 29-years-old at the start of this month, and is leading the team in virtually every offensive category. But also, like Harper last year, Rendon is about to become a free agent at the conclusion of this current season. Though both sides have said that they were willing to remain open to contract discussions as they season went along, there are no signs that the team is making any progress in getting him to agree to forego his first shot at free agency and re-up with a contract extension.
If you want to go ahead and agree that Nolan Arenado is the best third baseman in the NL today, then you had best understand that Rendon is clearly second in that ranking. If it weren’t for the Rockies outstanding third sacker, Rendon would certainly have a handful of Gold Glove Awards in his trophy case.
Arenado just signed a seven-year, $260 million deal with Colorado at age 28 years. Already making nearly $19 million for this 2019 season, Rendon is likely going to be looking for that same seven-year package for something at or above the $200 million total mark.
How Anthony Rendon ranks among NL 3rd basemen:

1st         On-Base Percentage (.415)
1st         Slugging Percentage (.660)
1st         OPS (1.075)
1st         WAR (3.1)
1st         wRC+ (169)
1st         wOBA (.435)
1st         OPS+ (70)
2nd       Batting Average (.321)

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While owner Ted Lerner and general manager Mike Rizzo contemplate how high they are willing to go on a Rendon deal, if he even wants to stay, that will not be the only contract consideration they will have on their minds as the trade deadline approaches.
Ace right-hander Max Scherzer, arguably the best right-handed starting pitcher in the game today and winner of three Cy Young Awards, can exercise his “10-and-5 rights” after this season. That would lock the Nationals into his contract, which call for him to be paid move than $42 million in each of the next two seasons as he turns ages 35 and 36 years of age.
Scherzer is having yet another great season this year. His 2.27 FIP mark is the best in baseball. His K/9 are actually up a tick, while his BB/9 are down. He has allowed just 87 hits over 99.1 innings across 15 starts with a phenomenal 136/20 K:BB.
So why would Washington even think of unloading Scherzer at the deadline this year? It would be the combination of those 10-and-5 rights, which would mean that he could veto any trade after this season, combined with his being owed $84 million for two more years as he continues to age.
If the Nationals are unable to climb back into the race in a serious way, they are at least going to have to entertain the idea of moving Scherzer and Rendon. Each player would bring back a substantial prospect package in trade with which Washington could continue to build a young foundation to battle in what looks like it will be a tough division during the 2020’s.
So, for the 2019 Washington Nationals, the time is now to keep winning, to keep digging their way out of that early hole. They have seven key games this week, four with the Phillies and three with the Braves. After that, the MLB schedule looks very weak for awhile.

If they can make up any further ground in these battles with the two clubs ahead of them in the NL East Division, and then do what they would be expected to do with the lesser opposition which the schedule presents over the following few weeks, Washington could end up forced to keep the band together for at least one more strong run this year.

Struggling Phillies open mid-June series with resurgent Nationals

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Many fans in both towns now conflicted over Werth and Harper

The struggling Philadelphia Phillies (39-32) continue with their road show, this time opening a four-game series with the rejuvenated Washington Nationals (33-38) on Monday night in our Nation’s Capital.

