Archive for the ‘ What to Watch for ’ Category

What to Watch for: 8.16.13

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Washington Nationals (59-61) vs. Atlanta Braves (74-47)

RHP Taylor Jordan (1-3, 4.14) vs. LHP Alex Wood (2-2, 2.78)

Rookies Taylor Jordan and Alex Wood will square off in game one of a three-game series, the final matchup between the Braves and Nationals in Atlanta this season.

Jordan will be making his ninth start of the season, his first against the Braves, while Wood faces the Nationals for the first time after 20 appearances, including five starts. Wood, the 85th-overall pick (second round) in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Georgia, will be the third pitcher from his Draft class to face the Nationals this season; Washington roughed up fourth-overall pick Kevin Gausman of the Orioles on May 28 at Nationals Park, and faced Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez (82nd overall/second round) on three occasions earlier in the year.

Both Jordan, a lanky right-hander, and Wood, a tall, sturdy lefty, induce ground balls at a high rate. Jordan has a ground out/air out ratio of 1.69:1, inducing eight double plays in 45.2 innings, while Wood has posted a 1.71:1 GOAO with three double plays turned behind him in his 45.1 innings of work.

Wood features a deceptive delivery that is equally tough on righties and lefties, holding left-handed hitters to a .200 batting average and right-handed hitters to just a .207 mark. He has been even stingier with runners in scoring position, holding opponents to a .146 (6-for-41) batting average against in those situations.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Taylor Jordan RHP

D.C.’S HIT MAN SOON TO BE EXPOSED

With a .331 batting average entering play Friday, Jayson Werth would rank second in the National League behind Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson (.337) with enough plate appearances to qualify. Werth, currently at 357 plate appearances, will need 145 more trips to the plate over the Nationals final 42 games (3.45 per game) to qualify for the 502 necessary to win the batting crown. Meanwhile, Johnson is just 5-for-32 (.156) in his last eight games against Nationals pitching.

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Ian Desmond’s third-inning double on Thursday was his 52nd extra-base hit (33 doubles, two triples, 17 homers) of the 2013 season. No other Major League shortstop has more than 40 extra-base hits this season. Desmond’s 33 doubles trail only Manny Machado (42) and Matt Carpenter (40) among all big leaguers, leaving him in a five-way tie for third with Mike Trout, Joe Mauer, Chris Davis and Jay Bruce.

DAVEY’S LAST STAND

Nationals Manager and former Braves second baseman Davey Johnson will make his last appearance in Atlanta this weekend. Johnson’s 42 home runs as a second baseman (43 total) in 1973 as a member of the Braves remains the top output by a second sacker in baseball history. Dan Uggla, with 35 in 2011, is the only other Braves second baseman to crack more than 21 long balls in a single campaign. Uggla is currently on the disabled list following corrective eye surgery this week.

What to Watch for: 8.15.13

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San Francisco Giants (52-67) vs. Washington Nationals (59-60)

 RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.71) vs. RHP Dan Haren (7-11, 4.99)

The Nationals finish up their series against the Giants and their nine-game homestand this afternoon, as they aim to bring their record to an even .500. Jordan Zimmermann won his career-high 14th game of the season thanks to Denard Span, who sealed the victory with a game-saving catch. With Dan Haren on the mound, the Nats look to extend their five game win streak and go for their second straight series sweep.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Anthony Rendon 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Dan Haren RHP

SWEEP POSSIBILTIES

The Nationals will attempt to complete their third-ever sweep of the Giants in this afternoon’s series finale. Washington swept a home series from San Francisco in both 2012 (3-0) and 2006 (3-0). The Nationals have also won seven straight home games over the Giants. Washington has likewise won seven consecutive home games over the Marlins and Cardinals, but never reached the threshold of eight straight victories in D.C. over a single opponent.

SEVENTEEN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

The Nationals are the only team in the National League with four players with 17 or more home runs. Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, and Jayson Werth all share the team lead with 17 each. Only two other Major League teams – Toronto and Los Angeles (AL) – have as many as four players with 17 or more home runs.

SUMMER’S SCORCHER

Jayson Werth leads Major League Baseball in batting average dating to the beginning of both July and August. Since July 1st, Werth has hit .413. Detroit’s Victor Martinez has the next best average hitting .381 in that span. Since August first Werth is hitting .528 with Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen in a distant second at .474.

