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Rachel Levitin: Questions in the infield

When Danny Espinosa was sent down to the minor leagues during the 2013 season, it was clear he had to demonstrate true worth and production value or run the risk of not playing in the big show down the line. His replacement at second base, Anthony Rendon, settled into the new role nicely with few growing pains and looked quite comfortable on the right side

Opposite dugout: Springer, powerful Astros looking to launch

Manager: Bo Porter, second year Record: 9-17 Last 10 games: 4-6 Who to watch: SS Jonathan Villar (.234/.289/.468, 11 XBH, 8 RBIs, 4 SB); C Jason Castro (.221/.322/.429, 4 HR, 13 RBIs); RF George Springer (.170/.264/.213, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs); LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-4, 4.61 ERA, 22 K) Season series vs. Nats (2013): Did not play Pitching probables April 29: Jarred Cosart vs. Gio Gonzalez,

Stuart Wallace: For LaRoche early returns are familiarly unfamiliar

The offensive start to the 2014 season by the Nationals has been mildly surprising. Second in the National League in runs scored per game at 4.42 (behind the Rockies' 5.38 runs per game), this early-season surge in scoring has been paced by some surprising sources of production. With five players in the top 50 in National League weighted on base average (wOBA) with a minimum

Washington Socialites: From the egg roll to the shutout and more

Don't miss a beat - here's what went on in the Nationals Twitterverse this week. Gio Gonzalez started the week with Matt Williams at the White House Easter Egg Roll. The skipper #MattWilliams taking over the White House Easter egg roll...🐇🐣 pic.twitter.com/OhLJQ6j6zn— Gio Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47) April 21, 2014 Aaron Barrett shared his excitement on returning to the big league roster. Feels great to be back!

Marty Niland: Guys like Roark, who come out of nowhere, are what's great about baseball

The #Nats sector of the Twitterverse was abuzz Saturday as Tanner Roark stroked the canvas that was the mound at Nationals Park. When he had finished his masterpiece, a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the San Diego Padres, the accolades came quickly and lasted longer than the 2 hours, 19 minutes it took the 27-year-old to dispatch the Padres. The most prescient among those followed here

Patrick Reddington: The takeaway from Williams on Harper's benching

Late in the 2012 campaign, former Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who was tasked with helping to oversee the first two years of Bryce Harper's development as a major leaguer, was asked if there was anything he would like to see the then-19-year-old change? He said, "No," initially. "I like him just the way he is, to answer your question," Johnson told the reporter who asked.

David Huzzard: Tracking the Nationals and their trends

There are times that I forget that baseball is about the journey and not the destination, but I become so focused on the destination, the unknown future, that I get frustrated when it isn't reached. These Nationals are predicted to win a World Series at some point. The ultimate potential of players like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg is too great for them not to

Opposite dugout: Light-hitting Padres' pitching staff making opponents say uncle

Manager: Bud Black, eighth year Record: 10-12 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: RF Chris Denorfia (.328/.349/.492, 6 XBH, 7 RBIs); LF Seth Smith (.274/.374/.419, 2 HR, 6 RBIs); RHP Andrew Cashner (2-2, 2.10 ERA, 1.05 WHIP); RHP Ian Kennedy (1-3, 3.60 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 2-5, 38 runs scored, 41 runs against Pitching probables April 24: Eric Stults vs.

Nationals Chatter: Harper, Harper, Harper and power rankings

Bryce Harper. Those two words dominated headlines not just in Washington, D.C., but all around baseball this past week - whether it was for his lack of hustle in Saturday's game against the Cardinals or for his hyped matchup with the Angels' Mike Trout. Here are a few headlines you may have missed from other media outlets regarding Harper and the Nationals. * Manager Matt

Rachel Levitin: Going through growing pains

There's been a lot of going on at Nationals Park this week with the Los Angeles Angels in town. Fans in attendance at Tuesday night's game witnessed history as Angels first baseman Albert Pujols slugged his 499th and 500th career home runs. The three-game series, which concludes this evening, also marked the first time young guns Mike Trout and Bryce Harper's ballclubs have faced each

Stuart Wallace: Could Werth be at start of defensive decline?

