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Opposite dugout: Rockies pit powerhouse offense against Nats’ major league-best pitching staff

Manager: Walt Weiss, second year Record: 36-46 Last 10 games: 2-8 Who to watch: SS Troy Tulowitzki (.353/.445/.618, 16 doubles, 18 HR, 46 RBIs); LF Corey Dickerson (.343/.403/.623, 13 doubles, 10 HR, 33 RBIs); 1B Justin Morneau (.307/.342/.516, 19 doubles, 13 HR, 58 RBIs); LHP Tyler Matzek (1-2, 4.24 ERA) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-4, 29 runs scored, 27 runs allowed Pitching probables June

Marty Niland: Grading out the Nats at the season’s midway point

We’ve reached the midpoint of the 2014 season, and it’s time once again to grade the Nationals on their performance so far. This year, the team stands at 43-38, a half-game behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East. A year ago at this time, they were 41-40 and 6 1/2 games behind the Braves. An improvement of two wins may not seem like much,

Patrick Reddington: Changes in mental approach helped Roark, Souza become more major league-ready

Tanner Roark struggled at Triple-A in 2012, but “just got over it mentally,” as he put it this past winter when asked about his breakout campaign in 2013. “That was the biggest thing,” the 27-year-old right-hander said. “I knew I had the tools, I just needed to get out of my own head and that’s what helped me come up here and be able to

David Huzzard: For bench, no impact is better than negative impact

One of the reasons for the success of the 2012 Nationals was their bench, and one of the main reasons for the disappointment of the 2013 Nationals was their bench. As it stands right now, the 2014 Nats bench is directly in the middle. The combined contributions of Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore, Zach Walters, Jose Lobaton, Scott Hairston, Nate McLouth, Sandy Leon and

Opposite dugout: Cubs set to throw solid rotation, strong bullpen at Nats in Chicago

Manager: Rick Renteria, first year Record: 32-44 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: 1B Anthony Rizzo (.284/.399/.524, 17 HR, 44 RBIs, 52 R); SS Starlin Castro (.287/.333/.479, 23 doubles, 11 HR, 45 RBIs); RHP Jeff Samardzija (2-6, 2.53 ERA, 1.19 WHIP); RHP Jason Hammel (6-5, 2.99 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-4, 36 runs scored, 31 runs allowed Pitching probables June

Rachel Levitin: Examining which Nats are most deserving of All-Star nods

It’s almost that time of year again, that time when fans get a say regarding who takes the field at a Midsummer Classic of sorts. It’s almost time for the All-Star Game. This year’s game will be hosted by the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis and voting runs through Thursday, July 3 at 11:59 p.m. It’s always interesting to see who the Nationals

Stuart Wallace: A whole lot of shaking going on

To shake or not to shake was a uniting theme between the Nationals and the Atlanta Braves in their recent four-game series that pitted the National League East foes against one another in a fight for first place in the division. For the Nationals, the question was whether to shake off fastballs in favor of other pitches for Friday starter Stephen Strasburg - in particular,

Nationals barely visible in All-Star voting

The Nationals may be in first place in the National League East, but they are not well-represented in the 2014 All-Star Game voting. Actually, they’re barely represented at all. In the most recent All-Star balloting figures, Bryce Harper is the only Nationals player listsed among the top vote-getters. He sits in 15th place among NL outfielders, and has amassed 680,930 votes. Harper has missed nearly

Opposite dugout: NL-leading Brewers wielding hot bats with Nats coming to town

Manager: Ron Roenicke, fourth year Record: 47-30 Last 10 games: 7-3 Who to watch: C Jonathan Lucroy (.331/.397/.520, 26 doubles, 8 HR, 39 RBIs); CF Carlos Gomez (.317/.382/.532, 20 doubles, 12 HR, 40 RBIs); 3B Aramis Ramirez (.297/.341/.500, 10 HR, 38 RBIs); RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-4, 3.34 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-4, 27 runs scored, 31 runs allowed Pitching probables June

Marty Niland: Solstice brings a potential defining moment for the Nats

The Summer Solstice is a day of celebration in many cultures, and now Nationals fans might want to adopt it as a holiday of their own after a magical and momentous series against the Atlanta Braves. Those who paid close enough attention Saturday evening might have actually noticed the Earth tilting and the momentum shifting at Nationals Park. In the waning moments of the year’s

Patrick Reddington: Dissecting the Nats’ problems against Atlanta

Heading into the final series of the season with the Atlanta Braves last September, the Nationals were 4-12 against their National League East rivals, with an 0-6 record against the eventual division winners in games played at home in the nation’s capital. Then-Nats skipper Davey Johnson was determined to send the Braves a message at the end of a fairly contentious, season-spanning battle between the

David Huzzard: The hot stretch and an important weekend

Having scored 289 runs on the season, the Nationals offense ranks eighth in the National League in runs scored. But over their last 20 games, the Nationals offense has kicked it into a different gear. For those games, they’ve scored 93 runs, or 4.65 runs a game, and have produced a 12-8 record. This scoring outburst also happens to include the series against the Cardinals

