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Ross continues to impress, but Mets showing their worth

Aug 2, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today

For the second straight night, the Nationals fell to the division rival New York Mets by just one run thanks to mistakes made late in the game by their bullpen. This time it was Mets first baseman Lucas Duda who had the big swing and Nats reliever Matt Thornton who gave up the decisive score.

The Nationals now lead by just one game in the NL East and that advantage could disappear on Sunday when the Mets will aim for the series sweep. Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 3.36) and Noah Syndergaard (5-5, 2.70) will be the starters in what is about as big a game as you will see in early August.

The season series between the Nats and Mets is now deadlocked at six games apiece. Thanks to their 3-2 win on Saturday, New York now holds a 33-32 lead in runs overall. Six of the 12 games they have played were decided by one run and another was decided by two runs. So far this season, the Nats and Mets have proven to be quite the even matchup.

It is, of course, important to note all the injuries the Nationals have endured this season. They have yet to field their full regular lineup once this season. But they are very close to being healthy now, at least on offense, and here the Mets have won two straight to begin this series.

After Sunday’s series finale, the two teams will play six more times this season. Included in those plans is a three-game series in New York to finish the regular season schedule. With the way these teams are going, there’s a good chance there will be plenty on the line for that weekend.

Ross has another impressive outing

Each baseball season has its fair share of surprises, and the 2015 Nationals have had plenty. In terms of positive developments, the emergence of rookie starter Joe Ross has to rank up there with the most positive of them.

When he debuted on June 6, few even within the organization knew what he was capable of. Many just noticed how he was the first teammate Bryce Harper had played with at the major league level that was younger than him. In the time since, however, Ross has proven his worth as an important part of the Nationals’ future.

Ross dazzled once again on Saturday night in his sixth career start. He allowed only two runs – both on Duda solo homers – on four hits and one walk.

Through six MLB outings, Ross has five quality starts. He has yet to allow more than three runs in a game or more than one walk in 6 1/3 innings.

The consistency Ross has shown so far is remarkable. In each of his outings he has struck out at least four batters with one walk or less. He is the first pitcher since at least 1914 (as far back as Baseball Reference’s play index goes) to began his career like that.

Back to the quality starts. Ross has five of them in six outings. For a comparison, it took Max Scherzer 12 career starts to get five and Gio Gonzalez needed 20. Stephen Strasburg has just two quality starts in 13 outings this season.

After Saturday’s start, Ross now has a 10.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 40 Ks so far to just four walks. He has the best SO/BB ratio among rookie starters this season by a longshot and the best of any rookie pitcher through six starts since at least 1901. Coincidentally, Scherzer (2008), Strasburg (2010) and Tanner Roark (2013) all led their respective rookie classes in the category.

I’ve been asked several times in recent weeks about the future of Ross in the Nationals’ organization both on Twitter and on the radio. After his first few outings and especially in early July, the thought of ‘selling high’ and trading him at some point seemed reasonable. But with the way he has pitched this season not only in the majors, but in each of his minor league stops, it’s becoming clear that Ross will end up being a big part of their 2016 plans.

Jordan Zimmermann and Fister are both impending free agents and the likelihood they will keep both, if either of them, seems low. Many expect Lucas Giolito to be ready to make the Opening Day roster next spring, but he will almost certainly be on an innings limit in 2016, given he is still recently removed from Tommy John surgery. It is unlikely the Nats will allow him to pitch beyond 160 innings or so next season.

Ross is the more likely candidate to step right in if Fister and/or Zimmermann leave and become a mainstay in their rotation. And with what he’s shown so far, the Nationals could have a potential star in the waiting.

  1. Doc - Aug 2, 2015 at 7:04 AM

    Joe Cool is very cool!

    Rizzo was cool to get him, along with Cool Hand Turner.

  2. rayvil01 - Aug 2, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    Duda is as hot as a wood stove in winter right now. 2015 Thornton is not to be confused with 2014 Thornton. That was a Left-on-Left inning for him: Granderson singles, Duda doubles. He’s in there to get those guys, but they got him. Rivero is mighty young to be the LOOGY you need in a pennant race.

    Wondering if Rizzo stays status quo on the lefties in the bullpen this month.

    • veejh - Aug 2, 2015 at 7:45 AM

      Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the batter (s).

      • chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:33 AM

        It didn’t look like Thornton as making quality pitches.

  3. Another_Sam - Aug 2, 2015 at 7:27 AM

    Ironic that the new enhancement in the bullpen – the subject of so much talk – has had no impact whatsoever on the recent close games.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 2, 2015 at 7:29 AM

      Don’t worry… if the Nats have a 5 run lead, you can bet your last dollar that Drew will be in….

