Albers key cog in Nats' bullpen transformation

Veteran's altered approach has him ready to contribute in postseason

Albers key cog in Nats' bullpen transformation

WASHINGTON -- Baseball games, Nationals manager Dusty Baker says, are often dictated by a team's ability to knock opposing starting pitchers from the game. Today's starters and back-end bullpen arms, he says, are the toughest of hurlers to attack; if you can get to the opposing club's middle relief, that's when you have the best chance to win.

Washington's once-vulnerable middle relief has turned into an asset for Baker, and perhaps no one has played a bigger role in that transformation than veteran Matt Albers.

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Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @OMacklinMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Will Robles fit in Nats' playoff picture?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier fields questions from Nationals fans

Inbox: Will Robles fit in Nats' playoff picture?

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals just got a look at the Dodgers during a three-game series this past weekend at Nationals Park, and although they dropped two of the three games, they can be inspired by their showing Sunday night. It was Washington's biggest matchup remaining on the regular-season calendar as the Nats continue gearing up for the postseason.

There are still a few unanswered questions remaining in this week's Nationals inbox, starting with the Nationals' top prospect -- who has looked impressive during his brief amount of playing time in Washington -- and if he fits in come playoff time.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Max and Nats continue home-field push in ATL

Max and Nats continue home-field push in ATL

The Nationals return to Atlanta to face the Braves for the final time this season, with both teams headed in different directions. Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer will start against Braves rookie Luiz Gohara when the series kicks off Tuesday at SunTrust Park.

Washington has an outside chance of stealing home-field advantage away from the Dodgers and will lean on Scherzer in the series opener. Scherzer has been dominant this season and is in contention for the National League Cy Young Award, posting a 2.59 ERA in 28 starts. His command has been razor sharp as opponents are hitting .179 against him. He has also struck out 246 batters in 184 1/3 innings pitched.

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Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zim's HRs, Stras' arm propel Nats to 90th W

Zim's HRs, Stras' arm propel Nats to 90th W

WASHINGTON -- One swing from Ryan Zimmerman provided the Nationals with more offense Sunday night than they had through the first two games of this series with the Dodgers, as he launched a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning of a 7-1 victory Sunday night at Nationals Park.

Zimmerman added a solo shot in the eighth, his career-high-tying 33rd homer, as the Nats denied the Dodgers a three-game sweep in a potential National League Championship Series preview between the NL's top two teams, who split the season series, 3-3.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harper takes BP, aims to return for NLDS

Nationals star displays MVP form before Sunday's win

Harper takes BP, aims to return for NLDS

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper took batting practice at Nationals Park before Sunday's 7-1 Nationals victory over the Dodgers, unleashing his violent swing on the field for the first time since his knee injury last month.

He had been swinging in the batting cage, and feeling good, but this was the first time he did so on the field. And he looked like his usual self, as he scorched line drives off the outfield wall and launched several home runs into the stands.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Soto on list of prospects with soaring stock

Soto on list of prospects with soaring stock

The prospect landscape is always changing, with players seeing their stock rise and fall over the course of any season. The 10 hitters listed below made the biggest jumps forward in 2017, with many not even on the Top 100 prospects list to start the year rankings, but now all firmly on the list, from the top 10 on down. On Tuesday, we'll take a look at the pitchers who moved up the most.

Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves' No. 1/MLB No. 6
Acuna began the year just off of the Top 100, much to the chagrin of Braves fans, but that slight was corrected in the early stages of the 2017 season. He then proceeded to make the Minor Leagues look easy, going from the Class A Advanced Florida State League all the way up to Triple-A, all at the age of 19. After finishing with a .325/.374/.522 line to go along with 21 homers and 44 steals, he should hit Atlanta at age 20.
 

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mark Feinsand

Nats 'very confident' with Strasburg in top form

Righty has been dominant since return from DL

Nats 'very confident' with Strasburg in top form

WASHINGTON -- If the Dodgers and Nationals meet again next month -- and barring something very odd during the next two weeks, that wouldn't happen until the NLCS -- Washington has a reason to believe it won't be doomed to repeat a similar fate after losing last year's Game 5 of the NLDS at home.

His name is Stephen Strasburg.

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Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats fall short vs. LA, drop 4th game in last 5

Nats fall short vs. LA, drop 4th game in last 5

WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers have put some separation between themselves and the Nationals, utilizing another dominant pitching performance to lead them to a 3-2 victory in front of a sellout crowd Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.

