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David Huzzard: Advanced metrics place Harper in select company

As a disappointing 13-14 April comes to an end for the Nationals, the only thing that went right was Bryce Harper. An April OPS of 1.150 is only so impressive on its own, but consider that the tops in all of baseball last season was Miguel Cabrera with .999 and the only regulars with better than that in April 2012 were Matt Kemp, Bryan LaHair,

Ted Leavengood: In Span, Nats have a glove of a different kind

Denard Span is no Michael Morse. Morse had the kung-fu warm-up cut - immortalized in his bobblehead - and there was his A-Ha walk-up music. Span had large shoes to fill on many levels. It did not get easier when Morse ripped up the Cactus League for nine home runs and a .357 batting average in spring training. It was reminiscent of the 2011 spring

“Bryce Begins” to air on ESPN on Tuesday, April 30

What were you doing when you were 19? Chances are you weren’t roaming the outfields of major league ballparks like Bryce Harper was. Harper, the young Nationals phenom, skyrocketed to superstardom during his rookie season. His accomplishments include earning a trip to the All-Star Game and winning the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award. His play helped the Nats win the NL East

Marty Niland: For Harper, here’s hoping best is yet to come

Of all the red-letter days in Washington’s baseball history, Nationals fans may well look back on April 28, 2012 as the most important date of all. It was on that date that a 19-year-old rookie named Bryce Aron Max Harper made his major league debut, amid the media spotlight of Los Angeles. He singled and drove in a run for a Nats team that was

Cast your ballot to send your favorite Nats to the All-Star Game

Which Nationals hitters deserve to be voted into the starting lineup for the All-Star Game at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16? Maybe you favor youth, and figure left fielder Bryce Harper, all of 20, should be starting after making it as a 19-year-old reserve last year. Or you think first baseman Adam LaRoche and his Gold Glove defense can help the National League win

Patrick Reddington: How I learned to stop worrying and love Henry Rodriguez

From the start of spring training, Nationals manager Davey Johnson preached patience. Henry Rodriguez, who led the league in wild pitches in 2011 and managed to throw 10 in 29 1/3 innings of work in 2012, continued his wild ways this spring, but the Nats’ 70-year-old skipper said it was just a matter of time before the right-handed reliever figured things out. Rodriguez’s 2012 campaign

Rachel Levitin: Can Goon Squad affect turnaround for Nats?

Three weeks into the 2013 season and the Nationals are struggling to get their 2012 groove back. Fact is, though, it’s only April and there are months of baseball still to be played. The biggest factor haunting the Nats in present day is high expectations associated with coming off a successful run last year. “We’ve been pressing,” outfielder Jayson Werth told MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko. “We’ve

David Huzzard: The Espinosa-Lombardozzi debate isn’t much of one at all

The Danny Espinosa/Steve Lombardozzi debate highlights many fascinating aspects of baseball fandom. It is tools vs. grit, slash line vs. batting average, and strikeouts vs. productive outs. The main issue is that in every meaningful category for their careers, Espinosa is a better player. Look at the two slash lines. Espinosa, for his career, is at .236/.311/.407 and Lombardozzi is at .273/.314/.352. While the increase

Ted Leavengood: Déjà vu all over again

There was something eerie watching Drew Storen work a perfect eighth inning against the Cardinals last night. More uncanny is the similarity of Ryan Zimmerman going on the DL on both April 20, 2012 and April 21, 2013. Zimmerman was hitting a lusty .224 with a single home run and seven RBIs last year and fast forward to Sunday, and Zimmerman is hitting .226 with

Marty Niland: Keep expectations realistic for Anthony Rendon

Welcome to the big leagues, Anthony Rendon. Making his major league debut Sunday against the New York Mets, the Nationals’ 2011 first-round draft pick went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, including one to end a 2-0 loss. He made a nice foul catch in the first inning, but like the rest of the Washington offense, never got comfortable at the plate against Mets starter

Harper leads extra-base barrage as Nats win 7-6

The Nationals treated Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner like a guy with a 7.20 ERA, and had an lead to show for their efforts. Ian Desmond led off the second inning with his third homer of the season and Bryce Harper crushed a two-run homer into the left field stands at Citi Field in the third, staking the Nats to a 3-0 lead. But it’s now

Zimmerman still missing from Nats lineup, but Espinosa returns (updated)

Ryan Zimmerman’s sore left hamstring remains an issue, and the third baseman is again out of the lineup for today’s 3:05 p.m. game against the Mets at Citi Field. The game will air nationally on FOX. Zimmerman has not played since being removed from Wednesday’s game against the Marlins in Miami, and Chad Tracy is again at third base in his place today. The Nationals,

Patrick Reddington: Facing Stephen Strasburg

Then-27-year-old 2001 first-round pick Gavin Floyd downplayed the significance of facing a then-21-year-old Stephen Strasburg when the two first-round picks met for the first time during the Nats’ 2009 No. 1 overall selection’s rookie campaign in 2010. “It’s the last thing you need to worry about, is the opposing pitcher,” Floyd told MLB.com before the game in the nation’s capital, “You’re facing their lineup, not

Rachel Levitin: Racing Presidents bring something extra to Nats’ fan culture

Last Friday night, I found myself surrounded by native Chicagoans and fellow D.C. transplants at a bar near Union Station when a group of Braves fans walked in. I hadn’t been able to watch the Nats-Braves game that night and didn’t check my iPhone for any scores, so I decided to do the easy thing and ask those Braves fans, “Who won the game?” They

David Huzzard: For starters, Nats battling tougher early schedule in 2013

Through 14 games last season, the Nationals were 10-4 coming off an 11-4 loss to the Houston Astros in their 14th game of the season. It was a hot start - and an important one, as the Phillies were missing key pieces, the Marlins weren’t playing up to expectations and the Braves were missing Tim Hudson. The Nats’ hot start catapulted them into a division

Ted Leavengood: Dark cloud removed, could Zimmermann earn “Smiley” nickname?

