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Closing Time: Know your Nationals

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It's important to be knowledgeable on all 30 MLB clubs as we mine for fantasy value, and with that in mind let's start this grab bag with a look at the worst team in the land, your Washington Nationals.

Is the glass half full or half empty with closer Mike MacDougal(notes)? The positive spin first – he's 3-for-3 as the Nationals closer, he's got a 1.32 ERA over 14 appearances since hitting DC, and he retired the Orioles 1-2-3 on Sunday. But he's also carrying a 1.24 WHIP, he's walked seven against seven strikeouts, and three unearned runs have shielded the ERA. There's something to be said for positive momentum and I'm tenuously running with MacDougal in the Friends & Family League right now, but I'm kicking him to the curb at the first sign of duress. At the end of the day, it comes down to one question – how badly do you need those saves?

It's also time for my yearly Willie Harris(notes) pitch. The Washington jack-of-all-trades is coming off a productive eight-game stretch (.355, three homers, three steals) and he offers three positions of eligibility in Yahoo! leagues (second, third, outfield). When has Willie Harris been relevant in mixed leagues, you ask? Go look at what he did for us over his final 61 games of 2008: .270, eight homers, seven steals. Those numbers play very nicely as a third middle infielder or at a rover position off the bench. I'll give him a trial run over the next three days against the Marlins.

John Lannan(notes) has pitched his way into mixed-league leagues as well, collecting three wins over a tidy five-start run this month (2.19 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, .214 BAA). He hasn't been fattening up on patsies, either; his last three starts came against AL-East clubs. He'll host the Braves next weekend.

If you're desperate for an NL-only catcher, Josh Bard(notes) is worth a look. He's started five of the last six games (10-for-18), and Many Acta will give him a shot to take the starting gig and run with it. Keep in mind Bard hit .338 and .285 with the Padres back in 2006-07, albeit in a time-share assignment.

Tommy Hanson's(notes) minor-league dominance hasn't completely translated to the major leagues yet (17 walks, 18 strikeouts, 1.41 WHIP), but it's hard to quibble with four straight wins, especially with three of them coming against the rough-and-tumble AL East. He pitched through the flu Sunday and shut out the Red Sox over six innings (2 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 97 pitches). "If he was sick, I really don't want to see him when he's not sick," an impressed Terry Francona said. Hanson looks like a strong play against Washington (ahem) next weekend.

It's been a bang-up month for David Ortiz(notes) (.313, seven homers, .672 slugging), and he's also more useful in our game with his new-found eligibility – he's now played six games at first base and will carry that tag for the rest of the year in many formats. Next up for Papi is conquering his problems on the road, where he carries a .190 average and .588 OPS. The Red Sox head to Baltimore for a three-game set Monday.

Despite the presence of Albert Pujols(notes), the Cardinals are far and away the NL's worst offense against left-handed pitching (.226 average, .662 OPS). It's amazing that guy keeps seeing good pitches to hit. You can point the finger at several Cardinals for the southpaw problem, but Colby Rasmus(notes) has been the biggest offender (.128/.226/.191 over 47 at-bats). Randy Johnson(notes) and Barry Zito(notes) work in St. Louis over the four-game set that starts Monday.

Khalil Greene(notes), unfortunately, won't be part of the solution in St. Louis for a while. His anxiety issues have cropped up again and he's probably going to head back on the disabled list. No doubt this had a lot to do with the team moving for Mark DeRosa(notes) over the weekend.

David Aardsma(notes) was saving games despite himself at times in May, but he's been a completely different guy during a lights-out June (11 IP, 0 R, 4 BB, 20 K). When this guy is getting ahead of batters, he's flat-out unhittable. Forget Aardsma closing merely for the balance of the year; it looks like the Mariners have found their stopper into the next decade (with Brandon Morrow(notes) sliding to a starting role). Don't forget the pedigree at play here – Aardsma was a first-round pick of the Giants in 2003, and he's got serious gas on a fastball that routinely hits the high 90s.

