Results tagged ‘ A.J. Cole ’

Nationals Game Notes: August 23 at Baltimore Orioles

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Washington Nationals (73-51) at Baltimore Orioles (68-56)
RHP Reynaldo Lopez [2-1, 4.37] | RHP Kevin Gausman [4-10, 4.11]
Tuesday, August 23 l Game #125 / Road #66 l Oriole Park at Camden Yards l Baltimore, M.D. l 7:05 P.M.
Television: MASN2 l Radio: 106.7 The Fan & Nationals Radio Network

EDGED OUT
The Nationals opened their four-game home-and-home series with a 4-3 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards on Monday night, edged in the one-run game by the O’s despite a strong outing from spot starter RHP A.J. Cole, as well as home runs from 3B Anthony Rendon and SS Danny Espinosa…Washington is just over halfway through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days that began on Aug. 12…Thus far, the Nationals are 6-5 with BAL (3 games), COL (3 games) and PHI (3 games) remaining before their next scheduled off day (Sept. 1).

  • At 73-51 (.589), the Nationals boast the second-best record in Major League Baseball, trailing only the Chicago Cubs (79-45, .637)…The Nationals and Cubs are the only 70-win teams in the NL…Reaching the 70-win mark in game No. 117, the 2016 Nationals are the fastest in club history to that total since the 2012 Nationals earned No. 70 in game No. 113.
  • WSH also ranks second in MLB with a +144 run differential, behind only the Cubs (+212).
  • The Nationals have lost back-to-back games for just the 14th time all season…Washington has only lost three or more consecutive games four times all year, and not since June 25.

INFIELD POP
The Nationals’ offense on Monday night was provided almost exclusively by their infield with 2B Daniel Murphy’s RBI-single driving in CF Trea Turner with the game’s first run, and then 3B Anthony Rendon and SS Danny Espinosa providing the power with solo home runs in the fourth and seventh innings, respectively…For Rendon, it was his 16th home run of the season, and for Espinosa his 19th.

  • The Nationals’ infielders (1B, 2B, SS, 3B) have combined to club 79 home runs this season, the third-most among all infield groups in the National League (eighth-most in the Major Leagues)…With Murphy and Espinosa primarily up the middle, the Nationals’ pivot players lead the Major Leagues with 40 combined home runs.
  • The home run, part of a 1-for-3 evening for Rendon that included a walk, pushed his average to .333 (38-for-114) with 12 doubles, seven homers, 25 RBI, 12 walks, three stolen bases, 21 runs scored, and just 16 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances since July 16…Rendon leads all NL 3B in doubles (30), ahead of CHI’s Kris Bryant (29).

HELLO, MR. HARPER
Nationals RF Bryce Harper has driven in runs in seven of his last nine games and reached base in all nine (.500 OBP).

  • Since returning to the Nationals’ lineup on Aug. 14, Harper is now 12-for-33 (.364) with three doubles, two home runs, 11 RBI, nine walks, eight runs scored and two stolen bases.
  • His 11 RBI are tied for fifth in the National League in this stretch, behind only Kris Bryant & Ryan Braun (12), Joey Votto (13), and Adrian Gonzalez (15).

RETURN OF THE Z-MAN
Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman returned from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday (left wrist contusion) and wasted no time making his presence felt…Zimmerman homered on the first pitch he saw, giving the Nationals an early 1-0 lead in the second inning, and finished the night 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored.

  • Saturday marked Zimmerman’s third three-plus hit game of the season (also May 4 at KC (three hits) and May 28 vs. STL (four hits)).
  • Going 1-for-4 with a double on Monday, Zimmerman is now 5-for-12 (.417) with a double, a home run, a walk, two RBI and three runs scored since his return to the active roster.
  • In 23 career games, Zimmerman is a .307 hitter at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, (27-for-88) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs, and 14 RBI to go with nine walks and just 10 strikeouts in 97 plate appearances.

