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Nationals to hold baseball equipment drive this weekend

Gloves, bats, balls, catchers' equipment, bases, shoes, helmets, or anything you have to spare. With the aim of providing local youth an increased opportunity to play baseball and softball, the Nationals will collect baseball equipment in conjunction with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund this Sunday when they play the Braves at Nationals Park. Fans are encouraged to donate new and used equipment to benefit the D.C.

Dave Nichols: Morse's return, daunting June on tap for Nationals

The Nationals find themselves in an enviable position. Clinging to the National League East lead by a half-game over the Miami Marlins on the last day of May, they expect to get cleanup hitter Michael Morse back as early as Friday when they start a three-game weekend series with the Atlanta Braves. Morse, who is with the high Single-A Potomac Nationals this week on a

Rachel Levitin: The shirts on fans' backs tell a story

There was a time back in 2005 when I worked at a Major League Baseball team apparel store for extra money before leaving for college. This store specialized in Chicago Cubs gear, but it was that store that garnered my appreciation for team logos and memorabilia from the past. Numerous retailers attempt to recreate some of the most unique logos in baseball history on caps,

Will Yoder: Nobody's second-guessing Gonzalez deal now

When the Nationals traded four major prospects for Gio Gonzalez this winter, many fans in D.C. were hesitant about the potential reward such a risky move could bring. Gonzalez, 26, had two All-Star caliber seasons under his belt, and was one of the best left-handed strikeout pitchers in baseball, but some wondered about his potential to be an elite pitcher moving into the future. While

Ted Leavengood: A different kind of rolling thunder

Every Memorial Day weekend, the sound of the Harleys resonates in Washington, D.C., as they circle the city. Rolling Thunder has become an iconic part of somber Memorial Day remembrances across the city. There was, however, a very different rolling thunder that swept through Atlanta this weekend, as the Nationals pushed 22 runs across the plate at Turner Field over three days to steamroll the

Marty Niland: The start of summer - and a division race?

Memorial Day weekend traditions abound in the Washington area. From tributes to America's fallen heroes at Arlington National Cemetery and other resting places to the rumble of Rolling Thunder motorcyclists honoring MIAs to parades, picnics, pool openings and beach vacations, we have our own ways of marking the unofficial start of summer. Now, thanks to the Nationals' surprising play this season, we have a new

Dave Nichols: What to do about Rodriguez?

I usually use this space to delve into something that's caught my eye in the previous week of Nationals baseball. I try to examine whatever that might be using statistics, either the boxcar stats that come in the daily paper (you still read box scores, right?), or advanced stats, which really aren't all that advanced (it's still add, subtract, multiply and divide, just using some

Rachel Levitin: Regional rivalries add life to NatsTown

The argument can be made that Tuesday night's 5-2 conquest of the division rival Philadelphia Phillies, solidified by a two-RBI triple off the bat of Bryce Harper, was one of the most enjoyable for Nationals fans so far this season. The Nationals have beaten the Phillies six straight time, the first time in a 43-year franchise history that the Expos/Nationals have done so. The same

Will Yoder: Only a teen, Harper hitting in some elite company

Given the debut strategy taken with Stephen Strasburg in 2010, not many people thought going into this year that 19-year-old Bryce Harper would end playing at least 100 games in 2012. Now, barring injury, it seems almost a lock that the club's starting outfielder will surpass that mark, making him just the 18th player in Major League Baseball history to play 100 or more games

Ted Leavengood: Another kind of Parkway series imagined

Watching the Orioles-Nationals series play out over such a gorgeous weekend, with so much fine young talent on both sides of the diamond, it was hard not to project into it something more than just another interleague squabble. With Baltimore sitting comfortably atop the American League East and Washington still within hailing distance of the top of the National League East, well, sweet dreams are

Marty Niland: Harper's shot harkens back to another phenom's first homer

At 19 years, 211 days old, Bryce Harper wasn't even old enough to buy a beer to celebrate his first major league home run this week. The more than 400-foot blast off San Diego's Tim Stauffer, in Harper's 15th major league game and 54th at-bat, not only added to his lore but evoked memories of another vaunted prospect's first homer, almost 41 years earlier. Like

MedStar Health to host youth baseball clinic

We all enjoy watching the Nationals, particularly during this hot start to the 2012 season. But from the superstars like Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg, down to the 25th man on the roster, every player started their journey as a young boy, molding their talents and honing their skills in recreation leagues. For every major league player, rec league is where it all began, reminding

Dave Nichols: Is there reason to be concerned about Tyler Clippard's performance?

