The Nats beat the Phillies … with Natitude

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I spent a lot of time in the past few days mildly mocking the idea of “Natitude” and the Washington Nationals’ take-back-the-park initiative. Earlier today Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post spoke with Davey Johnson about it all and he didn’t sound like a fan himself:

“What’s going to sell tickets is if we win ballgames,” Johnson said. “That’s the way we’re going to take this stadium back … I can hardly pronounce the dang word,” Johnson said.

Well, they did something about that tonight. They beat the Phillies in dramatic fashion in front of nearly 35,000 mostly Nats partisans who did, after all, take back the park.

The Phillies did pretty well against Stephen Strasburg, hitting a couple of homers and scoring three runs.  But the Nats’ bullpen was on point, throwing five shutout innings.  And yes, the Nats got a little help from a shorthanded umpiring crew, but whaddaya gonna do? In the end it was Wilson Ramos who did the most damage, however, knocking a bases loaded walkoff single to win it in the bottom of the 11th.

Query: why wasn’t Jonathan Paelbon in this game? The Nats’ 11th inning rally came against the dregs of the Philly pen. Doesn’t one think that, in a jam in a tie game in extra innings, the Phillies’ best relief pitcher would have made it way more likely that the Philly hitters would get another shot if he were in the game?

We’ll never know, I guess, because it would seem that Charlie Manuel and his post-ejection designees are under strict orders to only use Papelbon in save situations. The dude now qualifies for two positions in most fantasy leagues: closer and spectator.

But that’s the Phillies’ problem.  For the Nats, they took one small step on their way to prominence: they took back their park and won a game the likes of which, in the past, they so often lost.  And I don’t think it’s hyperbole or premature to say that if they take this series, they have taken a big step forward in their history.

Heady times for the Nats. Filled with … Natitude.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.