Nationals select eight players on second day of MLB’s 2015 Draft

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by Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals selected eight players on the second day of Major League Baseball’s 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

Assistant General Manager & Vice President of Scouting Operations Kris Kline said the Nationals are always focused on taking the best player available in the draft.

“Once we got past the first group there, we tried to focus on some pitching. We got two or three quality left-handed arms,” Kline said. “We are always trying to take the best player available and obviously money is a factor at this point and we have to be careful with that, and that’s kind of how it played out this year. We’re very excited about it through.”

The Nationals kicked off the action by selecting outfielder Rhett Wiseman (Vanderbilt University) with their third-round pick (103rd overall).  During the regular season, Wiseman ranked among Southeastern Conference hitters in runs scored (2nd, 66), total bases (4th, 149), walks (T6th, 39), home runs (T6th, 14) slugging percentage (8th, .567), hits (9th 83) and triples (10th, 4). His .318 batting average ranks second on the club and his 14 home runs are tied for second.

Omaha, NE - JUNE 24:  Rhett Wiseman #8 of the Vanderbilt Commodores singles against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first inning during game two of the College World Series Championship Series on June 24, 2014 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Omaha, NE – JUNE 24: Rhett Wiseman #8 of the Vanderbilt Commodores singles against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first inning during game two of the College World Series Championship Series on June 24, 2014 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

In the fourth round, the Nationals selected right-handed pitcher Mariano Rivera Jr., the son of former Major League great Mariano Rivera. Rivera Jr. went 5-7 with a team-leading 2.65 ERA (25 ER/85.0 IP) in 14 games (14 starts) for Iona College. He was named 2015 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Pitcher of the Year after leading the league with 113 strikeouts and posting a 1.81 ERA in conference play.

“I really like this kid and our scout John Malzone, he tracked him a lot this year,” said Washington’s National Crosschecker, Jeff Zona. “He sits mid-90s with his fastball with a power 80 mile per hour curveball. It was very impressive. He was one of my favorites and I think we got a good one.”

rivera

As expected, Rivera Jr., has garnered much attention for being the son of one of the greatest closers in Major League Baseball history. “As scouts, anytime we go watch a kid that has Major League bloodlines – you look at the Boone family – there is something to be said for that,” Kline said. “It is a positive thing and the fact that Mariano’s kid is as good as he is right now, I’m sure his father had a lot to do with that. He has the genes. He’s not a tall kid, but he’s got big shoulders, long arms, big hands and that really helps as far as the durability for that size. His stuff is above average to well above average at times.”

The Nationals selected lefthander Taylor Hearn out of Oklahoma Baptist University with their fifth round pick. Hearn went 9-0 with a 3.50 ERA in 15 games/13 starts in 2015. He struck out 71 batters in 64.1 innings pitched. His nine wins ranked tied for third in the Sooner Athletic Conference and his 71 strikeouts were good for tenth.

In the sixth round, the Nationals selected the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Pitcher of the Year, Matt Crownover, a left-handed pitcher out of Clemson (SC) University. He led the ACC in wins (10), ranked second in ERA (1.82), and was third in strikeouts (108).

On Crownover, Kline said: “He ended up being the ACC Pitcher of the Year and his numbers for his career are outstanding. In the end, as a professional, you’re probably looking at a four or five starter or possibly a bullpen guy that can fill multiple roles. The stuff is good – up to 92 mph – with solid secondary stuff. He really knows how to pitch.”

The Nationals selected Nicholls (LA) State University left-handed pitcher Grant Borne with their seventh round pick. Borne led the Southland Conference with a 1.39 ERA and ranked fourth in the league in strikeouts (93). He went 6-5 in 15 starts.

In the eighth round, the Nationals selected Oklahoma State reliever Koda Glover. The right-handed Glover posted a 1.90 ERA (5 ER/23.2 IP) in 23 appearances out of the bullpen in 2015. He struck out 28 against just seven walks.

Washington selected the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, University of Illinois first baseman David Kerian in the ninth round. At the time of the announcement, Kerian led the Big Ten in average (.383), home runs (13), slugging percentage (.661) & on-base percentage (.467).

Kline on Kerian: “He’s a switch hitter with an advanced approach to hitting, and area scout Steve Arnieri spent a lot of hours with this kid. Steve was really excited about this kid. He ended up being the Big Ten Player of the Year.”

In the tenth and final round of the day, the Nationals selected Taylor Guilbeau out of the University of Alabama. Guilbeau went 3-6 wth a 3.69 ERA in 15 starts during his senior season at Alabama.