Spring Training Preview: Starting Pitchers

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This spring, 63 players — each member of the Nationals’ 40-man roster, plus 23 additional non-roster invitees — will vie for the 25 spots on Dusty Baker’s Opening Day ball club. Over the next week, we will introduce these players in their position groups, beginning today with starting pitchers.

SPRING TRAINING NATIONALS

March 5 – Starting Pitchers

March 6 – Relief Pitchers

March 7 – Catchers

March 8 – Infielders

March 9 – Outfielders

A.J. COLE

2015 Season Totals: 5.79 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 0.96 BB/9, .394 BABIP, 0.1 fWAR

A highly-regarded right-handed pitching prospect, Cole saw his first Major League action in 2015. He opened the season with Triple-A Syracuse before being recalled to Washington on April 28 to make his MLB debut that night against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Cole later rejoined the Nationals in mid-May and made two relief appearances, converting his first save May 15 at San Diego. The Winter Springs, Fla. native went 5-6 with a 3.15 ERA in 21 games (19 starts) for Syracuse.

GIO GONZALEZ

2015 Season Totals: 3.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 8.66 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, .341 BABIP, 3.7 fWAR

Entering his fifth season in Washington, Gonzalez will look to improve upon his stellar 53-34 record as a member of the Nationals’ organization. The affable southpaw induced a career-high 53.8 percent ground ball rate in 2015, but was also stung by a .341 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). A correction to previous levels could be a key indicator for Gonzalez’s success in 2016, as his previous Nationals high was just .294 prior to last season.

TAYLOR JORDAN

2015 Season Totals: 5.29 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 5.82 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, .333 BABIP, 0.3 fWAR

Jordan, a local product out of Merritt Island High School and Brevard County Community College, enters the 2016 season looking to catch the eye of new manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Mike Maddux. The 6-foot-5 sinkerball specialist appeared in nine games (six starts) for the Nationals over the past two seasons, after earning nine starts and posting a 3.66 ERA over 51.2 innings in 2013. Jordan put together 19 solid outings at the Triple-A level a season ago, contributing a 2.95 ERA.

TANNER ROARK

2015 Season Totals: 4.38 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 5.68 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, .292 BABIP, -0.2 fWAR

One of the game’s biggest success stories in 2013 and 2014 when he compiled a 22-11 record with a 2.57 ERA, Roark will battle in Spring Training to return to the Nationals’ starting rotation on a full-time basis. The 29-year-old appeared in 40 games in 2015 (12 starts), picking up his first career save with a scoreless ninth inning on May 4 against the Miami Marlins. Roark had his best stretch of the season from July 25 to August 11, holding his opponents scoreless with a .103 batting average over six games.

JOE ROSS

2015 Season Totals: 3.64 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 8.10 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, .265 BABIP, 1.4 fWAR

Ross burst onto the scene for the Nationals in early June, making the leap from Double-A Harrisburg to the big leagues and holding his own at the highest level. Still just 22 years of age, the big right-hander posted historic numbers in his first seven starts, recording 47 strikeouts against just four walks in 45 innings pitched. Ross finished his rookie campaign with a 5-5 record and a 3.64 ERA over 16 games in Washington (13 starts), plus 2-2 with a 2.81 ERA in Double-A and 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in Triple-A.

SPRING TRAINING NATIONALSMAX SCHERZER

2015 Season Totals: 2.79 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 10.86 K/9, 1.34 BB/9, .268 BABIP, 6.4 fWAR

No hurler had ever authored two no-hit performances as dominant as the pair Scherzer turned in this past season, as the right-hander etched his name in the history books. Between his performances on June 20 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and October 3 against the New York Mets, Scherzer fired 18 no-hit innings, walked no opposing hitters and struck out 27. For the year, the first-year National compiled an 8.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the fifth-best mark in MLB history for a pitcher with 200 strikeouts.

