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A letter from Bill Taft

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Dear Nationals fans,

The last time I was back home in Cincinnati, it was during “Bill and Teddy’s Executive Adventure” in February of 2013. So you could imagine my excitement when I found out the Reds were interested in bringing me and the rest of the Racing Presidents to town for the Nationals series this July!

I couldn’t wait to get on the road. The rest of the guys and I boarded the NatMobile at 6 a.m. on the morning of July 24 and headed west. It was about a nine hour drive, and we pulled into Great American Ball Park around 4 p.m. and got settled in at what would be our home for the weekend.

The following evening, during the first game of the series, I wanted to give my fans a real show — I just had to win! I could feel the adrenaline rushing as I took the field for our first race. As we neared the turn, it was just Teddy and me, and you may have seen what happened next. Teddy got a little too close, so he had to be taken out. Victory was mine!

10489655_10152527110045189_3456278069507952577_nSaturday morning, I decided to swing out to my boyhood home before the game. I was lucky enough to be greeted by Paula Marett from the National Park Service. I met Paula last year during the “Executive Adventure” and it was great to be able to reconnect with her. Even my bobblehead checked out the house, getting all kinds of pictures, which you may have seen posted on my Twitter account, @NatsBigChief27.

After two more successful races (and two Nationals wins in three games), we headed back home to Washington. Looking back, it was great to meet so many new friends and see old ones I had lost touch with. We met with many local fans and Nationals fans alike, and it was really impressive to see all the Nats fans that traveled to watch their favorite team and favorite Presidents. The trip confirmed that even though I have a lot of history in Cincinnati, my heart is here with the Washington Nationals.

I would also like to send a heartfelt thank you to the Cincinnati Reds organization for inviting us out and showing us what Midwest hospitality is all about! I look forward to visiting them again soon!

Sincerely,

“Bill”

P.S. Don’t forget to get your tickets now for MY bobblehead day, on Aug. 17 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first 25,000 fans in attendance will get one!

In the meantime, you can also win my bobblehead, along with tickets to that game, as part of our Facebook contest! Click here for details!

Contest rules

Nationals and Harris Teeter host annual food drive

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by Matt Laux

harristeeter01The Washington Nationals and Harris Teeter teamed up to host their annual Food Drive at Nationals Park on Aug. 2 and 3, benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB). Over the two-day span, the Food Drive collected a record total of 8,331 lbs. of food for the CAFB, which assists roughly 500,000 children, seniors and families struggling with hunger in the Washington metro area each year.

The first day of the Food Drive began extra early as the team accepted donations prior to the Nationals Season Plan Holder Event. As volunteers opened for business, they eagerly anticipated the possibility of surpassing last year’s 3,854-pound first-day total. The exceptional turnout aided in the 4,879 pounds donated. The event’s success continued on Day Two, as the Nationals and Harris Teeter received another 3,452 pounds in donations.

Fans who contributed three or more non-perishable food items earned two tickets to one of two future Nationals games, while supplies lasted. Additionally, the first 1,000 fans to donate three or more Harris Teeter Private Label canned goods each day of the drive were rewarded with $5 in Nats Bucks.

The campaign began in earnest on July 8, when relief pitchers Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen worked with the Jubilee Housing Teen Renaissance at CAFB’s Kid’s Cafe. Blevins, Stammen and the children made “1-2-3 Salsa,” a healthy, budget-friendly snack, while raising awareness for the August Food Drive.

harristeeter02The annual Food Drive is just one of the many contributions Harris Teeter makes to the local community.

On top of the Food Drive, fans were able to donate at their local Harris Teeter stores. While this year’s total is still being counted, Harris Teeter raised an additional 2,145 pounds last year. Harris Teeter is also a proud supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as the Together In Education program.

Nationals visit DC Public Libraries

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The Washington Nationals are honored to sponsor the DC Public Library’s Summer Reading program. And as part of that sponsorship, Denard Span, Drew Storen, Scott Hairston and Matt Williams were at local libraries on Saturday morning to read to kids.

