Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham likely done for year

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According to his agent, Josh Willingham will undergo surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee next week and miss the rest of the season.
Manager Jim Riggleman said before Tuesday’s game that Willingham could be available to pinch-hit tonight, suggesting that he might yet see a little action prior to undergoing surgery, but it sounds as though the slugger has made his final start in left field. Willingham has been fighting knee pain since before the All-Star break.
If he fails to get another at-bat, Willingham would end the season with a .268/.389/.459 line, 16 homers and 56 RBI in 370 at-bats. He came in at .281/.411/.502 during the first half, but it seemed that the knee problem wore on him as the season progressed.
Willingham was viewed as a trade candidate before the deadline passed. He’s making $4.6 million in his second of three arbitration seasons. The injury might pay off a bit for the Nationals, since he could have received a raise to about $8 million had he come through with 25 homers and 90 RBI this season. Now he’ll probably have to settle for something like $6.5 million-$7 million next year. Because of his injury history and lack of defensive value, he doesn’t seem like much of a candidate for a long-term deal.
With Willingham sidelined, the Nats could start giving Kevin Mench the occasional start in left field. It also means that Justin Maxwell could stick around rather than get sent back to Triple-A after Nyjer Morgan comes off the DL.

Video: Bryce Harper crushes a home run to the Chase Field concourse

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Aaron Judge may be the talk of the town right now, but let’s not forget some of Major League Baseball’s more established sluggers. Take the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, for instance, who jumped on a full count during the first inning of Saturday’s game and postmarked the ball to the center field concourse in Chase Field.

Harper’s mammoth hit was the first career home run allowed by Diamondbacks’ rookie Anthony Banda. Banda quickly recovered with an inning-ending strikeout to Ryan Zimmerman, but was booted from his big league debut after Harper, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon combined for a three-run spread in the sixth.

The first-inning homer also served another purpose: it extended Harper’s hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in MLB this season. He’ll need four more games to tie the 19-game streak Royals’ infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield established back in June.

The Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.