STEPHEN STRASBURG

2015 Season Totals: 3.46 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 10.96 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, .311 BABIP, 3.4 fWAR

Strasburg recovered from early ankle and back ailments to deliver one of baseball’s best second-half performances, building momentum toward the 2016 campaign. Over his last 13 starts, Strasburg compiled an 8-2 record with a 1.76 ERA, held opponents to a .175 batting average and recorded a 112-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 82 innings. He enters the season just two strikeouts shy of Jordan Zimmermann’s team record and just 99 punchouts from the 1,000 mark for his career.

 

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

BRONSON ARROYO… 39-year-old veteran right-hander has 145 victories and a World Series ring.

PAULO ESPINO… Panamanian righty posted a 3.21 ERA in 117.2 IP for Triple-A Syracuse in 2015.

LUCAS GIOLITO… Nats’ consensus top prospect split time between Single-A and Double-A last season.

TAYLOR HILL… Made 22 starts for Triple-A Syracuse and added six relief appearances in Washington.

AARON LAFFEY… Southpaw has pitched in the Major Leagues for CLE, SEA, NYY, TOR, NYM and COL.

AUSTIN VOTH… 23-year-old righty with a 2.70 career ERA in three Minor League seasons.

 

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.

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Checking in from Spring Training

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Hello, everyone.

Let me start by stating that things could not be better here in Viera. The weather is wonderful, the workouts are crisp and the results have been encouraging. Yes, a team’s Grapefruit League winning percentage can, at times, be misleading, but winning games is always better than the alternative.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Seven wins, four losses and a tie. But what is most encouraging is how Manager Matt Williams has them playing the game. I love the aggressive base running. Taking an extra base. How fantastic was it to see Danny Espinosa score from second base on Saturday on a dribbler back to the pitcher? This brand of baseball really is infectious.

Fifteen home runs in 12 games. Only five allowed. That’s a good ratio.

Strong offensive starts from stalwarts like Ian Desmond (.286, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Adam LaRoche (2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (.474, HR, 10 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.389, HR, 2 RBI) among others.

And many of our young players are making their marks. Zach Walters is hitting .615 with four extra-base hits and five RBI. He is as hot as anyone. Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor have each made memorable catches in the outfield. Matt Skole hit .357 and four of his five hits went for extra bases before he was assigned to Minor League camp earlier this week so that he can get additional at-bats.

  • I have not even mentioned the pitching. There truly are too many to name, but I’ll risk mentioning three standouts: Taylor Jordan (team-leading 11 strikeouts), Jerry Blevins (3.2 hitless innings) and A.J. Cole (6.2 scoreless innings).

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

  • Forgive me if I think it is 2005 all over again watching Jamey Carroll and Luis Ayala perform admirably as they battle for roster spots. Jamey’s approach at the plate (.333 OBP), base running and defensive versatility are all a real plus. Meanwhile, Luis can throw a strike whenever he needs to. He has that same veteran savvy gene our friend Livan Hernandez had during his playing days.
  • And Matt Williams? What’s not to like? Crisp, precise and purposeful baseball usually yields wins. I love what Matt brings to our dugout and clubhouse. I especially like how our team has taken to his aggressive nature.
  • I was pleased to see President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo sign Michael Gonzalez to a Minor League deal last weekend. Gonzalez was a big part of our bullpen’s success in 2012 and there are very few southpaw relievers who can match his experience in tight situations. Welcome back Michael!
  • I just counted. Only three of the club’s 18 errors have been committed by players who were “regulars” in Washington last season. And one of those miscues was charged to Mr. Perfect, Denard Span! Remember, Denard did not commit an error last season. As I have said before, he should have won a Gold Glove!
  • I’d like to thank all of our fans in Central Florida, but especially those from our local area on the Space Coast (Viera, Melbourne and Rockledge). The crowds for the Cardinals and Yankees games in the last week were the two largest we have ever enjoyed hosting.
  • As for our fans from back home, I’ve had quite a few friends remark upon arrival in Viera about the significant pockets of Nationals fans on their flights from DC to Orlando. It’s hard to ignore all the smiles and Curly W shirts, sweaters and hats. It is great to see so many of our fans catching on to just how special Spring Training is.