The Nationals are honored to be a part of this program, and Span, Storen, Hairston and Williams were thrilled to participate. Here are a few photos from the events:

UPDATED – Social Fan Event No. 3: #InstaNats Photo Hunt

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By Kyle Mann

We are thrilled that our third Social Fan Event of the season is nearly upon us, adding to the already palpable excitement of the day: Brewers-Nationals offers a match-up of two first-half first place teams, and Austin Mahone takes the NatsLive stage after the game for a FREE concert. We couldn’t think of a better backdrop to offer our most loyal Instagram fans some unique photography challenges and Nationals-related prizes and experiences!

If you’ve been to one of our previous Social Fan Events, you know we go all out on the prizes, so be on the lookout for batting practice passes and an opportunity to join the Nationals players on the field as part of the Starting 9!

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, so be sure to stop by our table at Section 105 as soon as you arrive to give yourself the first crack at the best prizes. If you haven’t already, you can buy tickets that include $6 added value for use throughout the park here.

Throughout the game, you’ll be tasked with completing an #InstaNats Photo Hunt of creative Nationals and Austin Mahone-themed pictures for the opportunity to win even more great prizes. Here’s how it works:

  • You’ll receive your photo assignment shot sheet, comprised of five different “themes,” when you check in at our table at Section 105. We’ll also update this post with the shot sheet shortly before gates open on Saturday.
  • Explore the ballpark and snap your most creative pictures that match each theme.
  • Post your photos on Instagram and be sure to use the specific hashtag for each theme (you’ll find that on the shot sheet), #InstaNats and tag @nationals.
  • OFFICIAL RULES>>

 IMPORTANT: You must include #InstaNats, the specific theme hashtag AND @nationals in your post for it to be eligible.

At the end of the night, we will pick three finalists from those fans who post photos for all five themes (and use the proper hashtags and tag @nationals). All three winners will win experience prize packages at our fourth Social Fan Event on September 8, including the opportunity to deliver the Lineup Card, shout “Play Ball”, or watch batting practice from the field.

Remember, you must post all five photos and include #InstaNats, the specific theme hashtag and @nationals with each photo to be eligible for selection as one of the three finalists. 

Starting Monday, July 21, we’ll announce the three finalists’ and post their photo galleries at nationals.com, where all fans will have 48 hours to vote for their favorite. We’ll announce the winners as determined by the fan vote on Wednesday, July 23.

As always, keep your eye on the NatsHD scoreboard throughout the night where your #InstaNats photos may also appear.

To get your creative juices flowing, we’re proud to unveil the #MyNLEast Instagram video YOU helped produce back in June during the Braves series. Enjoy, and we can’t wait to see you and your best photos on Saturday!

UPDATED – Saturday, 7/19 at 4:15 pm

As promised, here is the official shot sheet for tonight’s #InstaNats Photo Hunt. Don’t forget to tag each of your photos with its specific hashtag (listed below) as well as @nationals and #InstaNats.

1. Our Racing Presidents have been known to wander around Nationals Park. Tag your picture with #RacingPresContest with your favorite one!

2. There are a lot of Curly Ws around Nationals Park. Show us your coolest Curly W shot and tag it with #CurlyWContest.

3. Today’s NatsLive FREE Postgame Concert performer @AustinMahone’s favorite dessert is ice cream. Here at Nationals Park, we have many delicious desserts. Post your best picture with your favorite dessert and tag it with #IceCreamContest.

4. This is your chance to be really creative. Post your coolest and most exciting pic from the ballpark tonight and tag it with #FansChoiceContest.

5. Post your best picture from @AustinMahone’s NatsLive free postgame concert and tag it with #NatsLiveContest.

Running Men: A Nationals coaching staff routine

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by Amanda Comak

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, the music blared. High-fives and fist bumps were exchanged all over the room. Positive energy pumped through the locker stalls.