What to Watch for: 8.14.13

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San Francisco Giants (52-66) vs. Washington Nationals (58-60)

RHP Tim Lincecum (6-11, 4.18) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.10)

Rafael Soriano notched his 30th save of the season Tuesday night, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth to seal Washington’s 4-2 win over the Giants. In so doing, he became the sixth player in Major League Baseball history with at least 30 saves for at least three different teams and the Nationals became the sixth different franchise with three different 30-save closers in a least three consecutive years:

30+ saves on 3+ teams:
Randy Myers (Reds, Padres, Cubs, Orioles)
Lee Smith (Cubs, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels)
Jose Mesa (Indians, Mariners, Phillies, Pirates)
Billy Wagner (Astros, Phillies, Mets, Braves)
Doug Jones (Indians, Astros, Brewers)
Rafael Soriano (Rays, Yankees, Nationals)

3+ different closers with 30+ saves in 3+ consecutive years:
Florida Marlins (2004-2007): Benitez, Jones, Borowski, Gregg
Cincinnati Reds (1989-1991): Franco, Myers, Dibble
Atlanta Braves (1997-1999): Wohlers, Ligtenberg, Rocker
Oakland Athletics (2001-2003): Isringhausen, Koch, Foulke
Toronto Blue Jays (2005-2007): Batista, Ryan, Accardo
Washington Nationals (2011-2013): Storen, Clippard, Soriano

In addition, the Nationals have seven different saves leaders in the past seven years:

2007 Chad Cordero (37)
2008 Jon Rauch (17)
2009 Mike MacDougal (20)
2010 Matt Capps (26)
2011 Drew Storen (43)
2012 Tyler Clippard (32)
2013 Rafael Soriano (30)

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Anthony Rendon 2B

8. Kurt Suzuki C

9. Jordan Zimmermann RHP

START ME UP

Tonight’s matchup of starters is a rematch of the last time Tim Lincecum pitched in Washington, on July 3, 2012 against Jordan Zimmermann. In that game, the Nationals tagged the former Cy Young Award winner for eight runs, seven earned, in just 3.1 innings of work. Meanwhile, Zimmermann allowed just two runs (one earned) in six solid frames as Washington went on to defeat San Francisco, 9-3.

A WERTHY CONTENDER

Jayson Werth’s .410 batting average since July 1 is easily the best in all of baseball, well ahead of his next closest competitor – Detroit’s Victor Martinez – who clocks in at .384 over the same span. Werth’s .327 season average would rank third in the National League if he had enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title (Chris Johnson .337, Yadier Molina .330).

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Ian Desmond’s fourth-inning double on Tuesday was his 50th extra-base hit (32 doubles, two triples, 16 homers) of 2013. No other MLB shortstop has more than 40 extra-base hits this season. With 32 in the bag, Desmond’s next double will match his career high (33 in 2012).

What to Watch for: 8.13.13

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San Francisco Giants (52-65) vs. Washington Nationals (57-60)

LHP Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 3.52)

The Nationals host the defending World Champions for the opening tilt of a three-game set. Washington swept San Francisco at home last season, going 5-1 overall in the season series. In honor of International Left-hander’s Day, tonight’s pitching matchup includes Major League Baseball’s two winningest southpaws over the last two seasons: Gio Gonzalez (28 wins in ‘12-13) and Madison Bumgarner (27).

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Scott Hairston LF

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

99 PITCHES, NO PROBLEM

Stephen Strasburg tossed the first shutout of his career in Washington’s 6-0 home win on Sunday vs. Philadelphia, becoming the first Nationals pitcher to post a shutout at the Phillies expense. Strasburg (99 pitches) became just the fourth National to toss a shutout in less than 100 pitches (also: Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Pedro Astacio).

START ME UP

Steve McCatty’s starting staff is 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA (16 ER/57.1 IP) in nine August contests to date. In those nine games, the starting staff has yielded just one homer while posting a stingy .218 batting average against and an admirable strikeout to walk rate of 3.73.

THE POWER OF 3 (AND 5)

When scoring three or more runs this year, the Nationals are 51-14 (.785). Additionally, when the Nationals tally five or more runs, they are a robust 41-4. Conversely, when plating two or fewer runs, Washington is just 6-46 (.115).