Over the first two days of the three-day Draft, the Nationals have selected a total of ten players: two right-handed pitchers, four left-handed pitchers, three outfielders and one infielder. Of Washington’s ten selections, one came from the high school ranks and nine from four-year universities.

 

Nationals select a pair of outfielders on first day of 2015 Draft

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by Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals selected collegiate outfielder Andrew Stevenson (Louisiana State University) with the 58th-overall pick, and outfielder Blake Perkins (Verrado High School) with the 69th-overall pick in the 2015 First Year Player Draft on Monday night.

Andrew Stevenson – OF – Louisiana State University

The speedy 6-foot, 184-pound junior is considered one of the top defensive center fielders in the Nation and one of the best hitters in one of the best baseball conferences in the country, the Southeastern Conference (SEC). He was selected in the second round as compensation for the Nationals not signing their 2014 second round pick.

“We’re adding to our already-fertile stable of athletes,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “Stevenson is a guy that is a plus-plus runner. We have him at a 70-80 (on a 20-80 scale) as far a speed goes. He’s got ability to steal bases. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder. We think he’s got the ability to be a leadoff type of guy in the future and a guy who adds to our athleticism and speed part of the game.”

Stevenson was named First-Team All-SEC following the 2015 season after ranking near the top of the league in batting average (6th, .356), hits (T6th, 84), triples (T6th, 5) runs scored (T9th, 53), and stolen bases (3rd, 26). A three-year starter in center field, Stevenson excels defensively and is a two-time (2014, 2015) SEC All-Defensive Team selection.

A native of Youngsville, La., Stevenson led LSU in hitting (.356) and on-base percentage (.407). He also recorded 12 doubles, five triples, one homer, 21 RBI, 16 walks, 26 stolen bases and 53 runs scored in 59 games for the Tigers. Stevenson will continue to play this weekend as the Tigers have advanced to the 2015 College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

“We’ve always liked him,” said Nationals Assistant General Manager & Vice President of Scouting Operations Kris Kline. “He does have the ability to center the baseball. He has good hand-eye coordination. He’s actually had more success with a wood bat, and that showed up in the Cape Cod League. He’s always had a very good feel to hit and the other tools — we love the athletic ability and we see him as an every day center fielder in the big leagues.”

Prior to the 2015 season, Stevenson was named a 2015 Preseason All-American by Perfect Game.

As a sophomore in 2014, Stevenson led LSU and ranked eighth in the SEC in hitting (.335) while recording seven doubles, five triples, 32 RBI, 14 walks, nine stolen bases and 41 runs scored in 61 games (59 starts). He earned SEC Academic Honor Roll and 2014 SEC All-Defensive Team honors following the season.

Following his sophomore season, Stevenson helped the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to the 2014 Cape Cod League title. He hit .327 with nine doubles, one triple, one homer, 16 RBI, 21 stolen bases and 30 runs scored en route to being named a 2014 Cape Cod League All-Star.

Stewart is a graduate of St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, LA where he was named a 2012 Louisville Slugger High School All American and a Baseball America Third-Team All American. He also earned All-District and All-Acadiana honors as a wide receiver on the school’s football team.

Blake Perkins – OF – Verrado (AZ) High School

The 6-foot, 180 pound righty hit .461 (41-for-89) with eight doubles, eight triples, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 23 walks and 51 runs scored in just 29 games during his senior season at Verrado High School in Buckeye, Ariz. He posted a .583 on-base percentage, a .966 slugging percentage and a 1.549 OPS while striking out just 16 times. Perkins was selected with Washington’s second round pick.

“We’re going to give him the chance to switch hit,” said Kline. “He’s been doing that since he was a freshman in high school but never really took it into the game. He did it at the (pre-draft) workout for us and it was loose. (Nationals Hitting Coach) Rick Schu liked it a lot, so that makes him a little more versatile.”

Perkins was named a 2015 Honorable Mention All-American and a West Region First Team by Perfect Game and was selected to the Arizona Republic All-Arizona Team for the second consecutive season.

“I think the biggest thing about Blake is the athleticism and the passion and fire that burns on the field with him,” said Mark Baca, the Nationals’ Scouting Supervisor. “He’s got tremendous tools and is a really, really good athlete. The switch hitting obviously helps him with his speed. He’s a highlight reel. He’s a really good athlete and will progress well in this system.

Following the 2014 season, Perkins earned Division 2 First-Team All-State honors in the state of Arizona and was selected to the All-Arizona Team by the Arizona Republic after hitting .551 (49-for-89) with nine doubles, three homers, 10 home runs, 30 walks and 60 runs scored in 30 games.