A long west coast trip had gotten off to a terrific start for the Washington Nationals with five wins in their first six games, including three straight against the San Francisco Giants — who came into the series playing better than any team in the National League.

Inside the manager’s office, Matt Williams smiled, and then groaned. Mere hours separated the Nationals from their next game, a 12:45 p.m. start locally, and then the next city on the trip beckoned.

“We have to run tomorrow,” Williams said late that night, massaging his left calf. “We’re killing ourselves.”

The “we” to which the Nationals’ manager referred was the coaching staff. And the runs, between 30-40 minutes or three to four miles of torture, well, they’ve become quite a routine among the Nationals’ coaches.

“It’s entirely superstitious,” Williams said in early July. “If we take a day off and we don’t win, then we definitely have to run the next day. If we run and we play like we did (in a 13-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on July 5), then we have to run the exact same route.”

Williams, who used to run with the Diamondbacks coaching staff in previous years, brought the daily runs to the Nationals when he took over as manager. They’re all named, and folks of all fitness levels are welcome. They won’t leave any man behind, Williams said, but “we keep it sane, too.”

In D.C., they have three main runs: The River Run, featuring views of the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers, the Capitol Run, which is up to and around the Capitol Building, and the Power Run, a jaunt to the Capitol Building, by the Supreme Court and past the Library of Congress.

It’s not hard to see how that one got its name.

“That’s the power of our country, right there,” Williams said.

But the road trips provide opportunities for other routes. Williams ticks them off with obvious enjoyment.

Attachment-1In San Francisco, they have the Embarcadero Run. In San Diego, it’s the Midway Run or the Airport Run (“Depending on how we’re feeling,” the manager explains). In Philadelphia, they leave from the hotel and do the Rocky Run. In Miami, the South Beach Run. St. Louis features the Arch Run, and in Milwaukee, from Miller Park, it’s the Graveyard Run. The list goes on. And everywhere the Nationals visit, they’ll have at least one running route to tour.

Williams, while the most enthusiastic about the runs, said the coaches have mostly jumped on board. It’s a time for them to build camaraderie and bond, while also (hopefully) bettering their own health.  Williams singled out third base coach Bobby Henley as one who has really taken to the runs and improved. Plus, there’s the aforementioned superstitions.

“They don’t gripe,” Williams said, smiling. “I hear little snippets, but no griping. Secretly I think they like it.”

But do they really?

“I absolutely hate ‘em,” said bench coach Randy Knorr. “But I go.”

Nationals reinstate Bryce Harper from DL, option Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A

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by Amanda Comak

For the first time since Opening Day, the Washington Nationals’ lineup will come complete on Monday afternoon.

Bryce Harper is back, returning from the 15-day Disabled List and rejoining the Nationals after missing 57 games with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.

And as they get set to begin the mathematical second half of their season, the Nationals are whole again.

During a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last week, Harper played in five games and hit .643 (9-for-14) with one double, four home runs, 11 RBI, five walks, seven runs scored, two stolen bases and just one strikeout. He posted a .737 on-base percentage and a 1.571 slugging percentage.

Saturday night, playing in Akron for Double-A Harrisburg, Harper hit home runs in three of his five at-bats.

The Nationals (43-48), who welcome the Colorado Rockies on Monday night  (incidentally Harper’s bobblehead night), have watched as seven members of their starting lineup or rotation have gone to the Disabled List at least once early this season — amounting to 231 total games missed.

In the meantime, the Nationals have done exceptionally well to stay afloat, opening Monday 0.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.

Prior to heading to the Disabled List, Harper hit .289 (24-for-83) with a .352 on-base percentage and a .422 slugging percentage. In 22 games, Harper hit one home run, four doubles and two triples, and drove in nine runs.