The Phillies are coming off a humbling Father’s Day experience in which they were dismantled by the division-leading Atlanta Braves in a 15-1 rout. They enter D.C. having now dropped five of their last seven games, and 10 of 16 going back to May 29.
After suffering through a horrendous 19-31 start that buried them in fourth place, 10 games out, the Nationals have begun to right their ship. The club has gone 14-7 since that point. Still in fourth place, but they are just six games behind the Phillies for the final NL Wildcard spot, and would love to cut into that deficit this week.
They enter the series fresh off their own 15-run experience. Only in their case, the Nats were the team scoring all the runs in a 15-5 win at home yesterday over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Nationals offensive attack ranks seventh in the National League in both runs scored and OPS, and they are third in stolen bases. On the mound their pitchers are tied for sixth in batting average against and seventh in OPS against, and the staff ranks first in strikeouts.
A big reason they are at the top of those strikeout rankings can be found in their starting rotation, and the Phillies will see the Nationals best this week. Washington will throw lefty Patrick Corbin in the opener, young Erick Fedde in the second game, and then finish up the series with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg for the final two games.
These two teams have already met three times this season. They split a two-gamer in Washington back in early April. The Nationals then took two of three in Philly a week later, but saw the Phillies take two of three at Citizens Bank Park in early May. They will meet yet again in a four-gamer right after the MLB All-Star break back in Philadelphia, but then do not see one another until the first day of Fall, on September 23.
Of course, there is added intensity when these two clubs meet, at least from the Washington fans perspective, with star right fielder Bryce Harper having left town. In eight games between the two clubs this year, Harper has slashed .321/.472/.643 with two homers, three doubles, eight walks, seven RBIs, and six runs scored.
Harper was the Nationals pick at first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft and played his first seven seasons with them, winning the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award, and making the NL All-Star squad six times.
A ball club that is much better than their record indicates, the Nats are looking at this as a big opportunity series. For the struggling, injury-depleted Phillies, this will mark another difficult challenge.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Anthony Rendon: The Nationals are in danger of losing their most impactful player for a second straight season. Rendon is a free agent after this year, and the 29-year-old third baseman doesn’t seem close to a deal. He leads the team in virtually every category, slashing .321/.415/.660 with 16 homers, 50 RBIs, 37 extra-base hits, and 52 runs scored. Those numbers are better across the board than anyone in the Phillies lineup.
Trea Turner: 26-year-old dynamic shortstop was hit on the hand while trying to bunt against the Phillies during the first week of play and missed nearly seven weeks. He started slowly after returning, but since May 28 has slashed .333/.392/.639 with three homers, 16 extra-base hits, nine RBIs, 16 runs scored, and five steals over 17 games. It’s no coincidence that the Nats have won 11 of those 17 games.
Juan Soto: The 20-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder was the runner-up for last year’s NL Rookie of the Year honors and much as with Turner, he has been hot over the last few weeks. Since May 24, Soto is slashing .329/.413/.519 with four homers, 11 RBIs, and 20 runs scored.
Adam Eaton: 30-year-old veteran now in his eighth big-league season, Eaton is hitting .280 and is tied for second on the club with 41 runs scored.
Victor Robles: If there is one player who the Nats would really like to see pick it up, Robles would be it. The 22-year-old center fielder is hitting just .234 and has only one home run in the last month after banging eight over the season’s first six weeks.
Matt Adams: The big lefty first baseman has been activated from the IL just in time to face four right-handed starters being thrown by the Phillies. Adams has nine homers and 27 RBIs in just 130 plate appearances, with eight of those longballs as well as five doubles coming off righties.
Kurt Suzuki: The Nationals split their catching duties in a fairly even platoon setup, but Suzuki is the power half. He has seven homers and 30 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances.
Brian Dozier: 32-year-old veteran second baseman was a former AL All-Star with the Minnesota Twins, for whom he played the first seven of his now eight-year career. He has 10 home runs and 10 doubles, remaining a dangerous, albeit streaky, hitter with the Nationals.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Howie Kendrick: Not much was expected of Kendrick this season, who at age 35 (he turns 36 next month) is now in his 14th big-league season. Kendrick spent the first 11 years of his career in Los Angeles, nine with the Angels and then two with the Dodgers.
He was then traded in late July 2017 to the Phillies for a fringe prospect, seeing action in 24 games out in left field and another 10 at second base. Kendrick then became a free agent, signing with Washington.
When numerous injuries opened up some playing time earlier this season, Kendrick received increased opportunities and made the best of them. His 12 homers and 43 RBIs are second on the team, and he is slashing at the .333/.383/.602 mark. He also continues to provide value with his defensive versatility, playing in 19 games at first base and 14 each at second and third bases.
Kendrick, who has made $65 million over the course of his career but is now making “only” $4 million this year, will be a free agent once again after the season ends. This kind of production assures that someone will want him coming off their bench. Maybe even the Phillies.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