Opposite dugout: First place on the line with Braves set to play four in Washington

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, fourth year Record: 36-35 Last 10 games: 4-6 Who to watch: C Evan Gattis (.294/.346/.588, 16 HR, 38 RBIs); LF Justin Upton (.278/.351/.510, 14 HR, 13 doubles, 37 RBIs); RHP Julio Teheran (6-4, 2.31 ERA, 0.93 WHIP); RHP Gavin Floyd (1-2, 2.98 ERA) Season series vs. Nats: 5-1, 32 runs scored, 16 runs allowed Pitching probables June 19: Gavin Floyd vs. Jordan

Ask Matt: Would you rather?

We’re almost three months into the season, so you might not think the new Nationals skipper is very new anymore. But how well do you know Matt Williams? We’ll be getting to know just what the manager is all about with his “Ask Matt” blog all season long. This week, we sent Dan Kolko to Williams’ office to ask the hard-hitting question: Would you rather?

Opposite dugout: Improved Astros look to stay hot with strong set of pitchers on mound in D.C.

Manager: Bo Porter, second year Record: 32-39 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: RF George Springer (.245/.341/.470, 12 HR, 36 RBIs); CF Dexter Fowler (.284/.389/.412, 19 XBH, 41 R, 22 RBIs); 2B Jose Altuve (.318/.359/.428, 25 XBH, 22 RBIs, 24 SB); LHP Dallas Keuchel (8-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) Season series vs. Nats: 0-2, 3 runs scored, 11 runs allowed Pitching probables June 17:

Stuart Wallace: Remembering Tony Gwynn

The outpouring of condolences and stories of prowess seen in the wake of Tony Gwynn’s passing yesterday were befitting of the man who embodied so much of what was and still is right with the game of baseball. A tireless worker with a fatherly physique that ran counter to many of his contemporaries and to his talent, Gwynn was the ultimate ambassador of the game.

Marty Niland: Counting down the Nats’ houses of horrors

Music fans of a certain age are mourning the death on Sunday of long-time radio host Casey Kasem. Long before the days of podcasts, teenagers and young adults would ritually tune in each week, usually on Sundays, to hear the genial Kasem count down the top 40 songs in the nation. Nationals fans, meanwhile, are grieving after a road trip that started with promise and

Patrick Reddington: In drafts, Nationals feel reward often outweighs risk

Anthony Rendon was considered the top hitting prospect in his draft class in 2011. The hard-hitting third baseman was limited to designated hitter duties by a shoulder injury in his final year at Rice University, however, after he suffered ankle injuries in the 2009-2010 seasons, both of which required surgery. So there was some concern about his durability as the First-Year Player Draft approached that

Opposite dugout: Cards send out yet another quality pitching staff to challenge Nats

Manager: Mike Matheny, third year Record: 34-32 Last 10 games: 4-6 Who to watch: 3B Matt Carpenter (.294/.385/.385, 19 XBH, 24 RBIs); LF Matt Holliday (.265/.380/.378, 19 XBH, 30 RBIs); RHP Shelby Miller (7-5, 3.59 ERA); RHP Lance Lynn (6-4, 3.49 ERA) Season series vs. Nats: 2-2, 15 runs scored, 9 runs allowed Pitching probables June 13: Lance Lynn vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 8 p.m., MASN2

David Huzzard: How hot has the Nats’ starting pitching been?

Coming into this week, the Nationals had won three consecutive series, but because they were against the underperforming Rangers and the below-.500 Phillies and Padres, it wasn’t certain if the Nationals had turned a corner or found a soft spot in the schedule. Starting Monday, the Nationals were going to be tested by the Giants in a four-game series and the Nationals passed the test.

Rachel Levitin: A take on the discontinuation of “Take on Me”

With the Nationals out of town, this gives folks like me who don’t travel to cover the team a little break of sorts. For me, I find Nats road trips to be a time for reflection. That includes thinking about the team’s work on the field, but also other things like the discontinuation of A-ha’s “Take On Me” being played after the seventh-inning stretch. Reports

Stuart Wallace: Treinen a bright spot for Nats so far in ‘14

Blake Treinen has done much as of late to solidify not only his spot on the 25-man roster, but in the starting rotation. In his most recent start against the San Diego Padres and rotation stalwart Andrew Cashner, the right-hander scattered five hits and two earned runs over six innings, keeping the Nationals in a game that was eventually lost 4-3 in 11 innings. While

Nats losing ground in All-Star Game voting

The Nationals have made very little progress in the voting for the 2014 All-Star Game. Since the first release of balloting figures on May 28, Washington has seen just two players with a shot at making the National League’s starting lineup on July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Now just one remains. Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper stands alone as the only Nationals player vying