      • dcwx61 - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:45 AM

        +1 lol

    • adcwonk - Aug 2, 2015 at 8:18 AM

      Remember the 1-0 game just a few nights ago,?

  4. laddieblahblah - Aug 2, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    Joe Ross is just going to get better. He is still a rookie who got beat, basically, by one hot hitter whom he would not pitch around.

    Poor MAT is learning in the toughest school on the planet. He has never hit higher than AA pitching, before, and is being taught some lessons by some of the best tutors in the game. He can’t recognize either Harvey’s cutter or De Grom’s slider.

    But he still has that lightning quick bat, that short, crisp swing, and power to all fields. He is probably pressing a little bit, by now, too. He is going to hit those guys, one of these days, probably in the not-too-distant future.

    Yesterday was a learning experience for both of them, and they are both smart enough and talented enough to take that lesson and make their games better.

    • unkyd59 - Aug 2, 2015 at 8:46 AM


    • Section 222 - Aug 2, 2015 at 3:58 PM

      laddie, I hope you’re right about Joe Cool. I’m wondering what you think is the reason that Tanner Roark has regressed this year, and if that’s a cautionary note for Ross. Is it just the changing roles, because that didn’t seem to bother him in ’13?

  5. scnatsfan - Aug 2, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    Tired of hearing about injuries. You need to win with what you have. Every team gets them but you don’t hear about teams that win using them as excuses.

    • Dave - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      No, but teams that lose use injuries as an explanation quite often.

    • chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      And how would you assess the Nats recent losses?

      • scnatsfan - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:00 PM

        Lost to a team that had a better bullpen and clutch hitting. Anyone disagree?

  6. Dorothy LaRussoi - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Pitching is not the problem. The bats have not shown up again. The tram’s weak link has always been the offense and will continue until they get clutch hitting . If the Nats are serious about the post season the offense needs to show up for the remainder of the season!

  7. Dave - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    I wonder what blog algorithm put a teaser for an article from June 10 about “Zimmerman slumping and hurting” at the bottom of today’s post? LOL.

  8. Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    This is fun. And it’s going to get better. Fasten your seat belts and hold on tight!

  9. chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:42 AM

    The Mets are a much better team. It’s likely to be a much tighter race than initially envisioned. I still think the Nats have more talent, especially with this year’s impressive bench and the new backend to the bullpen. We need Stras and Span back, and we’ll pull away a bit. As Mark points out though, I suspect those last 3 games could be significant.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 9:51 AM

      Span missing and his return is key. Anyone know what the Nats record is with, and without, Denard?

    • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      The Mets starting pitching has not beat us.It is there bullpen that we hav enot scored a run in 7 plus innings.Every thing went perfect for us to win both games with the starters out and us not behind.Plain and simple we can not hit against good pitching.The loss of Denard is huge and I have been saying he is the only one we must resign.Also I said that the Mets lining up there pitching was very smart and we were dumb to not have Max not pitch one of six games.Now not using our BP last night.We got 6 innings out of Ross and the lead against the hottest pitcher on the planent.We had to go to Jansen,Storen and the saviour.Duda had already hit a hr against Ross.MW is a dumb manager and how you guys defend him is unbelievable.As I said 10 tens ago we are in big trouble with the Mets have a favorable schedule.

      • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:08 AM

        Also to show his stupidity he batted Bryce 3rd last night but it took him a weeks to do what I begged for.He is always a step slow.The denDeker over Uggla move also.We can actually use denDeker for late innings relief of Jason who is terrible in left.Uggla has zero worth.Harps ejection also was a use for denDeker.This is stupidity to waste a spot on the bench for a guy that can not hit,run or field.

      • chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:18 AM

        I agree with most of what you said. As has been noted many times here, no team hits well against good pitching. That’s why it’s good pitching, and as well know, good pitching stops good hitting. The Nats have done well against some good pitchers though. They have grinded out at bats and made them work and kept the games close, also making them pay when they do make the rare mistake. I have no issue with the Nats abaility do well against elite pitchers. It really is MW’s BP management that constantly leaves me scratching my head. MW is just not creative, he’s rigid and extremely conservative. For the most part, he has his “ahead BP” and his behind BP”. He seldom plays match ups with his best RPs.

      • abqnatsfan - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:58 AM

        Vitriol aside, you make some very good points about areas that could be improved.

  10. natsjackinfl - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    Keeping things in proper prospective, just 11 days ago, the Mets suffered what was classified as the most devastating loss of the season to none other than our own Nats.