Baseball has a way of evening out the numbers over time. For the past few seasons, Jordan Zimmermann has been known as a hard-luck pitcher, the kind who cannot buy a run when he needs it, whose run support every time he takes the mound seems to be wanting. Or at least that is the way it used to be. In 2011, he was the

Marty Niland: Three reasons not to hit the panic button

It’s hard to blame Nationals fans for feeling down after last weekend’s three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. After a big buildup to a supposed early season showdown between the top teams in the National League East - if not the entire NL - the Nats fell flat. Almost every aspect of the game was a disappointment at some point in the

Patrick Reddington: An early test for a strengthened strength

The signing of Rafael Soriano came as a surprise to most, including Nationals manager Davey Johnson. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore explored the possibility before the two-year, $28 million deal with the veteran reliever was announced, but the baseball world at large was caught off guard by the defending NL East champions’ decision to strengthen a strength and add another closer to an already strong

Rachel Levitin: A changing of the guard?

When I moved to D.C. in 2005, I learned all I needed to know about the Nationals (at the time) rather quickly. It was the middle of August, the team was decent and they were on the verge of a winning season. Truth be told, I only went to a couple games before August turned into September. Then Ryan Zimmerman made his major league debut

David Huzzard: In battle for NL East, Braves-Nats head-to-head battles are critical

The National League East is going to come down to the Braves and Nationals, and it could be even closer than the four games that separated them in 2012. The Nats have the advantage in starting pitching, while the Braves have a slight advantage on offense and in the bullpen, with the defenses being fairly even. The Braves are going to score a lot of

Ted Leavengood: A long season’s early lesson

The Nationals’ home opener in 2012 was against the Cincinnati Reds. They won three of the first four at Nationals Park to set up a truly successful first month and got the season rolling toward 98 wins. The Reds didn’t like that movie and let Washington know they will be playing a very different role this year. The Reds had the second best record in

Marty Niland: How will Nats respond to getting roughed up?

It was a tough weekend for the Nationals. After a glorious opening series against Miami that included back-to-back shutouts, the Nats found the going much tougher on the season’s first weekend in Cincinnati. They lost two of three to the Reds, including a 15-0 thumping on Friday night - the most lopsided loss since the team moved to Washington in 2005. Their first series loss

Patrick Reddington: An Expos fan at home in D.C. on opening day

The closest I ever came to a sense of community as a fan of the Montreal Expos was when I would travel from my home in Johnson, Vt., where I lived after attending college in town, across the border in Richford, Vt., through Canadian farmland and small farming communities to Autoroute des Cantons de L’Est across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge to Rue Notre Dame East, down

Rachel Levitin: My first opening day was well worth the wait

For the first 25 years of my life, Major League Baseball’s opening day was a romanticized fantasy played out in my head. It was an all-elusive game that one day I’d attend, though I didn’t know when, where, why, or how. Growing up mere minutes from Wrigley Field was always such a tease, but I knew dad would never take us kids out of school

David Huzzard: A rotation full of talent - and extra motivation

The starting staff that general manager Mike Rizzo assembled for the 2013 Nationals is nothing short of remarkable. Up and down the rotation, there are pitchers who are, have been, or could be aces. The talent of Stephen Strasburg is obvious. If he hadn’t been stopped because of an innings limit last season, Gio Gonzalez wouldn’t have been the only Nat getting Cy Young votes.

Ted Leavengood: On opening day, an elegant masterpiece

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg made a compelling case on opening day to be considered the two best talents ever to play Major League Baseball in Washington, D.C. Facing a depleted Miami Marlins roster, Strasburg seemed to hardly work up a sweat as he breezed through seven innings on 80 pitches without allowing a run. On a day when Ricky Nolasco had his good stuff,

Nationals revel in watching Harper, Strasburg at work

Having trouble deciding on the right word to describe Bryce Harper’s two-homer performance in the Nationals’ 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins in Monday’s season opener? How about the double play Harper started in the seventh with a laser throw from left field? Or the way, after going deep twice, he faked a bunt that would have caught Placido Polanco so by surprise that Harper

Marty Niland: The top five reasons the Nationals will live up to their high expectations

By any measure, the Nationals’ 2012 season was an historic time in the nation’s capital. It was the city’s first winning season since 1969, its most wins and first postseason appearance in almost 80 years, and first postseason victory since the 1933 World Series. The 2013 season could be even more historic. Few people alive today can remember a season with such high expectations for

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