Zimmermann throws gem, rewarded with top-notch videobombs

Jordan Zimmermannn tossed a fantastic game Sunday, going the distance in the Nationals’ 6-0 victory over the Padres. After the game, he talked to Dan Kolko about holding San Diego to just two hits in the shutout. While Zimmermann was the star of the show, the stars of the video may just be teammates Jerry Blevins and Drew Storen. Check out the hilarious antics for

Marty Niland: Nationals face their own Test of Champions

Just like California Chrome coming off his Preakness victory in mid-May, the Nationals finally seem to be rounding into form. They have won seven of their past nine games, outscoring opponents 53-16. The bats have been hot, with the fifth-best OPS in the National League at .737 since the start of the month. The starting rotation has put together two straight solid turns, and is

Opposite dugout: Giants, Nats match up two of baseball’s best pitching staffs

Manager: Bruce Bochy, eighth year Record: 42-21 Last 10 games: 8-2 Who to watch: LF Michael Morse (.278/.329/.550, 13 HR, 16 doubles, 42 RBIs); RF Hunter Pence (.290/.363/.468, 8 HR, 14 doubles, 23 RBIs); RHP Tim Hudson (6-2, 1.97 ERA, 0.96 WHIP); LHP Madison Bumgarner (8-3, 2.68 ERA, 90 K) Season series vs. Nats (2013): 3-3, 24 runs scored, 17 runs allowed Pitching probables June

Opposite dugout: Padres throw one of NL’s top pitching staffs at Nats out west

Manager: Bud Black, eighth year Record: 27-33 Last 10 games: 5-5 Who to watch: LF Seth Smith (.306/.414/.538, 22 XBH, 21 RBIs); 2B Jedd Gyorko (.162/.213/.270, 5 HR, 24 RBIs); RHP Andrew Cashner (2-5, 2.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP); RHP Tyson Ross (6-4, 2.85 ERA, 70 K) Season series vs. Nats: 2-2, 9 runs scored, 20 runs allowed Pitching probables June 6: Tyson Ross vs. Tanner

Patrick Reddington: Denard Span’s big month for the Nationals

Determined as he was to produce over a full season what he did in the final two months of his first year in the nation’s capital, Nationals center fielder Denard Span struggled to a .233/.295/.314 line in the first 96 plate appearances of 2014. Three weeks later, after a 5-for-5 game against the Cincinnati Reds on May 20, the Nats’ 30-year-old leadoff man was up

David Huzzard: Looking back at the Nats’ first draft

This evening, the Nationals will take part in the First-Year Player Draft for the 10th time. In their existence, they’ve drafted near the top more often than not, and their first season in 2005 was no different. The Nationals held the fourth pick in what would turn out to be one of the best first rounds of any MLB draft. With the fourth pick that

Rachel Levitin: Examining fallout of Zimmerman’s move

I didn’t want to have to echo someone else’s sentiments this morning, but I do find myself in agreement with MASNsports.com’s Pete Kerzel. While I concur with Kerzel when he says he understands why the Nationals are turning Ryan Zimmerman into a utility man - since that appears to be what they have an urgent need for - I, too, feel it’s more than a

Harper only Nats player in NL All-Star running

It’s a good thing All-Star voting continues until July 3. Why? The Nationals are barley visible in the most recently released All-Star balloting figures. In the most recent results, Bryce Harper is the only Nats player with a shot at being in the National League’s starting All-Star lineup, and it’s not looking promising. Harper sits in 15th place among NL outfielders with 314,860 votes, which

Stuart Wallace: Fister’s fielding continues to back his pitching approach

As a pitcher not blessed with the high-octane fastball of some of his Nationals starting rotation cohorts, Doug Fister must do a lot of things, well, sometimes perfectly in order to succeed. Much of this success, which he appears to have finally found as a Washington National after a brief convalescence for a back injury, lies in his ability to locate his pitches on the

Opposite dugout: Struggling Phils look to get on track in D.C.

Manager: Ryne Sandberg, second year Record: 24-31 Last 10 games: 4-6 Who to watch: 2B Chase Utley (.319/.378/.517, 30 XBH, 27 RBIs); RF Marlon Byrd (.274/.330/.476, 8 HR, 17 doubles, 32 RBIs); 1B Ryan Howard (.226/.300/.428, 11 HR, 40 RBIs); RHP A.J. Burnett (3-4, 3.79 ERA) Season series vs. Nats: 2-1, 11 runs scored, 7 runs allowed Pitching probables June 3: David Buchanan vs. Jordan

Marty Niland: Sub-.500 team can blame some notorious Nats killers

Yu Darvish’s performance on Sunday (five hits in eight innings with 12 strikeouts) certainly qualifies as one of the better games ever pitched against the Nationals, but this was also his first time facing them. Luckily for Washington fans, Darvish plays in the American League, so as Bob Carpenter might say, they’ll “see Yu later” (most likely in three years). But over the past few

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