    And just 2 days ago, the Mets suffered another loss classified as the most devastating loss of their season.

    So in 12 days, the Mets suffered 2 losses classified as devastating and virtually season ending. Just makes one understand that with 59 games left, both the Nats and the Mets will suffer several more devastating losses that will NOT mean their seasons are over.

    • waddueyeno - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      Devastating observation

    • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:29 AM


    • zmunchkin - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:59 AM

      There you go again being rational and logical!

    • npb99 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      So nobody will win the division! All teams will utterly fail.

  11. kiawah51 - Aug 2, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    Once again no closer. Just keep track of how many times Pap or storen get into a game. The problem is not pitching. It is and always has been offense. OUrs sucks. Rizzo was happy going with our bats thinking they will come around. Guess what they didn’ the last two years in the playoffs and they won’t this year. A fool for not getting a big bat to hit behind Harper. Rizzo continues to fool most people with his moves. He has done nothing in 3 years with an above average pitching staff to address the real problem. Zimm and Werth hitting in the low 200’s before injury. Why would they all of a sudden hit 280 after. This is a joke and the team will pay dearly.

    • abqnatsfan - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      Hopefully Rendon’s bat will come around, and if Span can come back healthy he was hitting.

      While i certainly hope Werth and Zim can get going at the plate, neither has been healthy this year, and despite being back, with the injuries they suffered, there is a good chance they won’t be healthy until this season. But hoping for the best for them, not their fault they got hurt, and they both seem to be trying hard to get as healthy as they can to contribute.

    • npb99 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:21 AM

      Well, you go to war with the army you have. Or, you dance with the one you brought. Nats have a lot of money and focus sunk into Zimm and Werth, and they will give them every chance and then some more chances to get their hitting in order.
      Once again, be grateful the NL East is so forgiving this year.

    • chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      First off the Nats offense doesn’t “suck”. At the beginning of the season they projected as a good offense; not a great offense. Injuries have prevented the Nats from fielding their projected starting lineup for the entire season; only now are they beginning to get everyone back. We have had to rely upon bench players the entire season, and they have performed extremely well for bench players. They are not the Nats’ starting lineup and the offense suffered because of it. now, the big question is how will the offense perform now that everyone is coming back? We have some very good hitters. Zim has looked like the old Zim. You know Rendon is going to hit. Bryce is Super Bryce. Yuni continues to sustain a career year at the plate. The big questions I think are Ramos and Werth, and whether Ian can regain some of his previous form. We have to see how that develops over the next few weeks.

      • kiawah51 - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:20 PM

        you are delusional “they projected” What does that mean. We are where we are and Rizzo didn’t get a bat. Zim has looked like the old Zim. What games are you watching. You keep projecting prior years to this year when the numbers are right in front of you. Keep drinking the cool aid

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    Returning starters next season: Scherzer, Strasburg (probably), Gonzalez. Available: Roark. The issue w/ Ross is stamina. Nats have limited him at Syracuse to 5 innings. He has gone longer than that in MLB but the question is whether he is ready to do that on a regular basis. Even if he becomes a 6+ inning pitcher, I worry that his frame is not mature enough to get through a six-month, 32-start MLB schedule at only 23 y/o.. (He’s now at 115 innings so should end up with somewhere around 160-165.) Giolito, as pointed out, is likely to be limited to no more than 160 innings — and, even if he starts next season at Syracuse, his history is that he takes a few starts to adjust to a higher level of competition.

    The point is, while the Nats should have plenty of good-to-very good pitchers, their reliance on such young arms could leave them without enough depth to make it through a complete 162-game schedule.

    I see Rizzo either signing a veteran in the off-season or trying to get Fister to agree to a one-year extension.

    • npb99 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:23 AM

      Yep, I thought of the Fister 1-year deal too. If Fister is unhappy with this year, he may want a do-over to set himself up better for a multi-year deal.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:24 AM

        I will continue to hold out hope that Jordan is re-signed… *sigh*

      • npb99 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:50 AM

        Mrs B, there’s always room for optimism on this blog!

    • chaz11963 - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:45 AM

      Fister one year extension makes complete sense. I would think personally he would not want to leave the Nats after a season like this and also want to improve his value for FA.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Yep, just what we need …. Another pitcher.

  13. dclivejazz - Aug 2, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    It seems to me that the Returnees are doing at least as well as can be expected at their hitting. Zimm got that game winning HR and has been making solid contact. Werth is back to going deep into counts. Two-bags has smacked at least one double. Zimm and Werth in particular look better than they did before going out with injuries.

