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Weaknesses and Quick Trade Fixes for Washington Nationals

It is no secret the Washington Nationals expect to rebound after a disappointing 2013 to make a push for a World Series title in 2014.

The question is, what can they do to improve upon their team from last season to make the necessary adjustments in order to get there?

Fortunately for the Nationals, they have a solid core, and there are not a significant number of moves that need to be made. However, there are a few key ones that can spur the team to their ultimate goal. 

We watched the Nationals struggle out of the gate this season and end the year on a tear that gave the city some hope near the end of the season. This would suggest the Nationals need a bit more consistency, and the most obvious spots in which they can improve upon consistency is at first base, starting pitcher and second base.

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5 Reasons Washington Nationals Will Continue Comeback and Make Playoffs

The Washington Nationals are surging and will enter September in contention for a playoff spot. Entering the final day of August, the Nationals are 16-10 in the month, which has given them a reason to play meaningful baseball in September.

The pieces of the puzzle have been coming together for Washington. Perhaps they were not able to handle the early season hype that surrounded the team, but, as for now, they have a chance for redemption.

Going forward however, it is imperative that they have some of their most important pieces go far and beyond what they are capable of. If they do this, and get a little bit of luck, the Nats might once again be playing in October.

Let’s take a look at the keys to the Nationals’ success going forward.

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Washington Nationals Final Spring Training Stats for the Opening Day Lineup

After six weeks of preparation, the Washington Nationals will play their first game of the regular season on Monday afternoon. Spring training is officially in the books after their final tune-up against the New York Yankees on Friday afternoon.

After a long, grueling spring which welcomed new faces such as new starting center fielder Denard Span, the Nationals will be able to reflect on their successes and failures of the spring in hopes to come together for a championship run.

Let’s take a look at the spring training stats of all of the Nationals’ starters in their lineup spots as projected by

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Gio Gonzalez Celebrates His Innocence, Claims PED Tests Came Back Negative

The Washington Nationals and Gio Gonzalez could not have received any better news the day before Grapefruit League play began, as Gio Gonzalez addressed the media with fantastic results.

Amanda Comak of The Washington Times tweeted on Friday afternoon:

Bill Ladson of reported the statement Gonzalez made on Friday:

Like I said before, I’ve never taken performance enhancing drugs and I never will. Two days after the story broke, I was tested for blood and urine. Both came out negative like I expected. Throughout my entire career, it has been like that. I look forward to handling this with MLB and putting this behind me, and I’m looking forward to the season.

Gonzalez did not take any questions after addressing the media on Friday afternoon.

Gonzalez’s tests were conducted two days after the reports about his involvement initially surfaced. Gonzalez claimed innocence from day one of the initial reports and stated that he had not been involved with the Miami-based clinic. 

Gonzalez finished his first season in Washington with a 21-8 record while compiling a 2.89 ERA with 207 strikeouts. He figures to be an intricate part of the pitching arsenal in D.C., which will be spearheaded by Stephen Strasburg.

With this incident failing to derail the Nats and the first spring training game being played Saturday, it is all about baseball—hopefully until the end of October.

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Can the Washington Nationals Hold NL East Lead Without Michael Morse?

The Washington Nationals have been struggling all season through injuries and having players step up when key pieces go down in their lineup. Michael Morse, who began the season on the DL, is now facing another injury after getting plunked in the hand on Friday night.

Morse, who is hitting .286 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI, appeared to be in serious pain after taking the pitch to his right hand. According to Mark Zuckerman of, X-rays after the game revealed that there was no break in his hand.

Manager Davey Johnson told reporters (h/t Patrick Reddington,, “He’s got a bad bruise, but hopefully he’ll be alright in a few short days.” Although Davey is optimistic, a loss of Morse for even a few games still has to be concerning.

The Nationals lead the Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games but have never been tested down the stretch, let alone missing an intricate part of their offense. Morse has been their power threat for two seasons, and a loss of Morse at this point of the season could certainly cost the Nationals.

With the lead at 6.5 games, even losing Morse for a few games could be devastating. Should Morse miss three or four games and the Nationals lose the majority of those games, then the Braves would be in a position to make a surge for first place in the NL East. 

The Nationals are in a position to either let the Braves hang around or deliver the finishing blow over the next few days. The task will not become easier without Morse in the lineup, and the next few days could very well prove whether or not Washington is up to the task of running away with the East or wavering when times get tough.

From what we have seen from the Nationals this season, it should not be surprising if they continue to find ways to persevere; after all, they do boast the best record in MLB.

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Bryce Harper’s Second-Half Struggles Earn Him Another Benching for 70-Win Nats

Bryce Harper started the season strong for the Washington Nationals, providing the spark that they needed when the injury bug hit the team. However, since the All-Star break it seems as though the phenom sensation has hit a bit of a wall and will find himself on the bench again on Saturday night.

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, Harper will get Saturday night off in favor of Tyler Moore. This will be Harper’s second game off in the last three. Moore has had a nice season to this point, with a .296 average entering Saturday night’s game.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson revealed the decision after Washington’s seventh consecutive win on Friday night, telling Amanda Comak of The Washington Times,

I might as well tell you now, I’m going to get Tyler Moore in the lineup because once Werth got here I haven’t had that opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with Bryce. He played a good game and he’ll play the day game against the left-hander. I’m just telling you up front now so I don’t have to hear all this crap tomorrow.

Harper has struggled mightily after the All-Star break, batting a painful .173 (18-for-104) while only getting four extra-base hits. He has also struck out 27 times in the 26 games that he has started. The trend has to change for Harper if he wants to stay in the everyday lineup, especially with Werth’s return and Moore’s productivity.