It's been a decidedly dismal start to the season for the Nationals defensively. They find themselves in sole possession of last place in the National League in terms of team fielding percentage, while also leading the NL in errors with 22 after last night's series opener against the Angels. This total would have been higher were it not for a scoring change of Yadier Molina's

Marty Niland: Espinosa's play should win fans' hearts as well as games

For those who are afraid the Nationals' 2014 season will be a sad repeat of 2013, take a good look at last weekend's four-game split with the St. Lois Cardinals. The knock on the Nats has been that they can rack up cheap wins at the expense of the Marlins and Mets, but come up up empty against teams they may ultimately have to contend

Washington socialites: From firsts to festivities

The Nationals had a busy week, so many players took to Twitter to talk about it. We've put it all together for you here. Sandy Leon started the week with his first career home run. Jerry Blevins and Aaron Barret thought it deserved a couple of Twitter shoutouts. @sandyleon41 congrats on first homer!— Jerry Blevins (@JerryBlevins_13) April 15, 2014 Congrats mi Hermano!! @sandyleon41 #FirstMLBHR— Aaron

Opposite dugout: Even with Trout and Pujols, Angels remain uneven early

Manager: Mike Scioscia, 15th year Record: 8-10 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: CF Mike Trout (.307/.373/.613, 5 HR, 13 RBIs); 1B Albert Pujols (.280/.349/.587, 6 HR, 14 RBIs); RHP Garrett Richards (2-0, 2.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP); RHP Jered Weaver (1-2, 4.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats (2013): Did not play Pitching probables April 21: Garrett Richards vs. Tanner Roark, 7 p.m.,

Harper takes field with baseball legends

At just 21, Bryce Harper is one of the most well-known names in the baseball world. Loyal Nationals fans have come to expect hard-nosed play, extreme amounts of hustle and intense ferocity from the slugger. On the field, Harper has stood out and made himself into one of the most well-known players of this century. In Major League Baseball's latest "For the Love of Baseball"

Patrick Reddington: Former piece now part of Nats bullpen

General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters during Rafael Soriano's introductory press conference in the winter of 2013 that the signing a week earlier of first baseman Adam LaRoche freed the Nationals up to deal one year of control of Michael Morse to the Mariners in the three-team trade with Seattle and the Oakland A's that went through on the night before Soriano's official introduction. The

David Huzzard: Exploding the myth of the window of opportunity

Nationals fans have heard a lot about the window of opportunity lately, how it is only open for a limited amount of time and how they need to take advantage of the opportunity while they have it. The main focus of this window is on the core of the team, and who that core is or how many players it consists of could be up

Opposite dugout: St. Louis playing right cards in rotation

Manager: Mike Matheny, third year Record: 9-6 Last 10 games: 6-4 Who to watch: C Yadier Molina (.352/.386/.574, 3 HR, 9 RBIs); 1B Matt Adams (.362/.393/.517, 7 XBH, 2 RBIs); RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.95 WHIP); RHP Adam Wainwright (2-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 6-0, 19 runs scored, 8 runs allowed Pitching probables April 17: Adam Wainwright vs.

Nationals Chatter: Injury plague strikes, Williams on replay, more on Harper and Robinson

Much of the past week was dominated by the Nationals' injury woes. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and center fielder Denard Span are the latest Nats to hit the disabled list. Zimmerman is expected to be out four to six weeks after fracturing his right thumb on Saturday, while Span was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after a collision with the Braves' Dan Uggla

Rachel Levitin: A few thoughts about expectations

After being swept by their most formidable division rival in Atlanta over the weekend and an 11-2 loss to Miami, the Nationals are struggling to establish a steady, winning momentum. It's only April, so the standings aren't an accurate representation of where all teams will end up at the end of the season. But that doesn't mean this isn't the perfect time for a little

Stuart Wallace: Decrease in Jordan's velocity is troublesome development

It has been a rough start to the season for sinkerballer Taylor Jordan. An ERA a little under 5.00, a FIP a little under 4.00 and a hike in walks/nine innings (3.18 compared to 1.92 in 2013) all point to the 11-plus innings pitched so far not being kind to the young righty after an encouraging spring training that solidified his standing as the Nationals'

Washington Socialites: Gio's new toy, Harper's prank and more

The second week of the season is behind us, which brings us to the second edition of Washington Socialites. Here's what went on in the Nationals' Twitterverse. Adam LaRoche dedicated one of his first tweets to MLB umpire John Hirschbeck: Our thoughts and prayers go out to mlb umpire John Hirschbeck and family after the loss of their son Michael -- Adam LaRoche (@e3laroche) April

Marty Niland: Flashing back to happier times after a lost weekend

The Academy Award-winning film "The Lost Weekend" details an alcoholic's troubles in giving up his bad habits during an especially rough weekend. Sound familiar, Nationals fans? There will be plenty of time to reflect on the Nats' lost weekend in Atlanta. The injuries, the errors, the baserunning mistakes and all their other failures in their sweep at the hands of the Braves will no doubt

Opposite dugout: Marlins hope to stop spiral sparked in D.C.