Until next time …

Mark

Nationals Invite 18 Non-Roster Players to Major League Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

With Pitchers and Catchers set to report to Viera, Fla., in just three weeks, the Washington Nationals released their list of non-roster invitees on Friday – a list that includes players recently signed to Minor League deals as well as some of the organization’s top homegrown talent.farm graphic

The Nationals announced their deals with right-hander Gabriel Alfaro, infielder Jamey Carroll, right-hander Manny Delcarmen, infielder Mike Fontenot, right-hander Clay Hensley, right-hander Daniel Stange, infielder Brock Peterson and catcher Chris Snyder, who all signed Minor League contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training.

In addition, the Nationals extended invitations to Major League Spring Training to right-hander A.J. Cole, left-hander Tyler Robertson, left-hander Danny Rosenbaum, right-hander Blake Treinen, right-hander Chris Young, catcher Brian Jeroloman, infielder Josh Johnson, infielder Will Rhymes, infielder Matt Skole and outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Here’s a bit more about the new additions to the Major League clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium:

  • Cole and Goodwin, both top prospects, will take part in their first Major League Spring Training.
  • Cole, the No. 2 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America, went 10-5 with 3.60 ERA in 25 starts between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He tallied 151 strikeouts, third-most among Nationals farmhands, and his 102 strikeouts with Potomac were the most on the club, despite his promotion to Harrisburg on July 23rd. 
  • Goodwin led the Double-A Eastern League with 11 triples and was third in the league with 82 runs scored in 122 games for Double-A Harrisburg.  He tied for the team lead with 115 hits and paced qualified Senators in on-base percentage (.355) and slugging percentage (.407).  On the season, he hit .252 with 19 doubles, 10 homers, 40 runs batted in. The Rocky Mount, N.C. native is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the Nationals’ organization.
  • Alfaro, 30, struck out 12.0 batters per nine innings in 2013 while pitching for Guerreros de Oaxaca of the Mexican League. He went 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 26 saves in 63.0 IP (53 games).
  • Carroll, a career .272 hitter, spent the 2013 season with Minnesota before being traded to Kansas City on August 11th.  The 39-year old was selected by the Montreal Expos in 1996 and spent his first four Major League seasons (2002-05) with the Montreal/Washington franchise before stints with Colorado (2006-07), Cleveland (2008-09), Los Angeles-NL (2010-11), Minnesota (2012-13) and Kansas City (2013). An original member of the Nationals, Carroll is one of six members of the 2005 Nationals who are still active. The others: Marlon Byrd, Endy Chavez, John Rauch, Luis Ayala and Ryan Zimmerman.
  • Delcarmen has spent parts of six MLB seasons pitching for Boston and Colorado, amassing an 11-8 record to go along with a 3.97 ERA in 298 games.  The 31-year old spent the 2013 season in Baltimore’s chain, appearing in 48 games for Triple-A Norfolk, going 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA.
  • Fontenot, 33, spent the 2013 season in Tampa Bay’s organization, playing 120 games for Triple-A Durham. He hit .264 with 32 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 42 runs batted in and 53 runs scored for the Bulls. Fontenot last appeared in the Major Leagues with Philadelphia in 2012 and previously spent time with San Francisco (2010-11) and Chicago-NL (2005-10).
  • Hensley has spent parts of seven Major League seasons pitching for San Diego (2005-08), Miami (2010-11) and San Francisco (2012), going 28-34 with 10 saves and a 4.00 ERA in 271 big league games.  The 34-year-old went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 33 relief appearances with Triple-A Louisville (CIN), Triple-A Nashville (MIL) and the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League last season.
  • Stange, 28, struck out 73 batters in 65.2 innings between Triple-A Tucson (SDP) and Triple-A Salt Lake City (LAA) in 2013.  He went 5-1 with a 4.52 ERA in 52 games between the two organizations last season, appearing in three games for Los Angeles (AL).
  • Peterson led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with 25 home runs and was second in the league in slugging percentage (.531) and OPS (.895) in 2013.  He hit .296 with 30 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 86 RBI, 44 walks and 69 runs scored in 122 games for St. Louis’ top affiliate.  The 30-year old made his Major League debut on July 20th vs. San Diego and appeared in 23 games for the Cardinals.
  • Snyder, 32, returns to the Nationals after spending the 2013 season in the Los Angeles (AL) and Baltimore organizations. He combined to hit .273 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 45 RBI and a .330 OBP in 73 Triple-A contests with Salt Lake (Pacific Coast League, 21 games) and Norfolk (International League, 52 games).

Pitchers and catchers are slated report to the Nationals’ Spring Training facility in Viera, Fla., by Thursday, Feb. 13. Position players must report by Feb. 18, and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 20.

MiLB Postseason Preview

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While the Major League club continues to fight its uphill climb toward the fifth and final postseason spot in the National League, the Washington Nationals Minor League system has combined to compile quite a year. Four of the six stateside affiliates clinched postseason spots, with one already taking home its league title.

After cruising through the regular season, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals swept through the postseason to claim the GCL Championship on Sunday.

Rafael Bautista hit .322 and tied for the GCL lead with 26 stolen bases. (Cliff Welch/MiLB)

Rafael Bautista hit .322 and tied for the GCL lead with 26 stolen bases. (Cliff Welch/MiLB)

The GCL Nats, who set a Minor League Baseball record for the best domestic regular-season winning percentage (49-9, .845), defeated the GCL Pirates in a one-game semifinal on Friday, 6-1, to reach the best-of-three championship. On Saturday, they snatched a 10-3, come-from-behind win over the GCL Red Sox at the Washington Nationals Training Complex in Viera, then followed that with a 7-2 win, in Game 2 on the road in Fort Myers to earn the title.

The pitching staff, which led the league in ERA, WHIP and shutouts this season, compiled a 1.67 ERA through the playoffs, led by righty Wander Suero and southpaw Hector Silvestre. Suero tossed five solid innings in the clincher, allowing just one run on one hit with seven strikeouts, while Silvestre shut down the Pirates in the semifinal with six shutout innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out seven.

Offensively, the GCL Nats showed pop in all three playoff games, but impressively used an eight-run outburst in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the Championship Series to erase a 3-0 GCL Red Sox lead. Randy Encarnacion collected five hits, four runs scored and five RBI throughout the three-game postseason run, while Drew Ward added four hits, three runs and four RBI.

The Nationals have three other playoff-bound affiliates remaining, with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns, High-A Potomac Nationals and Double-A Harrisburg Senators and each headed for the postseason.

South Atlantic League First Half Northern Division Champion Hagerstown (80-57) will take on the West Virginia Power (Pirates) in a best-of-three series, where the Suns will have the home-field advantage for the final two games. The series opens Wednesday at 7:05 p.m., while the Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) and Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) battle for the Southern Division title.

Two Hagerstown representatives earned SAL All-Star honors in second baseman Tony Renda and Manager Tripp Keister. Renda leads the league in games played (134), at-bats (517), doubles (43) and runs scored (99). Keister is in his first season with the Suns after helming the GCL Nationals last year. Both were also named as midseason All-Stars.

Potomac (84-55) claimed both first- and second-half Carolina League Northern Division titles and will face the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) in a best-of-three set starting Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Pfitzner Stadium. By virtue of winning both halves, the P-Nats will enjoy home-field advantage for all three games of the series, should a third game be necessary. The winner will take on either the Salem Red Sox or Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers) in the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series.

The Harrisburg Senators will begin postseason play on Wednesday. (Will Bentzel)

The Harrisburg Senators will begin postseason play on Wednesday. (Will Bentzel)

Potomac righty reliever Robert Benincasa and outfielders Michael Taylor and Billy Burns were chosen as year-end Carolina League All-Stars. The trio ties the P-Nats with the Carolina Mudcats (Indians) for most representatives on the roster. Benincasa has registered 25 saves in 26 chances between Hagerstown and Potomac this season, logging a 3.54 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28.0 innings since his promotion in June. Taylor leads the league in doubles (39) and extra-base hits (55) and has also fired 20 outfield assists this season. Burns, who was recently promoted to Harrisburg, led the Carolina league in batting average (.312) and steals (54) in 91 games.

Burns and Harrisburg (77-65) will face the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs, as the Senators wrapped up their Western Division title with a 1-0 shutout Monday. They will play in a best-of-five set starting Wednesday, and the winner will advance to the Eastern League Championship series for another best-of-five showdown with either the Binghamton Mets or Trenton Thunder (Yankees).

The Senators feature a dynamic starting rotation, headlined by righthanders Nathan Karns and A.J. Cole, and rising lefty Robbie Ray. Karns, who made his Major League debut in May, went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 132.2 innings this year for Harrisburg. Cole, acquired from Oakland prior to the season, had a terrific finish in Double-A after starting the season in Potomac. He went 4-2 in seven starts for the Senators, compiling a 2.18 ERA and 0.904 WHIP in 45.1 innings of work. The 21-year-old Ray capped off a breakthrough campaign with an 11-5 record across two levels, striking out a system-high 160 batters in 142 innings.

To catch all the Nationals Minor League postseason action streaming online, click here for gameday audio listings.

All-Star Performances All Around

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With the combination of his star power and raw power, Bryce Harper is the most nationally known of Washington’s performers during All-Star Week at Citi Field. However, the Nationals have had a presence in nearly every facet of the festivities, and those stories should not be overlooked. Before the Midsummer Classic takes place Tuesday night, we take a look back through the events of the past three days.

Sunday: A.J. Cole Saves the Future for the USA

A.J. Cole earned the save in the Futures Game.

A.J. Cole earned the save in the Futures Game.

On Sunday afternoon, while the Nationals were taking care of business against the Miami Marlins in the final game before the All-Star break, some of the brightest prospects in the game assembled at Citi Field for the Futures Game. Pitting the best American Minor Leaguers against those from around the world, the game has become a showcase event that marks the beginning of the week of exhibitions.

This year’s Futures Game was a low-scoring, well-fought contest, in which the teams exchanged leads, with the U.S. team adding a run in the eighth to lead 4-2 heading to the ninth. Giants Minor League hurler Kyle Crick walked two of the first three batters he faced to put the tying run on base and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate with just one out. The U.S. Futures team turned to the bullpen and brought in Nationals prospect A.J. Cole – reacquired in the offseason deal that also netted Ian Krol and Blake Treinen – to finish the job. Cole punched out Mariners prospect Ji-Man Choi looking, then induced a grounder to second base from another Giants farmhand, Jesus Galindo, to end the game and earn the save.

Sunday: Defending the MVP

Wege celebrates his home run with his teammates (Jeff Zelevansky)

Wege (center) celebrates his home run with his teammates.

As you may recall, last year’s MLB All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game featured a pair of Washington Nationals Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team members, Saul Bosquez and Matt Kinsey. Both players shined brightly in their time in the spotlight, as each went 3-for-3, with Kinsey also blasting a home run to lead his team to victory and earn the game’s MVP award. Needless to say, the bar had been set pretty high for Josh Wege, this year’s Wounded Warrior participant.

Not to be outdone, Wege, representing the Nationals, cranked a home run of his own off future Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas and nearly made a spectacular diving grab in the first inning, earning him co-MVP honors for the night.

“It’s just amazing to be on the field with this guys,” Wege said of his fellow athletes and celebrities. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The fans were amazing today.”

Monday: Bam Bam Reaches the Finals

Competing in his first-ever Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper was the youngest participant in the field of eight by nearly six years. But that didn’t stop him from putting up the most consistent display of anyone in the tournament, homering eight times in each of his three rounds and spraying the ball to all fields, advancing to the finals. But his final effort was not enough to best Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, who blasted 17 long balls during his opening round, the most of any player in a single round.

Check out a compilation of all of Harper’s home runs below, and don’t forget to watch him tonight as he starts in center field for the National League.

Follow The Leader

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“Cynicism is a poor substitute for critical thought and constructive action.”

Those were the words of Federal Reserve Chairman and Nationals Season Plan Holder Ben Bernanke last weekend, as he delivered the commencement address at Princeton University. And while he used them as guidance to a group of 20-somethings entering the real world for the first time, they are words that any Washington baseball fan could easily feel were spoken about their hometown nine as the team returns home here in early June.

The Nationals welcome the sweet-swinging Anthony Rendon back to the lineup.

The Nationals welcome the sweet-swinging Anthony Rendon back to the lineup.

At 27-28, the Nationals are not off to the start they, or many else, had hoped for. Injuries have hampered both the offense and the starting rotation through the opening third of the season. And yet, in spite of all that one could point to that has gone wrong, the team is still hovering around .500, in second place in the division. After a much-needed day off Monday, the team will get a big boost in the arm Tuesday with the return of their emotional leader, Jayson Werth.

Washington has not had Werth in the lineup since May 2, but he has been rehabbing his strained hamstring with the Potomac Nationals this past week. After a 9-for-16 stint over five games, including a two-homer performance on Sunday, Werth is a welcome piece back to the middle of a Nationals lineup still looking for consistent offensive production. He will bat second Tuesday night as Washington opens a six-game homestand against the Mets and Twins, bridging the gap between leadoff man Denard Span and the heart of the lineup.

An unknown to many Nationals fans, Krol brings a promising left-handed arm to the 'pen.

An unknown to many Nationals fans, Krol brings a promising left-handed arm to the ‘pen.

They also made a number of other moves, choosing the proactive route as they face a crucial juncture this season. In addition to bringing back Anthony Rendon, who had been promoted to Triple-A earlier this week, they also selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Ian Krol from Double-A Harrisburg.

While you probably know plenty about Rendon and his bat, Krol may be a new name to you. He was literally the proverbial “player to be named later” from the trade that also landed Minor League arms A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen and sent Michael Morse to Seattle this offseason. In 21 relief appearances with Harrisburg, the 22-year-old allowed just 14 hits and two earned runs in 26.0 innings pitched, striking out 29 while walking just seven. He provides a promising young left-handed arm out of the bullpen that the team has been in search of all season long.

So, you can take the view that the Nationals are a game under .500 in early June, or the one that sees them taking thoughtful, constructive action to make themselves better, just as their emotional backbone returns.

Surfing The Pipeline

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As you may have noticed, MLB.com released its Top 20 prospects for each team earlier this week as part of its MLB Pipeline debut. There should be a number of names familiar to many Nationals fans, as the Top 10 on the list closely parallels that of the Baseball America rankings filed just a few weeks ago. The BA rankings came out prior to Washington’s reacquisition of A.J. Cole, who would have (as we can figure out through deductive reasoning, by his appearance as the fourth and final Nationals prospect on the overall Top 100) ranked in the top five. As such, seven of the same players appear among the 10 on each list.

Here is the full list of MLB.com’s Top 20, complete with links for those to whom we have already showcased one way or another within the last calendar year.

1. Anthony Rendon – INF

2. Brian Goodwin – OF

3. Lucas Giolito – RHP

4. A.J. Cole – RHP

5. Michael Taylor – OF

6. Nathan Karns – RHP

7. Eury Perez – OF

8. Destin Hood – OF

9. Matt Purke – LHP

10. Robbie Ray – LHP

11. Matt Skole – INF

12. Chris Marrero – INF

13. Sammy Solis – LHP

14. Zach Walters – INF

15. Christian Garcia – RHP

16. Taylor Jordan – RHP

17. Brandon Miller – OF

18. Sandy Leon – C

19. Jason Martinson – INF

20. Kylin Turnbull – LHP

Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more prospect coverage as Curly W Live heads to Spring Training in just a couple more weeks!