by Amanda Comak
On the heels of a record-setting May that thrust him into the Major League lead in multiple offensive statistical categories, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Player of the Month on Wednesday, and right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer was named the National League Pitcher of the Month after six dominant May starts.
This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the team has claimed both awards in the same month. Harper and Scherzer are also the first pair of NL teammates to win Player and Pitcher of the Month in the same month since Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia (July, 2008).
Harper and Scherzer are the sixth and seventh Nationals players to earn the monthly honors, joining Chad Cordero (June, 2005), Stephen Strasburg (April, 2012), Gio Gonzalez (May, 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (July, 2012) and Jayson Werth (July 2013, July 2014).
Currently leading the Major Leagues in home runs (T1st, 18), walks (45), slugging percentage (.718), OPS (1.188) and at-bats per home run (9.44), Harper also ranks tied for second in MLB in RBI (44), second in on-base percentage (.470), and second in runs (1st in the NL) with 43.
With 13 home runs in 26 May games – including a streak of six in a three-game span – Harper set a Nationals record (2005-present) for the most home runs hit in a single month. The baker’s dozen topped the previous Nationals mark of 12, set by Alfonso Soriano in May, 2006. Harper also became the 10th youngest player in Major League history to hit three home runs in one game, which he accomplished on May 6 vs. the New York Mets.
Harper, who won back-to-back National League Player of the Week awards last month, on May 11 and May 18, hit .360 (31-for-86) with a .495 on-base percentage and .884 slugging percentage during the month. He clubbed four doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 28 RBI, 22 walks, two stolen bases and 24 runs scored. The 22-year-old — who led the Nationals with five game-winning RBI and six go-ahead RBI last month — drove in multiple runs in seven games, including two five-RBI performances (May 6 vs. NYM and May 8 vs. ATL) and one four-RBI day (May 17 at SDP).
Harper reached base safely in all but three of the games he played in last month (23 of 26) and reached base safely at least twice in 12 consecutive games from May 6-19, the longest such stretch in the Major Leagues this season. It was also the longest stretch of Harper’s career, and in Nationals history (2005-present).
Scherzer went 5-1 with a 1.67 ERA during the month of May – the best record and lowest ERA among National League starters who threw at least 40.0 innings last month.
Throwing at least seven innings in each of his six May starts, Scherzer tied a Nationals record (2005-present) with eight consecutive starts (dating to April 17) of at least seven innings of work. He matched Livan Hernandez’s stretch of eight straight from June 20-July 31, 2005. Scherzer and Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels were the only National League pitchers to throw 43.0 innings or more in May.
After a loss to open the month (4-0 at NYM), Scherzer picked up the win in five consecutive starts and held his opponent to one run or fewer in four of those five outings. He closed the month with a flourish, topping the Chicago Cubs on May 27 at Wrigley Field, 3-0, with seven shutout innings and 13 strikeouts.
Scherzer, who struck out 10 or more batters in four of his six starts last month, posted 56 strikeouts and just six walks in May, a 9.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and struck out 11.72 batters per nine innings of work. He held opponents to a .208 batting average and a miniscule 0.91 WHIP.
On the season, Scherzer ranks among Major League leaders in the following categories: ERA (3rd/1st in NL, 1.85), strikeouts (T3rd, 90), innings pitched (2nd/1st in NL, 77.2), opponents’ batting average (8th, .202), strikeouts per nine innings (8th, 10.43) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4th, 7.50).
The Nationals’ right-hander joins right fielder Bryce Harper in a clean sweep of the National League Player and Pitcher of the Month awards for Washington. This is the first time in Nationals history (2005-present) that the team has claimed both awards in the same month. Harper and Scherzer are also the first pair of NL teammates to win Player and Pitcher of the Month in the same month since Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia (July, 2008).
Scherzer and Harper are the sixth and seventh Nationals players to earn the monthly honors, joining Chad Cordero (June, 2005), Stephen Strasburg (April, 2012), Gio Gonzalez (May, 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (July, 2012) and Jayson Werth (July 2013, July 2014).
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals recalled left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, and optioned RHP Taylor Jordan there.
Rivero, 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.
by Amanda Comak
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).