What to Watch for: 8.11.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (52-64) vs. Washington Nationals (56-60)

RHP Kyle Kendrick (9-8, 4.29) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-9, 3.01)

The Nationals take aim at a three-game sweep of Philadelphia as they send Stephen Strasburg to the hill. Despite winning six of the past seven home series from the Phillies, Washington has never swept its division rival in D.C.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Steve Lombardozzi 2B

9. Stephen Strasburg RHP

CLIFF JUMPING

The Nationals overcame a four-run deficit – their largest of the season – against Cliff Lee and the Phillies in Saturday night’s 8-5 victory. Entering the contest, Lee had a personal record of 84-1 when being staked to a lead of four runs or more in his career (he received a no decision). Also, Lee’s teams had won 86 of the 92 games in which he had pitched with at least a four-run cushion.

WERTH ANOTHER LOOK

Since July 1, Jayson Werth leads all National League players in all three Triple Crown categories with a .404 batting average (46-for-114), nine home runs and 27 RBI. The .404 mark is also the best in Major League Baseball over that span, easily in front of Adrian Beltre’s .370.

BANNER START FOR TANNER

With two perfect innings of relief, Tanner Roark collected his first Major League win in just his second appearance out of the bullpen. Roark needed only 12 pitches – six per inning – to set the Phillies down in order twice. The righty has allowed just one baserunner in his first four innings with the Nationals and has faced the minimum 12 batters over that span.

What to Watch for: 8.10.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (52-63) vs. Washington Nationals (55-60)

LHP Cliff Lee (10-5, 3.13) vs. RHP Taylor Jordan (1-3, 3.76)

The Nationals look to pick up where they left off last night, after tagging former teammate John Lannan for easily his worst loss of the season in a 9-2 final. Washington will face the tall task of toppling another lefty in 10-game winner Cliff Lee. However, the Nationals homered four times against Lee in Philadelphia on July 10, incuding two pairs of back-to-back shots.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Taylor Jordan RHP

HITTING DOWN THE LINE

All eight Nationals position players recorded at least one hit in Friday night’s victory and Washington got a hit from every spot in the lineup, thanks to Scott Hairston’s pinch-double in the bottom of the eighth inning. Half of the 12 Washington knocks went four extra bases (four 2B, two HR).

SUMMER’S SCORCHER

Jayson Werth was named NL Player of the Month for the month of July and owns the top batting average in Major League Baseball since the beginning of July:

1. Jayson Werth .388

2. Adrian Beltre (TEX) .381

3. Mike Trout (LAA) .380

HEAVY SPLIT

Friday night’s game marked the first in this year’s season series in which either team scored more than six runs. However, each Washington victory has been by at least three scores (closest game: 5-2 on 5/24), while Philadelphia has not won by more than two runs in any of their triumphs (four two-run games, two one-run games). As a result, despite going just 5-6 so far, the Nationals have outscored the Phillies 45-32 (outhomering them 12-5) through the first 11 contests between the clubs.

What to Watch for: 8.9.13

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Philadelphia Phillies (52-62) vs. Washington Nationals (54-60)

LHP John Lannan (3-4, 4.10) vs. RHP Dan Haren (6-11, 5.14)

The Nationals host the Phillies for the second of three series in the Nation’s Capital, where Washington took two-of-three in the first meeting of the teams back in late May. Second-place Washington sits 2.0 games ahead of fourth-place Philadelphia, with the Mets squarely between the two. Dan Haren looks to continue his strong run since returning from the disabled list, during which he has compiled a 2-2 record and a 2.40 ERA (8 ER/30.0 IP) and 32 strikeouts against just eight walks.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

3. Bryce Harper LF

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Anthony Rendon 2B

9. Dan Haren RHP

GRAND-IOSE OCCASION ON THE HORIZON

With 996 in the bag, Jayson Werth is just four hits shy of 1000 for this career. Werth looks to join teammates Ryan Zimmerman (1211) and Adam LaRoche (1202) in the 1000-hit club.

OFF AND ON

The Nationals are 7-3 this season in games after off-days, not including the four-day All-Star break. Included in that list is Washington’s 5-2 home victory over the Phillies to open the two clubs’ prior meeting in D.C. this year.