MONDAY – Patrick Corbin: 5-5 4.11 ERA, 1.219 WHIP, 75 hits over 85.1 IP across 14 starts with a 94/29 K:BB
TUESDAY – Erick Fedde: 1-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 32 hits over 36.2 IP across 10 games (5 starts) with a 21/14 K:BB
WEDNESDAY – Max Scherzer: 5-5, 2.81 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 87 hits over 99.1 IP across 15 starts with a 136/20 K:BB
THURSDAY – Stephen Strasburg: 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 78 hits over 96 IP across 15 starts with a 115/24 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

A native New Yorker, Dave Martinez is in his second season at the helm in Washington after guiding the club to an 82-80 mark and a second place finish in the NL East Division a year ago.
Martinez played 16 seasons in Major League Baseball after being drafted in the third round back in 1983 by the Chicago Cubs. He played for nine different organizations, with his four years in Chicago and four with the old Montreal Expos, the Nationals predecessors, marking his longest stints.
He was under fire when the club got off to such a miserable start this year, but any talk of firing has been muted with this recent period of improved play and winning by the team.

THE BALLPARK

Nationals Park opened for the 2008 season and is known mostly as a fair ballpark for hitters and pitchers, ranking 11th in the current ESPN 2019 MLB Ballpark Factors list.
Dimensions are 337 and 335 down the left and right field lines respectively. Left-center is 377 feet out, right-center at 370 feet, and it will be 402 feet out to dead-center field.
Located along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard section of D.C., it has a regular capacity of 41,339 but they have reached as many as 30,000 just nine times since Opening Day. One of those was for Harper’s first return back on April 2 with Scherzer on the mound when just under 36,000 showed up.
Back in 201o they added a ‘Ring of Honor’ to celebrate those from the old Washington Senators franchise, the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues who were based in town, as well as the Expos/Nationals players who have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A dozen-and-a-half players are currently honored, including Walter JohnsonHarmon KillebrewJosh Gibson, and Andre Dawson. Also honored there is former Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jayson Werth.
Since 2011, a submarine dive horn blares after each Nationals home run and victory in a nod to the park’s location in the Navy Yard neighborhood.
In the middle of the 4th inning at every game, fans are treated to the President’s Race. Runners wearing costumes topped by oversized heads of four U.S. Presidents engage in a foot race, often with comedic elements built into the contest. The four Presidents are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Three other Presidents have also spent time as racers, but those original four remain today as the current lineup.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Game time for all four nights is scheduled for 7:05 PM EDT
This will be a very unsettled weather week in Washington. There is a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms on Monday night, then an 80% chance on both Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping to 60% on Thursday. Temperatures will be in the upper-70’s to mid-80’s during games with high humidity and light winds all week. Any fans taking the ride down from Philly should be prepared for delays at the start of, or during, each of the four games, though all four should be played in the end.
Report using data from The Weather Channel

2019 MLB preview and predictions

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Paul Goldschmidt powers up the Saint Louis Cardinals for 2019

 

With the 2019 Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules drawing to a close this week, all eyes are now squarely focused on Opening Day. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will be playing in the regular season on Thursday.