Manager: Mike Redmond, second year Record: 5-8 Last 10 games: 3-7 Who to watch: RF Giancarlo Stanton (.291/.339/.564, 4 HR, 16 RBIs); 3B Casey McGehee (.298/.382/.447, 6 XBH, 11 RBIs); RHP Jose Fernandez (2-1, 3.78 ERA, 23 K); RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 3.00 ERA) Season series vs. Nats: 0-3, 8 runs scored, 22 runs allowed Pitching probables April 14: Brad Hand vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7

Zimmerman avoids bat attack to make great play

The Nationals may have lost to the Braves last night, but that didn't stop Ryan Zimmerman from having himself a night at the plate and in the field. With the Nats trailing 4-1 in the fifth, Zimmerman tied the game with a three-run shot to left. The blast tied the game and seemingly gave the Nats new life, but Zimmerman had more fun to come.

Patrick Reddington: Looking at Aaron Barrett's road to the big leagues

Matt Williams and Aaron Barrett first crossed paths in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. Williams, in his first managing gig at any level of the game, and Barrett, then 24 and coming off a strong campaign split between low and high Single-A in the Nationals' system, were both members of a Salt River Rafters roster that made it to the AFL Championship game that

Opposite dugout: Braves take on top division rival for last time until June

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year Record: 5-4 Last 10 games: 5-4 Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (.419/.514/.677, 2 HR, 5 RBIs); LF Justin Upton (.264/.324/.441, 2 HR, 3 RBIs); RHP Julio Teheran (1-1, 2.77 ERA, 1.15 WHIP); RHP Aaron Harang (1-1, 0.71 ERA, 0.71 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats: 2-1, 9 runs scored, 5 runs allowed Pitching probables April 11: Julio Teheran vs. Tanner

David Huzzard: Early returns on Matt Williams and the Nats

The early-season magnifying glass is intense. Coming into the series against the Marlins, Bryce Harper was in a bad slump. His upper and lower halves were not in sync and he struggled to get around on the ball, and because it was the only sample size people had, they put more meaning to it than it deserved. If Harper had had two bad series in

Nationals Chatter: Zimmerman fantasy tips, Rendon feature and more on Harper

The Nationals made it through the first week with a 4-2 record. The Nats swept the Mets in New York, but then dropped their first series to the Braves at Nats Park. The team was bit by the injury bug several times in the first week, losing catcher Wilson Ramos and outfielder Scott Hairston while third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's status is in limbo for the

Rachel Levitin: Injuries to Zimmerman, Ramos put early obstacles in Nats' path

The 2014 season won't be easy for the Washington Nationals. If anything, the biggest hurdles thus far have unmasked themselves within the first seven games of the season. After dropping two of three to their division rivals over the weekend, the Nationals proceeded to shut out the Miami Marlins 5-0 in Game 1 of the three-game series at home Tuesday night. The Nationals' current obstacles

Stuart Wallace: The good and bad of an aggressive approach at the plate

In the infancy of the 2014 season, the Nationals have already had a pair of at-bats that sans a hit or run scored have resonated with the team and fans alike. Last week, it was Danny Espinosa's eight-pitch at-bat against New York Mets reliever Bobby Parnell, culminating in a walk and a new look for the oft-maligned second baseman - that of a patient, strike

Win autographed gear using #masnNationals

Update: Tweet with #masnNationals now to be entered to win a signed Gio Gonzalez jersey! For many sports fans, Twitter is a perfect tool for talking about their team. Through Twitter, we can see Nationals fans thoughts on the lineup, game commentary and more. Well, we want to reward you for getting social. All this week, you can enter to win signed Nats gear simply

Opposite dugout: Fish hope to keep flying in D.C.