LUCKY NUMBER 13

Dan Haren has beaten every Major League team in his career except one – the Philadelphia Phillies. If he can earn the victory tonight, he will become just the 13th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to beat all 30 teams, joining Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, Randy Johnson, Al Leiter, Derek Lowe, Jamie Moyer, Terry Mulholland, Vicente Padilla, Curt Schilling, Javier Vazquez, Woody Williams and Barry Zito. In seven career starts, the righty is 0-4 with a 5.54 ERA, the second-highest mark against any single club (Chicago Cubs, 5.58).

What to Watch for: Rat Pack Night

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Atlanta Braves (69-45) vs. Washington Nationals (54-59)

RHP Kris Medlen (8-10, 3.85) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.06)

As music has become an increasingly popular element of baseball – from the pregame play list during batting practice to the players’ walk up songs – we have decided to incorporate different musical themes throughout the season. Motown Monday made its debut earlier this year, and tonight the Nationals will be celebrating the music of the Frank, Dean and Sammy. That’s right, it’s Rat Pack Night in The District. Check out which Rat Pack classics your favorites players will be walking out to tonight:

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span, CF: Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra

2. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra

3. Bryce Harper, LF: Luck Be a Lady by Frank Sinatra

4. Jayson Werth, RF: My Way by Frank Sinatra

5. Adam LaRoche, 1B: I Get a Kick Out of You by Frank Sinatra

6. Ian Desmond, SS: The Best is Yet to Come by Frank Sinatra

7. Anthony Rendon, 2B: Fly Me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra

8. Wilson Ramos, C: Mambo Italiano by Dean Martin

9. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP: Ain’t That a Kick in the Head by Dean Martin

THE BENCH:

Roger Bernadina: Send Me the Pillow You Dream On by Dean Martin

Scott Hairston: That Old Luck Sun by Dean Martin

Steve Lombardozzi: Back In Your Own Backyard by Sammy Davis Jr.

Chad Tracy: They Can’t Take That Away From Me by Frank Sinatra

Kurt Suzuki: In the Misty Moonlight by Dean Martin

THE BULLPEN:

Fernando Abad: Sway by Dean Martin

Tyler Clippard: That’s Life by Frank Sinatra

Ian Krol: Chicago, My Kind of Town by Frank Sinatra

Ryan Mattheus: When The Feeling Hits You by Sammy Davis Jr.

Tanner Roark: I Should Care by Sammy Davis Jr.

Rafael Soriano: Dancing in the Dark by Frank Sinatra

Craig Stammen: Love and Marriage by Frank Sinatra

SERIES-LY SPEAKING

Nine of the 12 games between the Nationals and Braves in 2013 have been decided by two runs or less. In 2012, the Nationals (98-64) claimed their first NL East flag over the 94-win Braves and finished ahead of Atlanta in the NL East standings for the first time since 1994. Washington is 3-1-1 in season series play against the Braves dating to 2008.

CLIP AND SAVE

On June 25, 2009 vs. Boston, Tyler Clippard made his MLB debut as a reliever and struck out a pair in 2.0 innings of work. Since his debut, Clippard leads the majors in relief strikeouts with 420:

1. Tyler Clippard (Washington) 420

2. Carlos Marmol (CHI – LAD) 396

3. Jonathan Papelbon (BOS – PHI) 373

TOPPS FOR JULY

Nationals Minor League outfielder Billy Burns, recently promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, was named the Carolina League’s Topps Player of the Month for July. Over the course of 24 contests in July, Burns hit .359 with eight walks, six hit-by-pitches, five doubles, three triples, 16 runs scored, 10 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Burns logged an on-base percentage of .443 and a slugging percentage of .478, compiling a .922 OPS. Originally selected in the 32nd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Burns departed the Carolina League as the circuit leader in stolen bases (51), OBP (.417), and triples (9).

What to Watch for: 8.6.13

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Atlanta Braves (68-45) vs. Washington Nationals (54-58)

RHP Julio Teheran (8-5, 3.02) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-4, 3.57) 

Tanner Roark’s 2013 season started about as well as he could have ever expected. The 27-year-old right-hander fired six no-hit innings in his debut for the Syracuse Chiefs, walking two and striking out seven in a road win at Lehigh Valley.