How will superstars such as Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado with the San Diego Padres, and Paul Goldschmidt with the Saint Louis Cardinals fare in their new homes? Which teams will become surprise contenders? Which major injuries will derail a team’s postseason hopes?
Each new MLB campaign comes with its own unique storylines. This year will be no different. Over the coming six months there will be excitement, drama, heartbreak, and controversy as each club plays out its 162-game schedule.
For years now I’ve been looking into my own personal crystal ball to make predictions for MLB’s division winners and individual award winners as well as my picks for the postseason.
A year ago in my 2018 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I got four of the six divisions correct. I missed out on the Milwaukee Brewers edging my Chicago Cubs pick for the NL Central, as well as the Atlanta Braves, who I had for third place in the NL East.
My NL Wildcards were those Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. So the Braves were the only NL playoff team that I missed. In the AL, I had the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels as those Wildcard teams. Right divison, wrong team, as the Oakland Athletics actually captured an AL Wildcard spot instead of those Halos.
For the Fall Classic, I predicted that the defending champion Houston Astros would repeat by downing the Cubs in five games in a match-up between the two previous World Series titlists.
Those Cubs would end up losing a thrilling 2-1 NL Wildcard Game to the Rockies at Wrigley Field. The Astros returned to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Since I am writing for a Phillies-centric site, a bit of a disclaimer: this piece is not Phillies-centric. There will be plenty of times here at Phillies Nation where we cover the wider story of Major League Baseball. As for our favorite home nine, well, you are going to have to look elsewhere if you want to find a “homer” World Series prediction. At least this year.
Now time to reveal my predictions for the upcoming 2019 season. As always, I would love to hear your own picks in the comments section or on social media. Play ball!