Manager: Mike Redmond, second year Record: 5-2 Last 10 games: 5-2 Who to watch: RF Giancarlo Stanton (.345/.406/.655, 2 HR, 7 R, 12 RBIs); 3B Casey McGehee (.375/.467/.625, 5 XBH, 10 RBIs); SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.393/.379/.464, 3 RBIs, 6 R); RHP Tom Koehler (1-0, 3.00 ERA) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 5-14, 52 runs scored, 86 runs allowed Pitching probables April 8: Henderson Alvarez vs.

Marty Niland: Rizzo's moves take some sting out of Zimmerman's injury

A collective sigh of relief swept through Nationals Park when Ryan Zimmerman stepped up to pinch-hit in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves. Although he struck out (a bit awkwardly, at that), the appearance was a sign that whatever is bothering Zimmerman's troublesome right shoulder is not enough of a concern to keep him from swinging a bat. Zimmerman has insisted since he was

Washington socialites: Twitter stalking the Nats from opening week

Twitter has given fans a new way to connect to their favorite Nationals. Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Gio Gonzalez are just few Nats that have taken to Twitter to keep their fans in the loop. Every week, we'll take a look back on the week that was in the Nationals' Twitterverse. So without further ado, let's get started. Gio Gonzalez helped steady our heart

Inside the Park: The boys are back in town

Even though it was exciting to watch the Nationals sweep the Mets in New York, there's nothing like baseball being played in the nation's capital. Yesterday, the Nats hosted the Braves for their home opener in front of 42,834 fans at Nationals Park. The stadium was alive as James Brown announced the starting lineup, the boys ran out on the red carpet and the flag

Opposite dugout: Braves in town to reopen rivalry with Nats

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year Record: 2-1 Last 10 games: 2-1 Who to watch: 1B Freddie Freeman (.333/.500/1.000, 2 HR, 2 RBIs); RF Jason Heyward (.250/.308/.500, 1 HR, 2 RBIs); RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 3.00 ERA); RHP Craig Kimbrel (2 saves, 0.00 ERA) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 13-6, 73 runs scored, 49 runs allowed Pitching probables April 4: David Hale vs. TBA, 1 p.m.,

Patrick Reddington: Casting a watchful eye to the farm

Four of Washington's minor league affiliates started their respective 2014 campaigns Thursday night. There are interesting prospects to follow throughout the Nationals organization, so we decided to take a look at five players we'll be following closely this season on MiLB.tv or on trips to minor league parks. Matt Purke: Taken 14th overall by the Texas Rangers in 2009, Purke didn't sign, choosing instead to

David Huzzard: The myth of the 25-man roster

With Wilson Ramos having hit the disabled list and Sandy Leon called up to serve as the backup to Jose Lobaton, the Nationals have used 26 players. When Doug Fister returns at the end of April or beginning of May, that number will be at least 27. In 2013, the average National League club needed 45 players to make it through the season. The Nationals

#masnFirstPitch winner: Where there's a Will, there's a way

To start the season off right, we wanted to give away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to a lucky Nationals fan. We asked MASN Nationals followers to tweet out why they should throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nats Park on April 5. We saw hundreds of creative tweets tagged with #masnFirstPitch. By the time the contest wrapped up, we selected early frontrunner Will as our

Nationals Chatter: Recovery comparisons, Williams and Desmond profiles

Happy new year, baseball fans! I know 2014 technically started in January, so I guess I should be more specific. Happy baseball new year! The Nationals kicked off the 2014 season in dramatic, extra-inning fashion on Monday. With the excitement of opening day, you may have missed some stories about the team from other media outlets. * Back in 2012 the Nats were in the

Rachel Levitin: Baseball, rebirth and the natural rhythms of life

And so the marathon begins. The 162-game grind that die-hard baseball fans know all too well. Spring is here, too (for the most part), and the Nationals are back at it again. While it's easy to get bogged down in statistics and numbers from seasons past, I prefer looking at the game through a different lens. It's like Paul Dickson once wrote, "beyond the statistics,

Stuart Wallace: For Strasburg and Clippard, still work to be done

For a pair of Nationals pitching veterans, it was a season opener that would probably be better forgotten. Despite populating the win column, the performances of both Stephen Strasburg and g>Tyler Clippard, the anchors of the rotation and bullpen, respectively, left a lot to be desired. For Strasburg, the start of his 2014 regular season was a laborious one, highlighted by a 26-pitch first frame

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