Los Angeles has now won four games in a row and owns a seven-game lead in the race for the top seed in the National League. The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West was reduced to 5.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats gathering intel for potential NLCS vs. LA

Nats gathering intel for potential NLCS vs. LA

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have treated this series with the Dodgers as a chance to gain intel, gathering enough information about their opponent and storing it in case it can be put to use in the future. Conversely, Washington has tried to reveal as little of itself to Los Angeles as possible.

So even though the Nats have dropped the first two games, including a 3-2 loss Saturday afternoon, it's tough to figure out how much to take away from two games started by pitchers who almost certainly will not factor into their postseason rotation.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Glover weighs in on 'rough year,' latest injury

Nationals reliever out for season with shoulder inflammation, shut down until November

Glover weighs in on 'rough year,' latest injury

WASHINGTON -- Koda Glover returned to the Nationals' clubhouse Friday night, rejoining the team and ready to take on a different role for the rest of the season. The inflammation in his right shoulder has ended his season, after he was shut down last week from his throwing program.

Even though his 2017 season is over, the Nationals wanted Glover to rejoin the club for the stretch run to feel like part of the team as it heads into the postseason.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats come up empty in opener vs. Dodgers

Nats come up empty in opener vs. Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- As he made his way to the ballpark Friday afternoon, Nationals manager Dusty Baker acknowledged he felt a little extra excitement heading into the start of this three-game series against the Dodgers. This was a potential postseason preview between the teams with the top two records in the National League, with Washington trying to pull within striking distance for the NL's top seed.

But Los Angeles blanked the Nationals on Friday night, 7-0, led by one of left-hander Alex Wood's best performances of late. Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager all hit homers off right-hander Edwin Jackson to take the air out of the 37,508 fans and increase the Dodgers' lead to six games over the Nationals for the best record in the NL. The Dodgers also reduced their magic number to 6 for clinching the NL West.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jackson vows to correct issue, rediscover form

Nationals righty has another rough start, wants to finish strong and make postseason bullpen

Jackson vows to correct issue, rediscover form

WASHINGTON -- Edwin Jackson had resurrected his career since he took over as the Nationals' fifth starter earlier this season. Now after a string of troubling outings, the latest of which came in Friday's 7-0 loss to the Dodgers, Jackson is trying to rediscover the form that made him successful the past few months.

He gave up seven runs and recorded seven outs against Los Angeles, which included surrendering three home runs. It continued a concerning trend for Jackson through his three starts this month, in which he has surrendered seven homers and 16 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lobaton relieved that ankle injury isn't serious

Lobaton relieved that ankle injury isn't serious

WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton was relieved Friday afternoon at the condition of his left ankle a day after getting struck with an errant slider in the second inning of the Nats' 5-2 victory against the Braves on Thursday.

Lobaton said he feared the worst for about 10 minutes after getting hit, but eventually the pain subsided and he was able to walk. Although he had not tested his ankle yet, he was confident he would be able to run soon.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Robles flashes game-changing speed

Prospect Robles flashes game-changing speed

WASHINGTON -- Once Washington's dugout got a glimpse of Victor Robles' speed in action, it was instantly impressed. When Robles hit his first triple in the Nationals' 5-2 victory over the Braves at Nationals Park, it prompted Bryce Harper to turn to Trea Turner, who up to that point had been the undisputed fastest player on the club.

"He just kind of told him, 'Ah, don't worry about it, you're still the fastest guy here,'" Robles said through an interpreter.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Young lineup backs Roark's quality start

Young lineup backs Roark's quality start

WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals dropped the first two games of the series, manager Dusty Baker decided to give many of his regular position players a day off in order to recharge. So Baker turned to a lineup filled with his team's young talent, which provided a spark in the Nationals' 5-2 victory on Thursday night against the Braves at Nationals Park.

Nationals outfielder Victor Robles, the club's top prospect and No. 3 overall per MLBPipeline.com, went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple and a pair of runs, while infielder Adrian Sanchez added a two-run double in the sixth.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Braves on Thursday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jesse Sanchez

Soto taken 5th in DR Winter League draft

First five Dominican Winter League picks among MLB's Top 100 prospects

Soto taken 5th in DR Winter League draft

Some of the biggest -- and youngest -- stars in the game are going home for the winter. The Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana, also known as the Dominican Republic Winter League, will be waiting for them when they arrive.

