The Week Ahead: Nats face deadline on Strasburg

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It’s a game of chicken. A staring contest. A battle of wills.

Will the Washington Nationals sign Stephen Strasburg?

If they don’t ink the San Diego State phenom by midnight Eastern time on Monday night, then they lose the rights to the savior of the franchise. The man who can single-handedly inspire Nats fans to shed their comforters and get out of bed in the morning, to make them believe that, yes, it doesn’t have to be dark and cold and gloomy in the middle of summer.

And yet, Washington faces a dilemma. Do the Nats give in to the demands of the evil Scott Boras, the agent all too happy to hold their feet to the fire, cackling wickedly as the clock ticks closer to the deadline?

If Washington doesn’t pull the prize into the boat, the team’s already comedic reputation will be … well, actually, I’m not sure it can get any worse. It certainly won’t help, anyway.

But does Strasburg really want to turn down the record millions being offered ($17 million according to one report, with some easy incentives to push it past $20 million)?

Would he really rather return to college, or play in the independent leagues, or in Japan, putting himself one year further away from free agency?

Not even his mother seems to know, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s his decision. I know he wants to play baseball. I don’t know what else to say.”

It’s a gunfight at high noon, and it will be interesting to see who blinks first. Of course, if a deal isn’t reached, it could happen all over again next year, as the Nats currently have a 3½-game “lead” on the Royals for worst record.

Other top draft picks who have yet to sign as of Sunday night are (courtesy of Jim Callis of Baseball America), No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley (Mariners), No. 3 pick Donavan Tate (Padres), No. 6 pick Zack Wheeler (Giants) and No. 9 pick Jacob Turner (Tigers).

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Cardinals at Dodgers, Aug. 17-19:
The Cardinals have won eight of 10 to build a 5-game lead atop the NL Central. The Dodgers, while scuffling of late, still maintain the best record in the NL. This has all the makings of a heavyweight bout.

Cubs at Dodgers, Aug. 20-23: The Cubs follow the Cardinals into Chavez Ravine, making this a big, big week in the NL Central.

Yankees at Red Sox, Aug. 21-23: The Red Sox are picking a bad time to struggle, falling 7½ games behind New York and surrendering the wild card lead to the Rangers. This is a big one for Boston. Maybe they can bring back Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer just for this series.

Phillies at Mets, Aug. 21-23: So much for this rivalry. After all the trash talking over the last couple of years, all New York has to fight for now, sadly, is pride.

Rangers at Rays, Aug. 21-23: Texas enters the week with a 3 ½-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL wild card race. The Red Sox are sandwiched in between, and you know they’ll be watching this series with interest.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 10:10 p.m. ET: Cardinals at Dodgers (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 7:07 p.m.: Red Sox at Blue Jays (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Red Sox (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Cubs at Dodgers (FOX)
Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Rangers at Rays (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Yankees at Red Sox (ESPN)
*Check local listings

If you Twitter, you can find me there at @bharks.

Twins reach historic home run total during 11-4 rout of White Sox

Max Kepler
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The Twins trampled the White Sox on Friday night, cruising to a cool 11-4 lead over their division rivals and collecting their sixth double-digit win of 2019. Even more impressive, they picked up their 99th, 100th, and 101st home runs, a feat that’s rarely been matched in a team’s first 50 games of any given season.

The first homer of the night was delivered by Eddie Rosario in the third inning. Working against a single-run deficit, Rosario lifted an 0-1 fastball from the White Sox’ Reynaldo López, planting it firmly in the left field stands and evening the score, 4-4. Two batters later, Rosario’s solo home run got a sequel: a 398-footer from Miguel Sanó, this one postmarked for the upper deck in left.

In the fourth, now leading 5-4, the Twins saw a third and final homer from the bat of Max Kepler, whose center-field blast traveled a projected 397 feet to give the club a two-run advantage. Per MLB Stats, the Twins’ record — 101 homers in 50 games — stands second only to that of the 1999 Mariners, who managed to club 102 home runs before their 51st game of the season.

While the record has undoubtedly been a team effort, Rosario leads the pack with a team-best 15 homers so far this year, closely followed by C.J. Cron (13), Max Kepler (11), and Jonathan Schoop (10). Sanó, whose solo shot marked the team’s 100th home run of 2019, has just five, though there’s little doubt he’ll reach double digits before the end of the season.

According to MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins also made it to an even 300 runs scored in 2019, for a satisfying average of six runs per game and a new franchise record (previous high mark: 273 runs scored in 1992). With the win, they improved to 34-16 on the year and continue to hold a comfortable eight-game lead in the AL Central.