In parts of three Major League seasons, the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year is a career .273 hitter with a .353 on-base percentage and .476 slugging percentage. In 279 games, Harper has hit 43 home runs and 111 extra-base hits, while driving in 126 runs and scoring 177.

Cedeno, 27, appeared in one game in his third Major League stint of the season, tossing a scoreless inning in the second game of the Nationals’ doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. On the season, Cedeno has not allowed a run in 3.1 IP. He has allowed four hits and struck out one batter.

Nationals sign 24 2014 First-Year Player Draft selections

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The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with 24 players selected in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Here’s a rundown of the latest players to join the Nationals organization (signed players in bold):

RD                 PICK             PLAYER                              POS              SCHOOL

1                      (18)               Erick Fedde                      RHP              University of Nevada-Las Vegas

2                      (57)               Andrew Suarez             LHP               University of Miami (FL)

3                      (93)               Jakson Reetz                 C                     Norris (NE) High School

4                     (124)             Robbie Dickey              RHP              Blinn (TX) Junior College

5                      (154)             Drew Van Orden          RHP              Duke (NC) University

6                     (184)            Austen Williams          RHP              Texas State University

7                      (214)             Dale Carey                        CF                   University of Miami (FL)

8                     (244)            Jeff Gardner                   LF                   University of Louisville (KY)

9                     (274)            Austin Byler                    1B                   University of Nevada-Reno

10                   (304)            Matthew Page              RF                  Oklahoma Baptist University

11                    (334)            Weston Davis                RHP              Manatee (FL) High School

12                    (364)            Domenick Mancini    RHP              Miami (FL) Dade CC

13                    (394)            Austin Davidson          3B                  Pepperdine (CA) University

14                   (424)            James Bourque            RHP              University of Michigan

15                    (454)            Ryan Ripken                   1B                   Indian River (FL) State Junior College

16                   (484)           Cole Plouck                     LHP               Pima (AZ) Community College

17                    (514)             Alec Keller                      CF                   Princeton (NJ) University

18                   (544)            McKenzie Mills           LHP               Sprayberry (GA) High School

19                   (574)            Clay Williamson           RF                  Cal State – Fullerton 

20                   (604)           Bryan Langlois              RF                  Pepperdine (CA) University

21                    (634)            Connor Bach                   LHP               Virginia Military Institute

22                   (664)           Daniel Salters                C                     Dallas (TX) Baptist University

23                   (694)           Chris Riopedre             SS                  East Tennessee State University

24                   (724)            Kyle Simmons               RHP              Texas Lutheran University

25                   (754)            Kyle Bacak                        C                     Texas Christian University

26                   (784)            Chase McDowell         RHP              Rice (TX) University

27                   (814)            Conor Keniry                  SS                  Wake Forest (NC) University

28                   (844)           Kida De La Cruz             RHP              Volunteer State (TN) CC

29                   (874)            D.J. Jauss                          RHP              University of Massachusetts 

30                   (904)           Tyler Mapes                   RHP              Tulane (LA) University 

31                    (934)            Samuel Johns                RHP              University of Evansville (IN) 

32                   (964)           Elliott Cary                       CF                   Clackamas (OR) High School

33                   (994)           Clay Casey                                                CF                   DeSoto Central (MS) High School

34                   (1024            Evan Skoug                      C                     Libertyville (IL) High School

35                   (1054)          Tommy Doyle                RHP              Flint Hill (VA) School

36                   (1054)          John Henry Styles      LHP               Episcopal (TX) High School

37                   (1114)           Quinn Brodey                 LHP               Loyola (CA) High School

38                   (1144)          Stuart Fairchild              RF                  Seattle (WA) Prep

39                   (1174)           John Littell                      OF                  Stillwater (OK) High School

40                  (1204)          Jacob Hill                          LHP               Orange Coast (CA) CC

 

Nationals reinstate LHP Gio Gonzalez, option LHP Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse

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by Amanda Comak

Gio Gonzalez officially returned to the Washington Nationals’ active roster on Wednesday, as the Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated the left-hander from the 15-Day Disabled List, and optioned left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno to Triple-A Syracuse.