On Thursday, the league held its annual rookie draft in front of 500 fans, family and friends in a mall lobby in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The draft, which is for players in Class A Advanced or higher, who had not been previously selected by a winter league team, was broadcast live on national television and online.

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Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer stays in, sticks to plan to build stamina

Ace looked out of gas in the 7th, but wasn't removed until allowing 5 straight to reach

Scherzer stays in, sticks to plan to build stamina

WASHINGTON -- With an upcoming off-day giving him an extra day of rest before his next start, Nationals ace Max Scherzer devised a game plan along with pitching coach Mike Maddux and manager Dusty Baker to extend his pitch count to help build stamina Wednesday night.

So it was with an eye toward the postseason that Scherzer pitched into the seventh inning and threw 116 pitches in an 8-2 loss to the Braves, even though he acknowledged he showed some rust toward the end of the outing.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Turner sparks rally, but Scherzer falters in 7th

Turner sparks rally, but Scherzer falters in 7th

WASHINGTON -- In just his second career start, Braves left-hander Luiz Gohara went toe-to-toe with Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, the favorite to win his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award. Then, Atlanta broke out for six runs in the seventh -- highlighted by a grand slam by Matt Kemp -- to cruise to an 8-2 victory Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

• Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington who covered the Braves on Wednesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats to open '18 season on the road in March

Nats to open '18 season on the road in March

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will open the 2018 season with a three-game series in Cincinnati starting on March 29, when all 30 Major League clubs are scheduled to begin the season on the earliest start date in MLB history.

• Check out Nats' 2018 schedule

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Health, home-field top Dusty's to-do list

Health, home-field top Dusty's to-do list

WASHINGTON -- There is usually a natural letdown for any club the first day after wrapping up a division title. Manager Dusty Baker had hoped this would help his team avoid one in its first game after wrapping up the National League East on Sunday, considering the Nats had an off-day Monday to help with the recovery.

• Dress for October: Get Nats postseason gear

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats shut out, Gio hit hard in loss to Braves

Nats shut out, Gio hit hard in loss to Braves

WASHINGTON -- The Braves helped the Nationals wrap up the National League East on Sunday afternoon, but Atlanta did Washington no favors during an 8-0 thumping Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

The Braves broke out for 14 hits -- nine of which went for extra bases, including seven doubles -- as they tagged Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez for five runs on seven hits in five innings. Freddie Freeman collected three hits, including a three-run homer, and second baseman Ozzie Albies added a solo homer among his three hits.

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington who covered the Braves on Tuesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Matthew Leach

Ahead with the curve: Gio elevates game

Ahead with the curve: Gio elevates game

On their way to becoming the first team to clinch a postseason berth in 2017, the Nationals have endured far more than their share of major injuries, from their lineup to their rotation to their bullpen. Some of the ways they've weathered the damage, you might have guessed: Max Scherzer's brilliance, Daniel Murphy's dependability and, before he also got hurt, Bryce Harper's excellence.

One you might not have seen coming? Rotation anchor Gio Gonzalez. Soon to turn 32 and coming off the worst full season of his big league career, Gonzalez seemed more likely to be a question than an answer in 2017.

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Matthew Leach is an executive editor for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter and read his columns. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats a fact: NL East champs

Nats a fact: NL East champs

WASHINGTON -- Those 90 minutes felt like an eternity as the Nationals sat and waited, their celebration on hold. They had already defeated the Phillies, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, and only needed a Braves victory over the Marlins to win the National League East and become the first team to secure a postseason berth.

Dress for success: Get Nats NL East champions gear

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Superb Strasburg leads Nats to crown

Superb Strasburg leads Nats to crown

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals became the first team to secure a spot in the 2017 postseason when they clinched the National League East on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg threw eight shutout innings to lead Washington to a 3-2 victory over the Phillies at Nationals Park, and the Braves beat the Marlins hours later to push the Nationals into the playoffs.

Dress for success: Get Nats NL East champions gear

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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Daniel Shiferaw is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Phillies on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

What's next for Nats? Trying to run down LA

Washington still trying to gain home-field advantage

What's next for Nats? Trying to run down LA

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals became the first of six big league teams to win a division title this season on Sunday, after they defeated the Phillies, 3-2, at Nationals Park and the Braves beat the Marlins in Atlanta hours later. It is the fourth National League East title for Washington in the last six seasons. But don't expect the Nationals to relax for the rest of the regular season.

Dress for success: Get Nats NL East champions gear

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Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.