    For MW it’s challenging to juggle keeping those guys out there to get them back in the groove, and giving starts and AB’s to the subs who carried the team while they were out. I’d like see Espi, especially, still getting some starts and hopefully we’ll see that soon. You can make a case against replacing Escobar, Desmond or Rendon any given day but it wouldn’t hurt to spell each of them occasionally.

  14. idus1926 - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:04 PM

    Yes, the offense is the main problem. Zimm, if his fascitis doesn’t flare up, will be all right but Werth is a lost cause, an albatross for two more years. Imagine Cespedes there, for two modestly talented minor players that the Mets gave up. Plus, Rizzo ruined two good teams with two unimaginative, so called old timer type managers.
    No one can blame his trades, the problems are what he doesn’t do. Now, we needed a 7-8 innings man and a big bat. We got a very good ninth inning man who cannot get into the game and no bat.

    • ArVAFan - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:16 PM

      A player who can run up a thirteen pitch at-bat is not a lost cause. If nothing else, it runs up the pitch count and lets everyone else see what the pitcher has. Yes, he does get cheated on calls at his knees because he’s so tall. But he knows that along with everyone else–it’s not exactly news (or new). I think once he gets going, he will definitely contribute at the plate.

  15. stoatva - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:10 PM

    I am steeling myself for the possibility that the sun may arise to find the Nats in a virtual tie for first place. Though not my preferred outcome, it does seem survivable in the Great Scheme of Things.

    • idus1926 - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      Sure but in the Great Scheme of Things there is no reason to comment or even watch a baseball game and we still do😆

      • stoatva - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Sure there is. Take it from an old fan of horrible Washington baseball teams, good baseball can be enjoyed win or lose. Winning is better, I need hardly point out. But not absolutely essential, every day.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    I just went over the Nats record with and without Denard Span:

    With Span = 34-24 [.586]
    Without Span = 20-24 [.455]
    Overall = 54-48 [.529]

    Keep in mind that Denard was not 100% for virtually any of the time that he was on the field. You think that the Nats need a healthy back? {no pun intended}.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:38 PM

      true….i guess there were without Rendon for much of those games too

  17. Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:19 PM

    Keep in mind that Denard was not 100% for virtually any of the time that he was on the field. You think that the Nats need a healthy Span back? {no pun intended}.

  18. topnat - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    And offense in the stretch run and playoffs will never be good to great vs the stacked top of the rotation starters. But it does need to be opportunistic. Not been a strength up til now. I still see this team as seasoning itself. They have the talent and with the most difficult third of the season yet to play they have 4 main cogs with fresh legs and minds just gearing up. Taylor needs a blow , looks like the dog days are here for him. Espi should be fresher now with a few days off. He can play left just fine.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:35 PM

      I disagree about Taylor. Yes he had 7 K’s the past 2 games, but in the past 10 games he has 12 hits, 9 RBI’s, 4 RS, 4 SB, and yes he has 14 K’s in those 10 games, but you’re deceiving yourself if you don’t think he’s been productive. Also, sure Espinosa can probably play LF, but do you really want to jack the whole outfield around? You’d have to play Bryce in CF, Werth in RF, and put a guy in LF that has never played it at any level. I agree that Danny should be getting some playing time, but I think it should be in the infield.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:44 PM

        I could actually see spelling Werth for a game in LF before I’d sit Taylor. Taylor will get plenty of rest when Span returns.But Jayson won’t get his timing down sitting on the bench, either.

      • topnat - Aug 2, 2015 at 2:28 PM

        Did not say Taylor has been unproductive. The point is to keep him producing. It stands to reason he is playing more ball under more stress than at any point in his life. A few days to clear his head and rest his legs will do him well going forward.

  19. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 2, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    Starting today with a one-game lead, over the next 60 games the Nats simply have to play even baseball with the Mets. Some have argued that the Mets have the easier pathway based on strength of schedule. Others assert that the Nats have a slight advantage based on home vs. away games. I’d call it pretty much a draw. We’ll see which team (and which individuals) can come through in the final two months. That kind of a challenge is what baseball is all about. Enjoy.

  20. rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Can someone give me a logical reason not to have kept denDeker over Uggla until Denard gets back or September1 which ever comes first.We can actually DD in many ways.Please one explanation.

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:26 PM

      Ideally you want to hang on to assets as long as possible, because while they might not be of use right now they could come in handy later on. Uggla and denDekker are both guys that you might want to have around in September when rosters expand. The only way to keep Uggla til September is to keep him on the 25 man roster, because to remove him you have to expose him to waivers. denDekker OTOH has minor league options available, so stashing him in Syracuse until September is a no-brainer.

      • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:31 PM

        So you are telling me wait until September 1 when we are 4 games out.Give me a break.We can pick up a player better than Uggla any day of the week.The guy is finished.He can not hit,run or field.Wake up Nats fans this kind of thinking is putting us out of the race.We need help now.Werth needs a defensive replacement every game in the month of August we are ahead.We can wail no longer.

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Aug 2, 2015 at 2:53 PM

        We can wail no longer.

        In the case of you, we can only hope. But it seems our hopes are in vain, as you wail on, senselessly.

    • unkyd59 - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:32 PM

      And what would be the point? You consistently reject logical reason after logical reason…. If “logical reason” translates to “agree with me”, don’t hold your breath….

      • natsjackinfl - Aug 2, 2015 at 2:06 PM


      • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 2:49 PM

        You have no logical reason when the facts are what they are.I say bat Harp 3rd and the excuses come until finally MW sees the light.He is a slow learner.The denDeker decision is a no brainer.To have a useful guy versus a guy that can not hit,run or field is truly unbelievable.Maybe you can use Uggla in left to spell Jason.Or pinch run.Maybe he is good for going for coffee.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 2, 2015 at 3:27 PM

        denDekker has been pretty bad since he went back to the Chiefs. Go ahead, look up his stats. The guy is an over achiever, but he can’t hit consistently.

    • Section 222 - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:08 PM

      natsnatsnatswoo’s explanation is not only logical, it’s THE reason. And it’s the same one I and others have given for the past several days. You just don’t like it.

      As for Harper batting 3rd, congrats on MW listening to you. But in the Grand Scheme of Things, it really makes no difference.

      • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:18 PM

        Just a bunch more ABS over a season for a335 hitter rather than a 220 hitter.

  21. dcwx61 - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:44 PM

    must say that MW did mention that Storen was feeling “cranky” before yesterday’s game as well as Jansen dealing with a tight neck.

    • natsnatsnatswoo - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:47 PM

      I wonder if Storen’s crankiness had anything to do with the meeting he and his agent had with Rizzo on Thursday night?

      • dcwx61 - Aug 2, 2015 at 1:48 PM

        i think or I hope he meant some physical thing but it was unclear to me

      • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM

        And Familia can pitch everyday and somedays 2 innings.

  22. rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 3:43 PM

    Never said I needed him for his bat only a comparison to what Uggla gives you which is nothing.Who is your spare outfielder for defense?

    • letswin3 - Aug 2, 2015 at 3:55 PM

      We need a spare commenter on this site to spell your drivel. I won’t even try to convince you of anything reasonable.

      • natsjackinfl - Aug 2, 2015 at 3:58 PM


      • natsjackinfl - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:18 PM

        And I meant to compliment you on such an apt description of the quality of their comments. Drivel is perfect.

  23. Section 222 - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:17 PM

    Nice timing by ESPN to make this the Sunday night game. Even if I weren’t a Nats fan, I’d much rather see this important NL East battle with two outstanding pitchers going toe to toe than yet another Yankees-Red Sox or Cardinals vs. anyone else game.

    I’ve been very disappointed by MW’s bullpen management these past two games. That said, I don’t think he’s an idiot, and I remain encouraged by the return of TTB, Zim, and even Werth (though his defensive shortcomings seem to have magnified during his long DL stint.) With Stras on the mend, this is going to be an exciting stretch run. Life is good.

    • rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      And we do not need a defensive replacement for Jason in games we are ahead until Denard returns if he does?Maybe Uggla is that guy.

      • Section 222 - Aug 2, 2015 at 4:29 PM

        No matter how many times you ask the question, the answer is the same. Rizzo didn’t cut ties with Uggla because the alternative — Matt dD has options. You don’t agree. I do.

        Of course there are tradeoffs. Would I like to have a bigger roster so that dD could be here to play D in the late innings. Have you convinced me that he should have been retained on the roster when Werth returned? Nope.

    • adcwonk - Aug 2, 2015 at 5:05 PM

      “I’ve been very disappointed by MW’s bullpen management these past two games.”

      I guess we don’t really know the health of the BP. And MW would be an idiot if he explained it. Seriously.

      • Section 222 - Aug 2, 2015 at 6:42 PM

        True. Drew was “cranky.” That doesn’t excuse leaving Ross in to face Duda before his second homer.

  24. rlndtln - Aug 2, 2015 at 5:34 PM

    Uggla will be gone asap.





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