Gonzalez will start Wednesday night against the Houston Astros.

Gonzalez, 28, returns to the Nationals after missing 29 games with left shoulder inflammation.

He rejoins the Nationals’ active roster after making two rehab starts with Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League, amassing 7.2 innings and allowing nine earned runs on nine hits and eight walks.

In his final rehab start, June 12 vs. Winston-Salem, Gonzalez was touched for just one earned run off two hits, and struck out seven over four innings of work.

Prior to the first Disabled List trip of his career, Gonzalez was 3-4 with a 4.62 ERA in nine Major League starts this season, spanning 50.2 innings. The 2012 Cy Young Award finalist is 35-20 with a 3.29 ERA in 73 starts since being acquired by the Nationals before the 2012 season.

Cedeno, 27, tossed 1.0 scoreless inning in his most recent call-up, pitching a perfect frame against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 14. On the season, Cedeno has allowed two hits and no runs in 2.1 Major League innings.

Nationals wrap up Day 2 of 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft

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The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft continued with rounds 3-10 Friday afternoon. Here’s a look at Washington’s seven selections:

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington NationalsJakson Reetz – Catcher – Norris (NE) High School / Firth, NE – 3rd Round (93rd overall)

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Reetz is known as a hard-nosed competitor and a tremendous athlete behind the plate.  He was named the 2013-14 Gatorade Nebraska Baseball Player of the Year after hitting .487 with eight home runs, 37 RBI and 37 runs scored in 2014. Reetz was rated by Baseball America as the No. 62 overall draft prospect (No. 1 in Nebraska) in this year’s draft class. He has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Nebraska. When he inked with the Cornhuskers, he was rated the No. 28 overall recruit in the country, and was named a 2013 Perfect Game First-Team Underclass All-American.

Nationals Assistant GM & VP of Scouting Operations Kris Kline: “We’re very excited (about Reetz). He’s a high school catcher that we love. Power bat, (and) he’s got a great feel to hit. Catching skills are maybe a tick better than (Oakland A’s catcher and former Nationals prospect) Derrick Norris at the same time. We have the right people to help him progress in that area. I think you’re looking at an offensive catcher at the big-league level down the road.”

Robert Dickey – Right Handed Pitcher – Blinn (TX) Junior College / Austin, TX – 4th Round (124th overall)

Dickey helped lead Blinn Junior College to its first Junior College World Series since 1992, going 9-4 with a 2.74 ERA (26 ER/85.1 IP) in 14 starts for the Buccaneers. He struck out 100 batters while walking just 44. Entering the season, he was rated by Perfect Game USA as the No. 1 overall junior college prospect in the nation. He’s noted for strong makeup and mound presence. He signed a National Letter of Intent with Texas State University.

National/Midwest Crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales: “Robert is very excited to be a National. He’s a strong right-handed pitcher. Great body, great character, plus fastball and a solid curveball. We feel he’s going to be a starter. He expressed a lot of interest in wanting to play for us.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington NationalsDrew Van Orden – Right Handed Pitcher – Duke (NC) University / Manhattan Beach, CA – 5th Round (154th overall)

At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Van Orden leans on his fastball and slider command to get batters out.  He ranked 6th in the Atlantic Coast Conference in strikeouts (91) and paced the Blue Devil staff in innings pitched (87.1), strikeouts and games started (14). Van Orden went 6-5 with a 3.19 ERA (34 ER/87.1 IP) while allowing opposing hitters to post a .219 average against him in 15 games/14 starts during his senior season.  He was selected to the ACC All-Tournament Team after tossing his first career shutout in Duke’s 6-0 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament.