The 2015 First-Year Player Draft will continue on Tuesday, June 9th at 1:00 pm ET.

Nationals Select Contract of RHP Joe Ross

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by Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Joe Ross, optioned right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole to Triple-A Syracuse, and moved right-handed pitcher Craig Stammen to the 60-day disabled list on Saturday. President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcements.

 

                Ross, 22, joins the Nationals for his first Major League assignment after going 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA (16 ER/51.1 IP) in nine starts for Double-A Harrisburg. He has struck out 54 while allowing 46 hits and walking 12 over those nine starts. At the time of his promotion, Ross ranked among Eastern League pitchers in ERA (T10th, 2.81) and strikeouts (4th, 54). His 54 strikeouts led all Washington Minor Leaguers while his 2.81 ERA was good for fourth.

 

                Ross’ most impressive start of the season came on April 25 vs. Reading (PHI) when he struck out eight batters in 7.0 innings of two-hit, shutout ball in Harrisburg’s 7-4 win. In his most recent start on May 31 at Bowie (BAL), Ross allowed one earned run on three hits in 7.0 innings of work, striking out seven and not walking a batter in the 6-4 defeat.

 

Ross was acquired, along with a player to be named later, from the San Diego Padres in a three-team trade that sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and Minor League left-handed pitcher Travis Ott to the Tampa Bay Rays on December 18, 2014. He was originally selected by the Padres in the first round (25th overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He is a native of Berkeley, California where he attended Bishop O’Dowd High School. Ross’ older brother, Tyson, pitches for the San Diego Padres.

 

                Prior to being acquired by the Nationals, Ross was rated by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in San Diego’s chain. He went a combined 10-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 23 games/22 starts between Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio in 2014. While with Lake Elsinore, he was named a California League mid-season All-Star and garnered California League Pitcher of the Week honors on May 5. He was promoted to Double-A in mid-July and, following the season, was rated by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Single-A California League.      

 

                Cole, 23, has appeared in three games for Washington (one start), notching one save in 9.1 innings of work.

 

Stammen, 31, was originally placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 15 with a right forearm strain. He was 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five games (4.0 IP) prior to his injury. 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 reinstate INF Anthony Rendon and recall RHP A.J. Cole, option RHP Taylor Jordan and INF Wilmer Difo

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by Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated infielder Anthony Rendon from the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole from Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday. They optioned right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan to Triple-A Syracuse and infielder Wilmer Difo to Double-A Harrisburg.

Rendon, 24, missed the first 53 games of the 2015 season recovering from a left knee sprain, and then a left oblique strain. He returns to the Nationals’ active roster after eight total Minor League rehab games (five on his most recent assignment). Over the course of his rehab, Rendon hit .250 with three doubles, three RBI, three walks and one run scored in eight games for Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals’ first-round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Rendon is coming off a superb 2014 season in which he took home the National League Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award for third basemen and finished fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Rendon, who is an exceptional defender at second and third base, hit .287 with 39 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs, 83 RBI, 58 walks and 111 runs scored in 153 games in 2014. The gifted infielder ranked fourth in the Major Leagues (second in the NL) in wins above replacement (6.6), according to FanGraphs.com, at the conclusion of the season.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23:  Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals warms up before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on April 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Cole, 23, returns to the Nationals for his third Major League assignment of 2015. He has appeared in three games for the Nationals, recording his first career save on May 15 at San Diego. In six games for Triple-A Syracuse, he is 0-2 with a 3.26 ERA. Cole entered the 2015 season ranked as the Nationals’ No. 6 prospect, and the No. 91 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.

Difo, 23, appeared in five games in his first big league assignment. The Nationals’ No. 7 prospect and “Best Defensive Infielder” in Washington’s system, according to Baseball America, went 1-for-5 during his call-up. He picked up the first Major League hit of his career in his first at-bat, a pinch-hitting appearance on May 19 vs. the New York Yankees.

Jordan, 26, appeared in two games for the Nationals during his second MLB stint of 2015. He went 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA, making one relief appearance and one start for Washington.

Nationals RF Bryce Harper and RHP Max Scherzer take home monthly NL awards

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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).

Nationals recall RHP Taylor Hill, place RHP Stephen Strasburg on DL

The Washington Nationals recalled right-handed pitcher Taylor Hill from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday and placed right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with neck tightness
 
Hill, 26, joins the Nationals for the first time this season. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA (25 ER/51.2 IP) in nine starts with Triple-A Syracuse. His last start for the Chiefs came on May 25 at Norfolk, where he earned the win, allowing two earned runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings of work.
 