From there, though, the Wilmington, Illinois native struggled, before finally settling in and finding his groove in early May pitching out of the bullpen.

Since then, he’s been nearly unhittable.

Beginning with a scoreless inning at Durham on May 6, Roark made 17 relief appearances, holding opponents scoreless in 16 of them. He moved back into the rotation, where he made eight starts, winning six of them. He has just one loss since mid-April, and since that outing in Durham he is 8-1 with a 1.55 ERA (14 ER/81.1 IP).

All of that led to Roark’s promotion to the Major Leagues on Tuesday, when he was selected from the Chiefs and joined the Nationals in D.C. Twice a double-digit game winner in the minors, this marks Roark’s first time on a big league roster after six Minor League seasons. Originally a 25th-round pick by the Rangers out of the University of Illinois, Roark was acquired by the Nationals along with fellow hurler Ryan Tatusko in exchange for Cristian Guzman back on July 31, 2010. He has pitched in the Washington system ever since, but made huge strides forward this year, easily his best as a professional.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper LF

2. Zimmerman 3B

3. Werth RF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Ramos C

7. Span CF

8. Rendon 2B

9. Gonzalez LHP

CATCH THIS

Wilson Ramos is batting .320 (24-for-75) with three doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 21 games since returning from a left hamstring injury (missed 48 games during two stints on the disabled list). Ramos’ .906 OPS since his return on July 4 ranks third among big league catchers in that month-plus span, trailing only Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy (1.071) and Atlanta’s Brian McCann (.943).

JULIO ARE YOU

The Nationals have hit opposing starter Julio Teheran fairly well over the last couple of years, including seven players sporting .333 or better averages against him:

Bernadina: .333 (1-3)

Desmond: .444 (4-9)

Harper: .400 (2-5, BB, HR)

LaRoche: .333 (2-6, 3 BB)

Span: .667 (6-9)

Tracy: .667 (2-3)

Werth: .333 (2-6)

GIOLOGY

Gio Gonzalez faces the Braves for the first time since June 1, when he allowed a run on just three hits over seven frames while striking out seven in a no decision at Turner Field. Gonzalez has matched his career high with 11 strikeouts in each of his last two home starts. The lefty has fanned 72 batters in his last 62.0 innings (10.45 K/9 IP), spanning 10 starts.

What to Watch for: 8.5.13

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Atlanta Braves (67-45) Washington Nationals (54-57)

LHP Mike Minor (11-5, 2.75) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (5-9, 3.04)

Washington returns home for a nine-game, 11-day homestand beginning with three contests against the division-rival Braves. The Nationals have not played Atlanta since the first days of June, but will face the NL East leaders in six of their next 12 contests and nine more times before the end of the 2013 regular season. Stephen Strasburg, who has a 1.93 ERA (3 ER/14.0 IP) this year against the Braves, toes the rubber in the opener.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Harper CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Ramos C

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Rendon 2B

7. Lombardozzi LF

8. Hairston RF

9. Strasburg RHP

AWARD-WERTHY

Jayson Werth was named the National League Player of the Month for July, thanks to his league-leading 22 RBI and .450 on-base percentage. Werth’s .400 batting average since July 1 also paces all of Major League Baseball:

1. Jayson Werth (WAS) .400

2. Chris Johnson (ATL) .388

3. Kyle Seager (SEA) .376

4. Mike Trout (LAA) .375

5. Victor Martinez (DET) .374

HOMER HAPPY

With two more home runs on Sunday at Miller Park, the Nationals have hit 19 home runs in 14 games dating to July 21. The 19-in-14 power surge matches Washington’s best 14-game power output of the season. From April 6-21, the Nationals also hit 19 long balls in a span of 14 contests.

BELOW THE SURFACE

Four Nationals affiliates have already clinched post-season berths or currently lead their respective divisions: Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern League’s Western Division), Single-A Carolina (won Carolina League’s Northern Division first half, currently lead second half and own CL’s top overall record), High-A Hagerstown (won South Atlantic League, Northern Division first half) and Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals (lead GCL, East Division and own GCL’s top overall record). Earlier today, Tyler Moore was named Triple-A International League Player of the Week for the period ending August 4. Moore hit .308 (8-for-26) with three walks, four doubles, three home runs, five runs scored and 13 RBI to earn the citation.

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