Austen Williams – Right Handed Pitcher – Texas State University / Fort Worth, TX – 6th Round (184th overall)

Williams was named All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team after finishing third in the conference in strikeouts (96) and tied for third in wins (8).  Standing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Williams was 8-3 with a 3.65 ERA (40 ER/98.2 IP) in 15 starts for the Bobcats. He struck out 96 batters and hitters posted a .239 batting average against him.

Dale (D.K.) Carey – Center Fielder – University of Miami (FL) / Marietta, GA – 7th Round (214th overall)

Carey is seen as a plus defender and is considered one of the best pure athletes in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He stands 6-foot-2, weighs 207 pounds, and ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in runs scored (53), as well as ranking fourth in hits (75). On the season, he led the Hurricanes in hitting .305 (75-for-246) and doubles (16) while clubbing seven home runs, 29 RBI and 16 stolen bases.  Carey was named Second-Team All-ACC following the 2014 season.

Kris Kline: “Dale was a kid we felt, when he was young, that he was going to be a really good player. He struggled throughout college a bit. We noticed that he simplified his approach, he slowed the game down. He’s a really good defender — throws well, runs well. It’s been encouraging to see him progress to the point to do what we feel he is capable of doing. We’re very excited to have him as part of our system.”

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington NationalsJeff Gardner  –  Left Fielder – University of Louisville / Louisville, KY – 8th Round (244th overall)

A three-time All-Conference selection (Big East/American Athletic Conference) throughout his career, Gardner was named the 2014 AAC Player of the Year after hitting .326 with 20 doubles, nine home runs and leading the league with 67 RBI and a .551 slugging percentage.  He was a two-time AAC Player of the Week and was recently named a Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American.

Austin Byler – First Baseman – University of Nevada-Reno / Peoria, AZ – 9th Round (274th overall)

Byler, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound first baseman, led the Mountain West Conference and ranked seventh in NCAA Division 1 with 14 home runs.  He also led the MWC in slugging percentage (.624) and total bases (138), while ranking fourth in on-base percentage (.420), runs scored (51) and fifth in RBI (47). Byler was a First Team All-Mountain West selection and a two-time MWC Player of the Week.  He hit .326 with 14 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs, 47 RBI and 51 runs scored in 57 games this season.

Matt Page – Left Fielder – Oklahoma Baptist University / Redwood City, CA – 10th Round (304th overall)

Page was a two-time NAIA First-Team All-American, two-time Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year as well as the 2013 NAIA Player of the Year.  Standing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Page hit .381 with 26 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, 84 RBI and 78 runs scored in 64 games played in 2014.  His 26 doubles were second-most in NAIA, while his 84 RBI were good for third.

For more on who the Nationals selected in the first and second rounds, click here.

The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft will conclude on Saturday.

Nationals reinstate Ryan Zimmerman from DL, option Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated third baseman Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-Day Disabled List on Tuesday, and optioned infielder/outfielder Tyler Moore to Triple-A Syracuse.

Zimmerman, 29, returns to the Nationals after missing 44 games due to a right thumb fracture, suffered April 12 at Atlanta. He rejoins the active roster after hitting .357 (5-for-14) in four rehab games with Single-A Potomac.

He will start for the Nationals on Tuesday night, playing left field for the first time in his Major League career.

Through the first 10 games of the season, before his injury, Zimmerman hit .364 with a .405 on-base percentage and .636 slugging percentage. He clubbed two home runs and three doubles, walked three times and drove in six runs.

Hitting in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup, Zimmerman was an integral part of the Nationals’ early-season offense.

During his time in the lineup, the Nationals averaged 5.27 runs per game – the second-highest average of any team in the National League (Colorado led with 5.50). The Nationals are currently averaging 4.04 runs per game.

Moore, 27, hit .225 (9-for-40) in this latest stint with the Nationals, including one double, one home run, four walks and eight RBI. Moore is hitting .214 (15-for-70) on the season with three home runs, two doubles, seven walks and 11 RBI.

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