Hill entered 2015 rated by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Washington’s chain and is cited as having the “Best Control” of any pitcher in the Nationals’ Minor League system.
 
A sixth-round selection in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt University, Hill made his Major League debut in 2014, appearing in three games (one start) for the Nationals last season.  
 
Strasburg is 3-5 with a 6.55 ERA in 10 starts this season. He was removed from his start Friday night in Cincinnati in the bottom of the second inning.

Nationals reinstate RHP Casey Janssen, place LHP Sammy Solis on 15-day DL

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated right-handed pitcher Casey Janssen on Friday and placed left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 18, with left shoulder inflammation.

Janssen, 33, joins the Nationals’ active roster for the first time this season after missing the first 41 games with right shoulder inflammation. The eight-year Major League veteran, who signed with the Nationals this past February, made six rehab appearances between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched and held opponents to a .182 batting average.

No stranger to late-inning relief, Janssen brings 90 career saves to the Nationals’ bullpen. The right-hander is a career 29-24 with a 3.52 ERA in 493.0 innings pitched, including five consecutive Major League seasons with an ERA of 3.95 or lower.

In 2014, Janssen was 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA over 45.2 innings pitched. From 2011-2013, however, Janssen was 11-2 with a 2.46 ERA while appearing in 173 games (102 games finished), racking up 58 saves, 170 strikeouts, and posting a 0.977 cumulative WHIP over 172.0 innings pitched.  Before the All-Star break in 2014, Janssen was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 23 games (22 IP) with 14 saves.

Solis, 26, is 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA in five appearances. Called up for his first Major League assignment on April 29, Solis began his Major League career with six scoreless innings over three appearances, including his impressive Major League debut (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 K), vs. the New York Mets on April 30 at Citi Field.

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 RF Bryce Harper wins NL Player of the Week again

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by Amanda Comak

 

 Following an historically powerful week with an encore that continued to solidify his place among the game’s elite, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper earned his second consecutive National League Player of the Week award on Monday. 

 

Harper went 12-for-23 (.522) over the last week, posting a .656 on-base percentage and a 1.087 slugging percentage, courtesy of two doubles, one triple, three home runs, nine RBI, nine walks, 10 runs scored and two stolen bases. In the month of May, Harper is hitting .411 with a .529 OBP and a .982 SLG. 

 

Since the inception of the award in 1974, the Nationals’ 22-year-old right fielder is just the 10th player in its history to take home back-to-back Player of the Week honors.

 

Harper joins Domonic Brown (2013: May 20-26; May 27-June 2), Andrew McCutchen (2012: July 2-8; July 9-15), Matt Kemp (2012: April 4-8; April 9-15), Troy Tulowitzki (2010: Sept. 6-12; Sept. 13-19), Jose Reyes (2006: June 12-18; June 19-25), Jason Bay (2006: May 15-21; May 22-28), Jeff Bagwell (1994: June 13-19; June 20-26), Tony Gwynn (1988: July 4-10; July 11-17), and Jason Thompson (1982: April 26-May 2; May 3-9) as consecutive winners

 

Breaking Harper’s splits down to just the last 11 games (since May 6), he is 22-for-39 (.564) with 22 RBI. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other player in the last 75 seasons to compile a batting average over .550 with at least 22 RBI in an 11-game span during a single season was Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker. Walker, who hit .571 with 22 RBI during 11 games in April, 1997, was the first to tally such gaudy numbers since Rudy York (.556, 26 RBI) did it for the Detroit Tigers in Sept. 1940.

 

Thanks to his torrid pace, Harper now leads the Major Leagues in the following categories: runs (36), RBI (37), walks (36), on-base percentage (.476), slugging percentage (.729), OPS (1.206), at-bats per home run (9.50), plate appearances per walk (4.72) and WAR (3.5 per Baseball Reference). He also leads the National League in home runs (14, 2nd in MLB) and intentional walks (5).


This is the second Player of the Week award of Harper’s careerfollowing last week’s honors, and the 13th such honor for the Nationals organization. 

 

He joins Jordan Zimmermann (Sept. 22-28, 2014; June 2-8, 2014), Adam LaRoche (Sept. 1-7, 2014), Jayson Werth (June 30-July 6, 2014), Ryan Zimmerman (July 16-22, 2012; Aug. 15-21, 2011; July 30-Aug. 5, 2007), Stephen Strasburg (June 7-13, 2010), Josh Willingham (July 27-Aug. 2, 2009), Cristian Guzman (Aug. 25-31, 2008), and Nick Johnson (May 31-June 6, 2005) as honorees.

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