2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERPaul Goldschmidt, Saint Louis
Contenders: Bryce Harper PHI, Nolan Arenado COL, Christian Yelich MIL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Cody Bellinger LAD
CY YOUNG AWARDStephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM, Jack Flaherty STL, Aaron Nola PHI, Patrick Corbin WAS
ROOKIE OF THE YEARVictor Robles, Washington
Contenders: Alex Reyes STL, Fernando Tatis Jr. SD, Nick Senzel CIN, Luis Urias SD, Chris Paddack SD
MANAGER OF THE YEARDave Martinez, Washington
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARCorey Seager, Los Angeles
Contenders: Yu Darvish CHI, Alex Reyes STL, Josh Donaldson ATL, Andrew Miller STL
2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERCarlos Correa, Houston
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS, Alex Bregman HOU, Francisco Lindor CLE
CY YOUNG AWARDChris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Gerrit Cole HOU, Blake Snell TB, Justin Verlander HOU, Trevor Bauer CLE, James Paxton NYY
ROOKIE OF THE YEAREloy Jimenez, Chicago
Contenders: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.TOR, Josh James HOU, Danny Jansen TOR, Yusei KikuchiSEA
MANAGER OF THE YEARBrad Ausmus, Los Angeles
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, A.J. Hinch HOU, Bob Melvin OAK, Kevin Cash TB, Alex CoraBOS, Terry Francona, CLE
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARByron Buxton, Minnesota
Contenders: Gary Sanchez NYY, Miguel Cabrera DET, Aaron Sanchez TOR, Jonathan Schoop MIN
2019 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS
NATIONAL LEAGUE
NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami
Since their franchise moved to Washington, the Phillies and Nationals have never been involved in a genuine NL East campaign where both were contenders. That changes this year and likely for years to come, and the Harper move adds a next level of spice to the budding arch-rivalry. But the Braves also have a lot of good young talent. I’ve been referring to the Mets as the “Mess” for years. Something always seems to go wrong, and until they prove it on the field, I’ll say the same this year. The Marlins are simply a rebuilding non-factor for the most part. This should prove to be a division where key injuries go a long way towards deciding things each year for awhile.
NL CENTRAL: Saint Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
A contending Cardinals team is nearly as certain as death and taxes. The arch-rival Cubs and defending division champ Brew Crew should each again be strong. This looks a bit like the NL East to me, a real three-team dog fight that may only be settled by key injuries and big September head-to-head battles. The Reds are better, but not good enough. The Bucs also have talent, just not enough to keep up with the leaders here. This could well be baseball’s “black and blue” division in 2019, with no truly easy divisional opponents.
NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco
The Dodgers have won six straight divisional crowns and eight of the last 11 in the west. You want to be the best? Gotta beat the best. The Rockies are talented and the Padres are coming, but Los Angeles still looks to me like they have enough of everything – assuming health of their key performers. The Dbacks and Giants may need to start more seriously thinking about major rebuilding plans or face years of non-contention here.
NL WILDCARDS: Philadelphia, Chicago – welcome back to the MLB postseason, Phillies Nation! Oh, and how would you like to try an Aaron Nola – Cole Hamels winner-take-all pitching match-up on for size?
AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL EAST: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore
The Bosox and Yankees could each well win 100 games again this year. Last year, Boston’s 108 victories gave them an eight-game cushion on their arch-rivals. I think it will be much closer this time around. The Rays almost always put up more of a fight than anyone believes, so much so that we now expect it. The Jays have possibilities down the road, but not in 2019. If you are looking for a current sad-sack story in the AL, well, there should prove to be plenty of seats available all summer at gorgeous Camden Yards in Baltimore. It’s worth the ride, Philly.
AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City
I truly believe that they are no longer at the level of the American League’s ‘Big Three’ ball clubs. But something tells me that Terry Francona is once again going to get the most out of his team. The Twins have been the fashionable pick as a surprise American League contender. If that turns out true, I believe it will have to be for a Wildcard berth. The Chisox have a ton of serious young talent coming, but it may take another couple of years to pull it all together. I just don’t see any scenario where either the Tigers or Royals contend here for the next few years.
AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
The Astros won the first World Series in franchise history two years ago, were good enough to win it last year, and remain one of the favorites in 2019. Everyone else here is fighting for Wildcard relevance. With Mike Trout locked up for the rest of his career, look for the Angels to do everything in their power to start putting more pieces in place around him to truly contend. The A’s over-achieved last year. I don’t believe in them doing it again at that level. And there is just not enough talent in either Seattle or Texas for a playoff push, and may not be for a few years to come.
AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles
2019 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES
Two years ago, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would finally end years of postseason frustration and capture the first-ever World Series title in franchise history, defeating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. It didn’t happen as the Nats were edged out by the Cubs in a five-game NLDS.
Now with Harper gone to the division-rival Phillies, some might think that the Nationals best chances to win are over. Not so. There is plenty of talent and veteran leadership remaining in the nation’s capital. What was already the best starting rotation in the NL may have gotten better and deeper. And the Nats will replace Harper with the dynamic Robles, my NL Rookie of the Year choice.
I’m going to pick Washington to finally win a playoff series. It will be the first since the move to D.C. from Montreal, and only the second in franchise history. Not only that, but the Nats take it a step further, finally pushing their way into the Fall Classic behind strong pitching and a versatile lineup.
After the Phillies and Aaron Nola win the NL Wildcard Game over the Cubs the local crew is dispatched in an emotional NLDS by the Nationals. The Cardinals knock the Dodgers off the National League perch. And then the Nats take out Saint Louis in the NLCS.
The American League should once again be dominated by a Big Three made up of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, and the 2017 champion Houston Astros.
I’ll be stunned if the American League pennant winner does not come from one of those three ball clubs. Honestly, I cannot pick between those three. The Yanks overpower Mike Trout and the Angels in the AL Wildcard Game, then dispatch the Astros in an ALDS. The rival Bosox take out the Indians in the other ALDS, setting up a classic rivalry ALCS.
Picking a winner in a Yankees-Red Sox series is always a tricky proposition. But repeating is very difficult, and something is telling me that the Yanks, who have not been back to the World Series since their 2009 win a decade ago over the Phillies, are ready to power their way back to the Fall Classic.
And then, much to the chagrin of Harper and the Phillies, I am going to predict that the Washington Nationals erase their name from the list of seven MLB teams to never win a World Series. Call it Washington in six games over the Bronx Bombers.
And there we have it, my 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section, and let’s get ready to play ball.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Matt Veasey’s 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions
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