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Ryan Zimmerman: Still Mr. Walkoff after all these years

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by Amanda Comak

Ryan Zimmerman is used to this by now. Ninth inning, 10th inning, game on the line, standing at home plate. He’s used to hearing his bat crack, watching the flight of the ball, moving his way toward first base, thrusting that right arm in the air. He’s used to flipping his helmet away and diving into a pile of waiting, happy teammates.

He’s used to it, because, quite frankly, since he hit his first walk-off home run on June 18, 2006 — in the 88th game of his career — no one in the Major Leagues has done it more.

Zimmerman’s latest walk-off home run, a two-run shot that clanked off the right field foul pole and into the home team’s bullpen at Nationals Park on Tuesday night, was the 10th of the first baseman’s career. Ten. Some players — good players — go entire careers without hitting one. Zimmerman has hit 10.

“Pretty special, isn’t it?” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said after Tuesday’s game. “You don’t realize things like that until it’s pointed out. It just means he knows what he’s doing.”

Zimmerman is now in some heady company. The most walk-off home runs hit in National League history? He’s third on a list that starts with Stan Musial (12) and Tony Perez (11), and tied on that list with Mike Schmidt (10), Albert Pujols (10), and Barry Bonds (10). Among active players, only Pujols (11) and David Ortiz (11) have hit more walk-off home runs in their careers than Zimmerman. Pujols is in his 15th season. Ortiz is in his 19th.

So, as this is the Nationals’ 10th-Anniversary season, let’s take a walk down memory lane and check out each and every one of Zimmerman’s 10 walk-offs.

May 19, 2015 — Nationals vs. Yankees, tied 6-6, bottom of the 10th vs. LHP Andrew Miller:

July 26, 2013 — Nationals vs. Mets, tied 1-1, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP LaTroy Hawkins:

August 19, 2011 — Nationals vs. Phillies, tied 4-4, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP Ryan Madson (walk-off Grand Slam):

July 31, 2010 — Nationals vs. Phillies, behind 4-5, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP Brad Lidge:

July 6, 2010 — Nationals vs. Padres, tied 5-5, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP Luke Gregerson: 

September 6, 2009 — Nationals vs. Marlins, behind 3-4, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo:

March 30, 2008 — Nationals vs. Braves, tied 2-2, bottom of the ninth vs. RHP Peter Moylan:

May 12, 2007 — Nationals vs. Marlins, tied 3-3, bottom of the ninth vs. Jorge Julio (walk-off Grand Slam):

July 4, 2006 — Nationals vs. Marlins, down 3-4, bottom of the ninth vs. Joe Borowski:

June 18, 2006 — Nationals vs. Yankees, down 1-2, bottom of the ninth vs. Chien-Ming Wang:

Nationals recall INF Wilmer Difo, place Jayson Werth on 15-day DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled infielder Wilmer Difo from Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday and placed outfielder Jayson Werth on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 16, with a left wrist contusion.

Difo, 23, is coming off a breakout 2014 season in which he was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player. Hitting .315 with Single-A Hagerstown, Difo led the league with 176 hits, while ranking second in total bases (263), second in stolen bases (49), fourth in RBI (90) and fourth in runs scored (91).

Added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster this past offseason, Difo hit .318 with one double, one triple, four RBI and one walk in his first Major League Spring Training (13 games) and has had a strong start to the year.

Recently promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, Difo is hitting .308 (16-for-52) with eight doubles, one triple, four RBI, one walk and three stolen bases in his first exposure to the Eastern League. In 19 games with Single-A Potomac to open the 2015 season, Difo hit .320 with a .386 on-base percentage and a .533 slugging percentage. He clubbed seven doubles and three home runs, walked eight times, stole four bases and drove in 14 runs.

Following the 2014 season, Difo was named the No. 7 prospect in the Nationals’ organization and cited by Baseball America as the “Best Defensive Infielder” in Washington’s system.

