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October Confidential: Nationals

Rival players offer inside look at facing NL East champions
MLB.com

How do you beat the Nationals? MLB.com asked rival players from around Major League Baseball to offer an inside look at how best to face the National League East champions.

Max Scherzer
"First and foremost, definitely his demeanor out there stands out. You can tell he's 100 percent into every pitch. He's really highly competitive. His ball is very deceptive, because he drops down so much but it stays true on its plane. And then he's got a devastating slider and his changeup's been unbelievable this year as well. He's definitely a really tough at-bat every single time you get in the box."
-- NL East infielder

How do you beat the Nationals? MLB.com asked rival players from around Major League Baseball to offer an inside look at how best to face the National League East champions.

Max Scherzer
"First and foremost, definitely his demeanor out there stands out. You can tell he's 100 percent into every pitch. He's really highly competitive. His ball is very deceptive, because he drops down so much but it stays true on its plane. And then he's got a devastating slider and his changeup's been unbelievable this year as well. He's definitely a really tough at-bat every single time you get in the box."
-- NL East infielder

"If his fastball command is good, you're going to be in for a long day. His offspeed stuff is so good and he's got such a good feel for it. Everything looks the same coming out of his hand. You've just got to be real aggressive for a certain part of the plate. You can't let him dictate your at-bat."
-- NL East infielder

Video: WSH@MIA: Scherzer flirts with no-no, strikes out 11

Stephen Strasburg
"I've noticed he doesn't pitch out of the windup this year. I feel like that's helped him. He's very consistent with all of his pitches and he's just locating his fastball. He can throw that curveball on either half of the plate to lefties or righties, so he's another very tough at-bat."
-- NL East infielder

"You don't want to get to two strikes against him, because he has so many weapons. His changeup and curveball are so good, you have to be ready to hit the fastball and don't miss it. He's pitching to contact a little better. There was a time when he didn't like it when guys ambushed him. Now, he's kind of embraced it and allowed guys to get themselves out early. I think that has helped him a lot."
-- NL East catcher

Video: WSH@HOU: Strasburg's nasty curve gets Altuve looking

Sean Doolittle
"He threw me this one split one time that I was way out of front of. I think the ball only went halfway to the plate. But he also throws very hard. He works the top of the zone. He's a high-intensity guy, and that's perfect for a closer, so it works for him."
-- NL East infielder

"He throws 97 [mph] and it plays more like 100 [mph]. He's fastball-oriented, and when he goes offspeed, it's usually to make guys look silly. His fastball percentage is like 97 percent, so it feels like you're never going to see offspeed. When you do, you're usually off-balance."
-- NL East outfielder

Ryan Madson
"Fastball, changeup. He's got a good attitude and just executes pitches. He comes after you."
-- NL East infielder

"He's got a sneaky fastball with good action and a Bugs Bunny changeup. You can't miss the mistake. He's good. I think he's a lot better than people realize."
-- NL East infielder

Bryce Harper
"Anything inside, anything up, he can crush. He can put it out. Any mistake breaking balls, it's all in his wheelhouse. Stay outer third, down and away, and then make him chase breaking balls because he wants to hit. If he walks, so be it. You definitely don't want him to beat you, because he's got that kind of potential power, especially in big moments. His star tends to shine when the spotlight's the brightest."
-- NL East reliever

Video: Must C Clutch: Harper downs Phils with walk-off homer

"I think you have to keep him in check inside and get those hands going really fast and then maybe go soft away. He doesn't go oppo with too many of his home runs. He's always ready to get it going fast, so you should stay inside until he shows you he's ready to put it then play. Then you can try to slow him some curveballs or changeups on the outer part of the plate."
-- NL East starter

Daniel Murphy
"Very similar to Harper in the sense that you don't want to miss in. If you do come in, you can almost throw it at him as a lefty, or if you're a righty you can wrap that curve or that slider basically behind his back hip, because he's so good in there you can kind of take advantage of his aggressiveness. Just know that he wants to swing and get a hit, so you don't have to throw a ton of strikes because he really wants to swing."
-- NL East reliever

Anthony Rendon
"He never gets out of himself so you just have to go up there with a plan, hit the corners, mix it up on him because he's always calm and collected. He's always in the same frame of mind. He never lets a moment get too big, never lets a moment pass him by. He just kind of does his own thing. So you just execute your pitches and if he puts a ball in play, then so be it. He's just a good hitter. You just try to not let him hit a mistake."
-- NL East reliever

Video: Must C Classic: Rendon collects three homers, 10 RBIs

"He's changed a lot over the past couple years. There was a time when you could pound him inside and get him to roll over with some weak grounders. But now he's seeing that inside pitch pretty well, it's almost like he's looking for it. So you've really got to mix it up. He's almost like [Justin] Turner with his ability to cover the entire plate. You don't want to repeat pitches back-to-back, because he'll be ready for it."
-- NL East reliever

Ryan Zimmerman
"If I had a power sinker, that would be great. He's patient. I wouldn't call it a long swing, but his bat stays through the zone for a while and he's able to hold his hands back on the curveball."
-- NL East reliever

"When he's hot, like he has been most of the year, he's tough. He stands out over the plate a good bit to lure you into going out over the plate. If you spot it up a few times, I think you can usually get him out there. You've got to show him something in occasionally just to keep him from diving and remaining comfortable out over the plate. If you come inside and make him feel uncomfortable, you've got a chance. If you don't do that, you better spot three pitches on the outer black."
-- NL East catcher

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Sean Doolittle, Bryce Harper, Ryan Madson, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman