Tagged in: Washington Nationals

Schwarber’s 12th homer in 10 games helps Nats over .500

Kyle Schwarber led off the first inning with his 12th home run in 10 matches, and the Washington Nationals defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Tuesday night to move above .500 for the first time since the opening week of the season.

Schwarber tied Albert Belle in 1995 for the most home runs over a 10-game span since at least 1901. He has 16 home runs in 18 games since being moved into the leadoff spot in the Nationals’ batting order on June 8.

Schwarber drove Rich Hill’s first pitch, an 83 mph fastball, 434 feet off the upper-deck facade in right for his major league-leading seventh leadoff home run — all in June. Schwarber’s 16 home runs this month are the second-most in any June behind Sammy Sosa’s 20 in 1998.

The 28-year-old Schwarber is batting .253 with 25 homers and 53 RBI. He is tied in home runs with San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., three shy of the major league-leading total of the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and one back of Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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Schwarber became a free agent Dec. 2 when the Chicago Cubs failed to offer a 2021 contract.

He agreed in January to a $10 million, one-year contract with the Nationals calling for a $7 million salary, a deal that contains an $11.5 million mutual option for 2022 with a $3 million buyout.

Juan Soto followed two batters later with a two-run drive, and Victor Robles added a solo homer in the second for a 4-0 lead off Hill (6-3).

Washington has won three consecutive and 12 of 15 and at 39-38 has a winning record for the first time since beating Atlanta on opening day.

Joe Ross (5-7) gave up two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings for his third victory in his four outings.

Brad Hand allowed Mike Zunino’s 17th homer leading off the ninth, then got three straight outs for his 18th save in 20 chances.

Brandon Lowe hit his 16th homer in the fifth, and Kevin Kiermaier doubled in a run in the sixth. Hill gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.

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Schwarber goes deep again for Nats in 3-2 win over Pirates

Kyle Schwarber homered again to snap a seventh-inning tie and drove in two runs for the Washington Nationals in their 3-2 triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

Jon Lester pitched 5 1/3 solid innings to help the Nationals win for the third time in four matches.

Schwarber’s homer was his fourth in three days. The Nationals moved him to the leadoff spot Saturday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader. He led off that game with a home run, hit two more on Sunday and launched the go-ahead shot this time against reliever Clay Holmes (2-2).

Schwarber also had an RBI single in the third and walked. His lone out was a line drive caught by leaping second baseman Adam Frazier in the first inning.

Lester made it into the sixth for just the fourth time in nine starts this season. He allowed a leadoff double, then got a line-drive out before being removed. The 37-year-old left-hander is averaging 4 2/3 innings per start this year.Wander Suero replaced him and allowed a soft single and Erik Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly that tied it at 2.

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Kyle Finnegan (3-2) struck out two in a hitless inning for the win. Brad Hand pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save in 14 tries.

Schwarber pushed Victor Robles home with his single in the third. Juan Soto’s single drove in Trea Turner to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead later in the inning.

Kevin Newman started the scoring with his second homer of the season to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the second.

Pittsburgh starter JT Brubaker permitted two runs and four hits in five innings.

Washington ace Max Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive committee and one of just two association player representatives. So, when he speaks on a broad topic, his words carry weight beyond his Hall of Fame pitching résumé.

He was asked Monday about Major League Baseball’s expected crackdown on pitchers using the “sticky stuff” to improve their grip, and, at times, spin rates, when throwing the baseball.

“There’s solutions to all of us and how we go forward with this and what should be the rules of what the practice should be,” Scherzer stated.

“And specifically, what hitters want. I think that’s the biggest question: What do hitters want? We’ve heard from a lot of hitters. All the hitters that talk publicly, they want the pitchers to have a tack over the baseball, a grip over the baseball. So what that looks like, that’s a conversation we’ll have.”

Scherzer also mentioned he knew as much about baseball’s prospective enforcement as reporters did, meaning MLB is not communicating with the union about it.

“Whatever’s been written is what we know,” Scherzer said. “There hasn’t been additional information other than that.”

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George Springer debuts for Toronto Blue Jays, goes 0-for-4 in loss to Washington Nationals

Erick Fedde went six strong innings, Josh Harrison hit a three-run homer and the Washington Nationals defeated Toronto 8-2 in George Springer’s Blue Jays debut Wednesday night.

Fedde (2-2) permitted one run and two hits, including a fifth-inning solo homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The right-hander struck out seven and walked three.

“With cutter, sinker, the combination is really good because he works both sides of the plate,” Washington manager Dave Martinez stated. “Today he threw a lot of curveballs, and it was effective for him as well. When you get can all those pitches in the strike zone as you can see he’s real tough to hit.”

Harrison got his third homer in 16 at-bats against Steven Matz (4-1), a three-run shot in the fourth that made it 6-0. Springer, who signed a team-record $150 million US, six-year deal this off-season, went 0 for 4.

The World Series MVP when Houston won its first title in 2017 missed time in spring training and the start of the season because of a strained oblique and later due to a right quadriceps strain.

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“He ran fine, saw a lot of pitches, which is good,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Trea Turner had four hits and Josh Bell also homered for the Nationals.

Toronto got an eighth-inning solo homer from Bo Bichette.

Matz, obtained from the New York Mets in January after going 0-5 with a 9.68 ERA last season, had won his first four starts for Toronto. He gave up six runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings.

The lefty is 1-8 against Washington. Since the start of last season, Matz has permitted 22 earned runs and eight homers over 14 innings in four games versus the Nationals.

“He just wasn’t as sharp today,” Montoyo said. “He still has the stuff but didn’t locate as well.”

Ryan Zimmerman drove in two with a single during a three-run third. Bell hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Toronto loaded the bases with two outs in the third but failed to score when Turner, at short, fielded Randal Grichuk’s slow grounder barehanded and threw him out at first.

“I remember that ball just trickled by me … you’ve got to be kidding me,” Fedde said. “I think my initial reaction was `Oh no, it’s bare hand.’ Then an unbelievable play.”

Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is hitless in a career-long 34 at-bats.

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Jon Lester makes Washington Nationals debut 2 weeks after surgery

Jon Lester was back on a mound Thursday, wearing a Washington Nationals uniform while facing opposing batters for the first time in spring training and striking out a couple during his two innings, less than two weeks after surgery to remove a parathyroid gland.

“Baseball, for me, is an escape. I come to the field, I’ve got stuff I need to do. I forget about this,” Lester said, pointing the scar on the front of his throat, after Washington’s 3-1 exhibition victory versus the New York Mets at Port St. Lucia, Florida.

“So you dive into that routine,” the 37-year-old left-hander said.

Wearing a red Nationals No. 34 uniform, Bryce Harper’s old number, along with a green hat the day after St. Patrick’s Day, Lester permitted one run and one hit while throwing 31 pitches, 21 for strikes.

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He went to 0-2 counts on each of the first three Mets hitters, getting the first two out before walking J.D. Davis and giving up a first-pitch RBI double to James McCann. Then Lester pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, and that was that.

His operation was March 5 for hyperparathyroidism, which can affect the amount of calcium levels in the bloodstream and lead to someone tiring easily.

Lester said he had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night.

“Regardless of the surgery, there was still excitement leading up to this day. New team. … I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous,” said Lester, who signed as a free agent with Washington for one year and $5 million after six seasons and one World Series title with the Chicago Cubs. “I had the butterflies, which is always good.”

Another important takeaway: Lester thinks he’ll “be in a good position” to be ready when the regular season starts April 1.

Manager Dave Martinez agreed, figuring Lester should be up to about 75 pitches after three more exhibition starts.

“We’ll see how he gets up tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But I think he’s on the right track.”

Lester took it as a good sign that his changeup worked well. That’s usually the last pitch that gets into gear. “It’s definitely been a point of emphasis, as far as in my bullpens and just really playing catch with it,” Lester said.

“So it was nice to see the results, the couple swing and misses, out in front, and got maybe a couple foul balls on it.”

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Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman ‘nowhere close’ to retirement after 2020 opt-out

Back with the Washington Nationals after sitting out last campaign because of COVID-19 concerns, Ryan Zimmerman said Thursday the time away made him realize he is nowhere close to being ready to retire at age 36.

“I missed the game a lot,” Zimmerman said during a video call. “I missed what it takes to prepare every day. As you get older, there’s more and more you have to do to get ready, but I missed all of that, as well.”

The two-time NL All-Star was one of the first players to opt out in 2020. The father of a newborn son, and the son of a mother with multiple sclerosis, Zimmerman decided the safest course of action would be to not play amid a pandemic. There were other factors he contemplated, including whether he would need to change his pregame and postgame routines.

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“Was it really worth it for me to risk injury to myself, the health of my family, at the time, for a season that was 60 games? Who knows if people really thought it was going to make it through? If people thought it was going to count as a real season?” Zimmerman stated.

“I don’t really second-guess or wish I would’ve played.”

Arriving in Florida this time around — he brought his wife and three children — raised new questions.

“You just didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I was going to be the weird guy wearing a mask in the grocery store,” Zimmerman said. “… I think a lot more people are more aware now — obviously of themselves, but I think of other people, as well.

Hopefully if anything positive can come out of this, maybe we’ll start caring about other people more, which would be nice. But as far as being down here now for two weeks, I feel a lot more confident than I did flying down here.”

Zimmerman, the first amateur draft pick in Nationals history in 2005, is expected to be the backup to free-agent addition Josh Bell at first base.

“He’s faced all the guys I’m going to face this year,” Bell said. “He knows all the umpires, he knows all the zones, he knows the division more than anyone else on this squad.”

Washington’s first exhibition match is Sunday versus St. Louis, and Zimmerman hopes to appear in more Grapefruit League games, but fewer innings. “He’s the face of this organization — and he will be for a long time. He really will be,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “To have him back here, have him in that clubhouse, talking to the young players, it’s awesome.”

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Two-time All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann signs minor league deal with Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed former All-Star pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to a minor league contract that incorporates an invitation to major league camp, the team informed Tuesday.

Zimmermann, who turns 35 on May 23, pitched in just three matches for the Detroit Tigers last season due to a forearm injury after going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA in 2019. He was a two-time All-Star with the Washington Nationals, who selected him from Division III school Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the second round of the 2007 draft.

He described his injury as a “forearm flexor thing” and returned to make three September appearances last year, going 0-0 with a 7.94 ERA. Zimmermann says he now is as healthy as he’s been in a few years. “If I didn’t feel good or I didn’t feel healthy, I was probably thinking about retiring,” Zimmermann said.

“But I started working out, started running, started throwing and doing everything I normally do. The body feels good and the mind is telling me to keep going. I’m going to definitely give it another year, and we’ll see what happens after this year.”

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Zimmermann went 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA with the Nationals from 2009 to 2015, and he concluded seventh in the Cy Young Award voting in 2013 and fifth in 2014 while making the NL All-Star team both of those seasons.

He threw the first no-hitter in Nationals history when Washington beat the Miami Marlins 1-0 in the 2014 regular-season finale.

Zimmermann wasn’t nearly as effective after moving to the American League, posting a 25-41 record with a 5.63 ERA for Detroit over the past five seasons.

“If I didn’t have anything left, I probably would have retired and gone out on my own terms,” Zimmermann said. “But my body and my mind tell me, ‘You still have more left.’ Obviously, I want to go out there and stay healthy. I know I can get guys out. It’s definitely going to be nice getting back in the NL because I feel a lot more comfortable there than where I was.”

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Washington Nationals re-signing Josh Harrison to one-year contract

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with utility player Josh Harrison on a one-year, $1 million contract, the team informed Thursday.

Harrison spent the 2020 campaign with the Nationals after signing with them in July, less than a week after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies. The 33-year-old hit .278 with two doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, six walks and 11 runs scored for Washington. He hit .309 as a starter.

Harrison can make an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses as part of the deal: $50,000 for 200 plate appearances and additional increments of $50,000 up to 400. He made 91 plate appearances in 33 games during the 60-game 2020 season.

Harrison, a right-handed hitter, is a two-time All-Star who has started games at second base, third base, shortstop, designated hitter and both corner outfield spots during his 10 years in the majors.

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He played eight seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Detroit Tigers in 2019 and has compiled a career .273 batting average with 56 homers, 291 RBIs and 384 runs.

He was a National League All-Star in 2014 and 2017 for Pittsburgh. But Harrison hit .175 with one homer in 36 games for the Tigers last year before getting released in August 2019.

He had signed a minor league contract with the Phillies in November before they let him go in July.

“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game,” Harrison said last month. “I’m blessed. I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place, a better group of guys.”

Harrison is the first free-agent question addressed by the Nationals. Players entering free agency this offseason include infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Asdrúbal Cabrera, outfielder Michael A. Taylor, catcher Kurt Suzuki and pitchers Sean Doolittle and Roenis Elías.

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Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross opt out of 2020 season

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the 2020 campaign delayed by the coronavirus pandemic “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” the team informed Monday.

Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals’ first draft pick when the franchise moved out of Montreal and has played for the team since making his debut on Sept. 1, 2005.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020. “I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman wrote.

“My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

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Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats last season and had a dramatic home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

“Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year,” he said in Monday’s statement. “Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

He had been booked to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.

“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time,” he said in the statement. “I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship.”

Ross, 27, has five seasons of major league experience and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017. He appeared in 27 matches last season, going 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, and was in line to compete to be the Nationals’ fifth starter.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement of support Monday.

“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year.

We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.” Zimmerman and Ross became the second and third players known to opt out of the 2020 season on Monday, following Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.

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Ryan Zimmerman agrees to 1 year deal with Nationals

The Washington Nationals have retained their longest-tenured player after agreeing to a one-year deal with Ryan Zimmerman on Friday, pending a physical, according to the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga. 

The contract, which reportedly includes a $2 million base salary, could be worth as much as $5 million through various performance bonuses. 

The first baseman has spent his entire professional career with the Washington Nationals, including 15 years at the major league level. In that time, he earned two All-Star selections and one Gold Glove award while totaling 270 home runs and a .279 batting average.

His career with the team culminated last campaign with a World Series title, with Zimmerman hitting an important home run in Game 1 against Gerrit Cole and the Houston Astros.

Though the Nationals declined his 2020 option worth $18 million, they thought highly enough of him to re-sign him on a new deal.

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Injuries have kept the 35-year-old from being a full-time contributor in recent seasons; he only played 137 matches over the past two years combined. Zimmerman ended the 2019 campaign with a .257 batting average and six home runs in 52 games.

However, he’s only two years removed from an impressive 2017 season in which he ended with a .303 average, 36 home runs and 108 RBI while gaining MVP votes.

Though it was the only season since 2013 that he played more than 120 games, it showed he can still be an impact player when he stays on the field.

The Nationals are likely banking on this upside while keeping as much of the clubhouse intact as possible after securing the first World Series championship in franchise history. At the least, Zimmerman can provide help off the bench for a deep lineup next season.

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Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals

As expected, Washington Nationals right-hander and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has opted out of his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Nationals have not yet established the news. Strasburg is walking away from four years and $100 million. Saturday was the deadline to opt out.

Strasburg, 31, threw a National League leading 209 innings during the regular season, and ended with 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. He then threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA during Washington’s postseason run, including 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball with the season on the line in World Series Game 6.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May 2016.

The contract included heavy deferrals, as big Nationals contracts often do. Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar five years from now, the present day value of those four years is much less than $100 million. Strasburg would come out ahead financially simply by re-signing a new four-year, $100 million deal with no deferrals. 

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The Nationals will almost certainly try to re-sign Strasburg, who they selected with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009. He is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Gerrit Cole and could command upwards of six years and $150 million this winter, even at age 31 and with injuries throughout his career. That might even be selling him short.

Washington will also try to re-sign third baseman Anthony Rendon this winter. Should they lose Strasburg to free agency — I imagine his hometown Padres will make a big push to sign him — the Nationals would still have Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to front to the rotation going forward. 

The Nationals will undoubtedly make Strasburg the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, ensuring they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

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