A product of the Nationals’ revamped scouting efforts in the Dominican Republic, the switch-hitting middle-infielder hit .324 with a .370 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage as a right-hander in 2014, and .311 with a .357 OBP and .436 SLG as a left-hander in 2014.

His tremendous season helped him earn the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals Minor Leaguer who demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals way.’

Werth, 35, hits the DL for the second time this season after he missed the season’s first nine games as he completed his recovery from offseason AC joint surgery. In 27 games since his return, Werth is 21-for-101 (.208) with two doubles, two home runs, 12 RBI, 12 walks, and 17 runs scored. In the 11 games before taking a pitch off his left wrist, Werth hit .275 (11-for-40) with a .375 on-base percentage.

Nationals recall LHP Sammy Solis & OF Michael A. Taylor

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis from Double-A Harrisburg and outfielder Michael A. Taylor from Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday, placed outfielder Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain and optioned right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole to Syracuse.

Solis, 26, joins the Nationals for the first Major League assignment of his career. Should he pitch in either of the Nationals’ next two games, he will become the fifth rookie to make his Major League debut this month for Washington.

Entering the season as the highest-rated left-handed pitcher in the Nationals’ system (No. 15), according to Baseball America, Solis is 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three games for Harrisburg this season. Joining the Senators from extended Spring Training just 10 days ago, Solis struck out three batters in four innings and allowed one earned run. Over the course of his Minor League career, Solis is 12-5 with a 3.30 ERA.

A second-round selection of the Nationals’ in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Solis has consistently been rated as one of the organization’s top talents. Working hard to come back from 2012 Tommy John surgery, Solis is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA since returning in 2013.

Taylor, 24, rejoins the Nationals for his second Major League stint of the season. The dynamic outfielder started in center field for the Nationals on Opening Day, and hit .271 with a .314 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage in 12 games while Denard Span completed his rehab from core muscle surgery.

In 29 Major League games, the 2014 Double-A Eastern League Rookie of the Year has hit .241 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs, 13 RBI and two stolen bases.

Taylor, who Baseball America rated as the No. 2 prospect and “Best Athlete” in the Nationals’ system, as well as the No. 32 prospect in all of baseball entering the season, has appeared in seven games for Triple-A Syracuse this year. He’s hit .417 (10-for-24) for the Chiefs, with a .500 OBP and .580 SLG with one double, one home run, three RBI and two stolen bases.

Johnson, 38, has appeared in 12 games for the Nationals this season, going 4-for-18 at the plate, including 1-for-7 with an RBI-double as a pinch hitter. The veteran outfielder signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals on March 30 and made the Major League roster out of Spring Training.

Cole, 23, made his Major League debut against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, starting and tossing two innings in the Nationals’ 13-12 comeback victory at Turner Field. Cole allowed nine runs (four earned) on nine hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Nationals recall RHP AJ Cole to make Tuesday start vs. Atlanta

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole from Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday and optioned right-handed pitcher Rafael Martin there. Cole will start Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, his Major League debut.

Cole, 23, entered the 2015 season ranked as the Nationals’ No. 6 prospect, and the No. 91 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America. The hard-throwing right-hander, who was added to the team’s 40-man roster this past winter, will join the Nationals for the first Major League assignment of his career.

Coming off a tremendous 2014 season, in which he posted a 13-3 record with a 3.16 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, Cole is 0-0 with a 2.40 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Syracuse this season.

Cole, who owns a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.28/1, has struck out 9.0 batters per nine innings over the course of his Minor League career.

A fourth-round selection of the Nationals’ in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Cole was traded to the Oakland Athletics in the six-player deal that brought left-hander Gio Gonzalez to Washington in advance of the 2012 season. The right-hander was then re-acquired by Rizzo in January of 2013, along with right-hander Blake Treinen and left-hander Ian Krol, in the three-team transaction that sent Michael Morse to Seattle.

Martin, 30, made his Major League debut for the Nationals on April 15 at Boston in dominant fashion: striking out five consecutive batters in two scoreless innings. The right-hander appeared in four games for the Nationals, working to a 9.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts.

Nationals recall LHP Matt Grace, place LHP Felipe Rivero on DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed pitcher Matt Grace from Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday and placed left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 18, with a GI bleed.

Grace joins the Nationals for the first Major League assignment of his career. The 26-year-old, who utilizes a heavy fastball/slider combination to help him  induce ground balls at a high rate, is 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA since converting to a reliever in 2013.

During his breakout 2014 season, Grace went 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA in 50 appearances across Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse. He held opposing batters to a .211 average, tallied 62 strikeouts in 77 innings of work, and surrendered just one home run — while inducing ground balls at a rate of 69 percent, 24 percent higher than the Major League average (45 percent).

At the conclusion of the 2014 regular season, Grace appeared in 10 games for Mesa in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, posting a 3.18 ERA (4 ER/11.1 IP).

The California native was an eighth-round selection of the Nationals in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of UCLA. In five seasons in the Nationals’ Minor League system Grace has worked to a 36-25 record and a 4.20 ERA.

Rivero, 23, made his Major League debut on Friday night, pitching one inning and allowing one earned run on three hits with two strikeouts in the Nationals’ 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nationals reinstate CF Denard Span from 15-day DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals got one of their most important cogs back on Sunday morning when they returned from rehab and reinstated center fielder Denard Span from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Michael A. Taylor to Triple-A Syracuse.

Span, who underwent surgery to repair a right core muscle injury on March 9, returns to the Nationals’ active roster after a three-game rehab stint with Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Hagerstown where he went 5-for-12 (.417) with one home run, two RBI and one walk.

One of the most dynamic center fielders in the game, Span is coming off arguably his finest Major League season. Hitting .302 with a Nationals (2005-present) single-season record 184 hits in 2014, Span collected a career-high 52 extra-base hits last season, to go along with a career-best 31 stolen bases.

The 31-year-old became just the sixth qualified player in Nationals history to hit .300 or better, joining Cristian Guzman, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Dmitri Young and Ryan Zimmerman.

From June 28-Aug. 10, Span reeled off a 36-game on-base streak that was the second-longest in Nationals history. During that stretch, Span hit .396 with a .463 on-base percentage and a .458 slugging percentage, clubbing seven doubles and one triple, and walking 19 times.

Taylor made a strong impression during the Nationals’ first 12 games this season. Considered the best defensive outfielder in the Nationals’ system, according to Baseball America, Taylor hit .271 with a .314 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. The 24-year-old currently leads all qualified National League rookies in hits (1st, 13), extra-base hits (T1st, 6), and total bases (1st, 24).

Nationals recall LHP Felipe Rivero, option RHP Taylor Jordan to Syracuse

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, and optioned RHP Taylor Jordan there.

Washington NationalsRivero, 23, joins the Nationals for his first Major League assignment and provides the team with a second left-handed reliever in the bullpen. In five Spring Training games (5.2 IP) with the Nationals this year, Rivero was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He allowed just four hits and struck out six.

The hard-throwing left-hander, who made three appearances for Triple-A Syracuse before his call-up, entered the 2015 season rated by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect (No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect) in the Nationals’ organization.

The Yaracuy, Venezuela native struck out 50 batters while walking just 19 in 53.2 IP in 2014 across three levels of the Nationals’ chain. Rivero went 2-7 with a 3.35 ERA last year, but worked exclusively as a starter. He has since transitioned to relief work. Over the course of his Minor League career, Rivero has posted 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and done well to keep the ball in the ballpark, surrendering just 24 home runs in 442.1 IP (0.5 HR/9).

Rivero was acquired, along with catcher Jose Lobaton and minor league outfielder Drew Vettleson, on Feb. 13, 2014 as part of a four-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns.

Jordan, 26, joined the Nationals on Wednesday but did not pitch. In one start for Triple-A this season (April 10 at Scranton-Wilkes Barre), he tossed six scoreless innings. In 14 career Major League games, Jordan is 1-6 with a 4.31 ERA.

Nationals recall RHP Taylor Jordan, place RHP Craig Stammen on DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan from Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday and placed right-handed pitcher Craig Stammen on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm stiffness.
 
Jordan, 26, joins the Nationals for the first time this season. The right-hander made one start for Triple-A Syracuse (April 10 at Scranton-Wilkes Barre), tossing six scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and a walk, and striking out five. 
 
In 14 career Major League games spanning the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the sinker-baller is 1-6 with a 4.31 ERA. 
 
A ninth-round selection in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Jordan made his Major League debut in 2013.
 
Stammen, 31, is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five games (4.0 IP) this season. Since transitioning exclusively to relief work in 2012, the versatile righty is 17-12 with a 2.89 ERA in 167 games (246.1 IP) for the Nationals. ​

Nationals acquire OF Matt den Dekker from New York Mets

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by Amanda Comak

Adding depth to their outfield, the Washington Nationals acquired Matt den Dekker from the New York Mets on Monday in exchange for LHP Jerry Blevins.

den Dekker, 27, joins the Nationals after spending parts of the last two seasons with the Mets.

In 80 career Major League games, den Dekker is a career .238 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage and a .310 slugging percentage. He’s hit 12 doubles, one home run, stolen 11 bases and driven in 13 runs.

In 2014, over the course of 174 plate appearances with the Mets, den Dekker hit .250 with a .345 on-base percentage. During his time with Triple-A Las Vegas in 2014, den Dekker hit .334 with a .407 on-base percentage and a .540 slugging percentage.

A versatile player, den Dekker has experience at all three outfield positions in the Major Leagues but was primarily a center fielder during his Minor League career (446 games in center field).

A fifth-round selection of the Mets’ in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, den Dekker is batting .256 this spring with a .373 on-base percentage and a .512 slugging percentage. He’s hit four doubles, two triples and picked up seven RBI.

Blevins, 31, was acquired by the Nationals in Dec. 2013 from the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for OF Billy Burns. During his one season in Washington, the left-hander was 2-3 with a 4.87 ERA in 64 appearances (57.1 IP).

Daily Wrap: Max Scherzer tabbed for Grapefruit League opener, Tony Gwynn Jr. signs & more

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by Amanda Comak

With the Grapefruit League opener now just two days away, the Washington Nationals went through a light workout day with everything wrapping up by noon on Tuesday. Wednesday will have a similar feel as the team prepares for the New York Mets to visit Space Coast Stadium on Thursday evening at 5:05 p.m. Baseball games are coming. Soon.

And that brings us to today’s news of the day…

News of the Day: Max Scherzer will start the Grapefruit League opener

Nationals Manager Matt Williams announced on Tuesday that it would indeed be the newest member of the Nationals’ rotation, Max Scherzer, who would get the ball in the first game of the Spring. He will be followed to the mound, after about two innings of work, by right-hander Tanner Roark.

But, Williams cautioned, there shouldn’t be too much read into that decision.

“There’s nothing to read into it other than [Scherzer’s] going to get the ball on Thursday and five days later, he’ll get it again,” Williams said.

“I would liken it to the leadoff hitter,” Williams added, of the distinction of being a “No. 1 starter.” “Once you get past the first inning, you have multiple leadoff hitters during the game. It’s important for those guys to get on base, too. All of our guys have the ability to go out there and compete and win games on any given day. That’s what we feel good about.”

— Additionally, the Nationals agreed to terms on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training with outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. The team expects Gwynn to be in camp on Wednesday.

Social Media of the Day

Guess who? #Nats #ace (@thepaulkim photo)

A photo posted by @nationals on

Quote of the Day:

For me, I’m a resource and a confidant for these guys. Anything they think I can help with. If they want to talk about stuff on the field, or something off the field, whatever it may be. I’m just here for them to lean on and pass along some of the things I learned along the way.” — Nationals Life Skills Coordinator Rick Ankiel

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