Chad Gaudin(notes) is sorry to see interleague play come to an end; he piled up 28 strikeouts over his last three turns, including nine Sunday in a stunning one-hit gem at Arlington (8 IP, 0 R, 2 BB). "He was a different pitcher than I've seen in the past," Texas outfielder David Murphy said. "He located his fastball a lot better, and he was using his slider more, and more effectively." Gaudin gets a home turn this week against the Dodgers.

The Braves say Yunel Escobar(notes) has been sitting with a sore hip, but we have to share this nugget from Mark Bowman of Make of it what you will.

While Escobar is likely still bothered by this hip ailment that has troubled him over the past month, there is strong suspicion that his absence is a punitive response to the unprofessional reaction he provided after being charged with an error during Thursday night's game against the Yankees.

Injury Blog: Josh Hamilton(notes) (abdomen) is ready for a rehab assignment; he'll head to Double-A on Monday and start off as a DH. He's hoping to be back with the Rangers by next weekend. … Adrian Beltre(notes) will have surgery on his left shoulder Tuesday and it's not clear when he'll be able to play again. A mid-August return has been discussed, but it's just speculation at this point. … Mike Lowell(notes) (hip) has an injection scheduled for Monday and won't be back in the lineup until the middle of the week. … Derek Jeter(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes) are both dealing with a flu bug. Jeter was able to start Sunday night (2-1-1-0, with three walks), but Damon sat out. … So much for the Josh Outman(notes) story; the good-looking lefty is probably going to need Tommy John surgery, and he's been moved to the 60-day DL. … Aramis Ramirez(notes) (shoulder) took batting practice again on Sunday and is looking at a rehab assignment soon, according to Carrie Muskat of He's still dealing with some soreness as he takes his cuts, but that's to be expected. … Nate McLouth(notes) (hamstring) is hoping to be back in the lineup Tuesday. … Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) (shoulder) rejoined the Indians Sunday and went 1-for-5 out of the leadoff slot. The Tribe doesn't seem too worried about Cabrera given they let him play a full nine innings in what turned out to be a blowout loss. Cabrera started at shortstop, with Luis Valbuena(notes) manning second and Jhonny Peralta(notes) settling at third. … Mark Ellis(notes) (calf) came off the DL Sunday and went 1-for-4 with a double, batting ninth. He'll probably see partial time for the first few weeks while he gets back into the flow. Adam Kennedy(notes) shifted to third base Sunday, for what it's worth. … Pablo Sandoval(notes) is dealing with a stomach virus and had to leave Sunday's game early. … Ryan Doumit(notes) (wrist) is expected to begin a rehab hitch Tuesday, though he probably won't rejoin the Pirates until after the All-Star break.

Speed Round: The Aaron Cook(notes) train keeps rolling along (8 IP, 1 R), but he'll have to deal with the thin air of Coors Field against Arizona next week. … Ian Snell(notes) brought the noise in his first Triple-A turn, striking out 17 over seven electric innings (at one point he fanned an astounding 13 in a row). Snell allowed just two hits and one unearned run in the stint. "These guys are great and these guys are a bunch of goofballs," said a relaxed Snell. "It makes you want to be here and pitch well here." … Brad Lidge(notes) had to work around two baserunners in the ninth, but he was able to put the Jays away and pick up save No. 14. … Nate Schierholtz(notes) is worth a hot-hand pickup after a .480 week with two homers. He went 4-for-5 in Sunday's win over Milwaukee. … Scott Olsen(notes) (shoulder) is off the DL and will start Monday against Florida. Probably a good time to get your favorite Fish into the lineup. … Alexei Ramirez(notes) had three hits including a homer Sunday, putting him at .290 with seven taters this month. … Aaron Hill(notes) broke out of a mini-slump with four home runs this week, including two against the Phillies Sunday. … J.P. Howell(notes) grabbed his fifth save Sunday and hasn't allowed a run over 17 appearances. It's not hard to see that he's the best reliever the Rays have, by far, and he's the guy Joe Maddon trusts most with the game on the line. For a southpaw to close you absolutely need to get right-handed hitters out, and that hasn't been a problem with Howell; they're hitting just .159 against him. … Mariano Rivera(notes) recorded career save No. 500 in style, getting the last four outs at Citi Field and adding an RBI to boot. The lock Hall of Famer is 18-for-19 on the year.

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