Despite Harper’s struggles, the Nationals have become the first team in the majors to win 70 games in 2012, roaring to a 70-43 record and a 4.5-game lead in the NL East. Even with their current success, it is imperative that Harper’s bat heats up down the stretch if they want to maintain their lead and become a powerful force in the playoffs.

Harper was a huge contributor in keeping this team successful earlier in the season; now the rest of the team is picking him up while he struggles. Should Harper get hot again, and Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and the rest of the Nationals keep it up going forward, they will be a hard team to beat in October.


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Kurt Suzuki Starting Saturday for Nationals, Sandy Leon Optioned to Triple-A

The Washington Nationals have struggled behind the plate this season after Wilson Ramos was lost to injury in May. On Friday the Nationals acquired Kurt Suzuki from the Oakland A’s and he will make his first start for the Nats on Saturday night against the Miami Marlins in D.C., according to Amanda Comak of The Washington Times.

Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post reported on Saturday that backup catcher Sandy Leon was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Suzuki.

Suzuki will likely replace Jesus Flores as the everyday catcher for the Nationals. Flores was hitting only .221 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 67 games this season. Suzuki provides the potential to produce better numbers than Flores.

Although Suzuki has had a disappointing year thus far, he has a productive track record with great seasons in 2009 and 2010. Getting away from Oakland’s pitcher-friendly park should help Suzuki as well.

The big advantage to Suzuki behind the plate is his defensive ability. Nats GM Mike Rizzo told The Washington Times:

He’s one of the best catch-and-throw defensive catchers in the game. I think he’s going to take the lion’s share of the catching duties, and with his track record, his ability to handle a staff and his defensive prowess, he’s going to add a lot to the lineup.

Rizzo certainly has the bar set high for Suzuki and it is in Suzuki’s hands to live up to the hype from his new general manager. Hopefully for the Nationals and Suzuki, he can regain some of his form from a couple of seasons ago and produce in Washington’s lineup.


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Giancarlo Stanton Hopes to Return August 10, to Begin Rehab Assignment Wednesday

The Miami Marlins are in the midst of a disappointing season that they did not anticipate when they made their free-agent signings.

Although their season is not going as planned, Giancarlo Stanton, a big piece of their future, is hopeful that he will be able to return to the lineup very soon.

Stanton is on track to begin rehab games starting on Wednesday with High-A Jupiter, according to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post.

On Saturday, he  tweeted:

Despite the Marlins’ disappointing record (45-54 as of July 27, which puts them 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals in the NL East), the news is still a breath of fresh air for a team that has been reeling in 2012.

A return by Stanton on August 10th might give them new life as they finish out this season.

Stanton’s knee problems have been prevalent all season, and the surgery to remove cartilage chips should relieve Stanton of a looming problem going forward. At very least, the Marlins can be optimistic that the future of their franchise is going to have his knee issues behind him for the time being, which will allow him to prosper in the upcoming years.

Stanton had smashed 19 HR and 50 RBI in his first 80 games of the season before having the surgery on July 8th. Last season, he hit an impressive 34 HR in 150 games and has shown that he has some of the best power in the game with his mammoth home runs.

His expected return is a positive for both the Marlins organization and Stanton as he further establishes himself as a premiere young talent in the MLB.


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Sean Burnett Pitching Well for Washington Nationals Despite Elbow Discomfort

Sean Burnett, the Washington Nationals’ team leader in holds in 2012, revealed to Mark Zuckerman of on Saturday that he has been dealing with elbow tightness this season. Per Zuckerman’s twitter:



Burnett’s optimism about the tightness is a good sign, but nevertheless, tightness in the elbow is something that the Nationals training staff will continue to monitor throughout the year. 

Burnett has had a great season despite suffering for the last six weeks. He has had to step up in the bullpen for the Nats, who saw their share of injuries and inconsistency early in the season. Burnett has pitched to a 1.97 ERA while striking out 33 batters in 32 innings and allowing seven walks on the season. 

His consistency has been a relief for the Nats.

The Nationals were forced to move their 2011 holds leader, Tyler Clippard, to the closer role after Drew Storen’s injury and Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge’s inability to fill the vacant spot in the bullpen. The opportunity has allowed Burnett to excel, primarily in the eighth inning, for Washington.

The tightness is worth monitoring, but as long as Burnett can continue to deal with the discomfort and dominate as he has thus far, the Nationals will continue to be a difficult team to rally against in the late innings.


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Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals Win 5th in a Row: Are They MLB’s Best?

Bryce Harper continues to improve with every game that he plays, as does every one of the Washington Nationals.

After the Nats were swept in Miami at the hands of the Marlins, they have won eight of their last ten and the last five in a row.

Harper got the Nationals on the board in their latest victory over the Toronto Blue Jays with a mammoth blast in the third inning to give the Nats a 1-0 lead. They never looked back and won the game 4-2.

Many though that the Nats would have issues going against American League teams on the road, but they have proved that that is not an issue. They are coming off a sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and are on the verge of sweeping the Blue Jays in Toronto. 

The Nats biggest challenge might come when the red-hot New York Yankees make their way into Nationals Park this weekend.

The Nationals are quickly becoming one of the best teams in the league and their dominance over the American League helps the Nats in the argument of who the best team in the MLB is.

The pure brilliance of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez give the Nats two Cy Young candidates in the front end of their rotation. It is hard to find a starting five that can contend with the Nationals’ five.

Their lineup continues to surprise, even with Michael Morse still getting back in the swing of things since returning from his season-long DL stint. 

The one person in the lineup who has been a sure thing has been Harper and he is crucial to the success of this team. He is hitting .307 with seven home runs this season and provided the spark that this team needed.

It might be too early to tell, but thus far the Nats are passing every test in their pursuit to show the rest of the baseball world that they are the best team in the league.


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