So far this season, a lot of things have gone right for the Nationals. The starting pitching has been phenomenal. The relievers, for the most part, have been very strong, as well, despite missing their two best closer options to injury most of the season. And the hitting - well, it looks like it might be coming around. Actually, they've been pretty good all season

Rachel Levitin: What if the Nats lost a starting pitcher to injury?

What would happen if a member of the Nationals' starting rotation were to suffer an injury? What would happen if there's more than one man down over the course of the season? I'm not saying such a tragedy is inevitable nor am I saying it will happen, but it's a definite "what if" that should be thrown into the season-long equation as a safety measure.

Joe Drugan: Cruel and unusual punishment

The Nationals are dealing with lots of injuries. I mean, lots and lots of injuries. If you look at the list of Nats players that are down and out, it would be comical if it weren't so brutally sad and frustrating. Let's remind ourselves of these injuries, consider how ridiculous it is that the team is somehow still 22-13 and evaluate the biggest need for

Ted Leavengood: Guts and artistry

Beneath the frustrating 9-6 loss to Joey Votto and the Reds, beneath the implosion of Henry Rodriguez, there were glimpses in Cincinnati of the team the Nationals are becoming. The weather Sunday was miserable thing and losing when the team scores six runs was a bitter blow, one that knocked Washington out of first place for the first time since the earliest days of the

Marty Niland: Lombardozzi needs more time at second base

It's obvious that the Nationals won't fix their offensive struggles overnight. Michael Morse is still weeks away with a strained lat muscle. Jayson Werth's absence with a broken wrist has left a huge hole in the middle of the lineup. Bryce Harper has been very good so far, but he's not Superman, and Ryan Zimmerman is working his way back into form after missing 14

Rachel Levitin: A few words on fan etiquette

Phillies fans aside, the atmosphere at Nationals Park over last weekend was vibrant and full of life. The fact is that Nationals Park feels different when the seats are filled. If it takes a division rivalry to pack the place, then so be it. But it's a whole other thing to sink to the level of the proposed enemy of the evening. Nationals fans tend

Nationals select Neary as Honorary Bat Girl

How's this for a Mother's Day present? The Nationals and Major League Baseball have announced that Laurie Jo Neary, a mother of three who was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in 2008, is the winner of the team's Honorary Bat Girl program. The program recognizes baseball fans who have been affected by breast cancer and have demonstrated a commitment to "Going to Bat" in the fight

Will Yoder: Lombardozzi quietly making his mark

Even though he has played just eight games this season, Bryce Harper already ranks among the top rookies in baseball in Wins Above Replacement. As crazy as that sounds, that makes him a viable Rookie of the Year candidate. We shouldn't be surprised, though. Harper is the type of player who was born to win the Rookie of the Year award. He has been ranked

Ted Leavengood: Stealing home

Last night's "Sunday Night Baseball" game was not good to the Nationals, despite the overall success of the "Our Park" campaign. When Bryce Harper stole home in the first inning, he stole Nationals Park back from the Philly faithful, but the loss of Jayson Werth to a broken wrist undermines any sense of triumph. It is a blow that will hurt Washington for the remainder

Marty Niland: Our park? We'll see

It's showtime for the Nationals and their fans. While the atmosphere in the stands at Nationals Park has been more tepid than the team's play on the field for the most part, all of that will change this weekend when the Philadelphia Phillies arrive for the first big division showdown of the year. The action on the field is likely to be intense, but both

Dave Nichols: Espinosa's struggle to make contact is alarming

During the offseason and into spring training, if you asked 100 Nationals fans which middle infielder they would be concerned with having to replace at some point in the 2012 season, I'd venture to guess 98 of them would have replied, "Ian Desmond." Their answer is not without basis. Desmond has had challenges both offensively and defensively as he continues to try to establish himself

Rachel Levitin: A different vibe for Harper's home debut

The District's baseball skepticism is warranted. A double dose of 100-loss seasons after 30-plus years of no baseball in town will do that to a person. Those miserable 2008 and 2009 seasons are also what brought the Nationals to this point in time. Baseball in Washington is at crossroads of sorts now that Bryce Harper has made his home debut. With the media hoopla surrounding

Joe Drugan: Comparing Nationals' starters to some elite competition

Blogs across NatsTown have spent the better part of a week bemoaning the lethargic offense that the Nationals have shown throughout the season, and they probably deserve it. The team has scored just 74 runs, or just 3.36 runs per game, which is sixth worst in all of baseball. Yet the Nationals are still 14-8 heading into May, and they hold a half-game lead over

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