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Max Scherzer confident heading into Game 3

Max Scherzer confident heading into Game 3

CHICAGO -- During the Washington Nationals' first two postseason games against the Chicago Cubs, star pitcher Max Scherzer has been relegated to the role of observer, unable to take an active role.

But after two days of "champing at the bit" to take the mound Monday as the deadlocked best-of-five National League Division series shifts to Wrigley Field, Scherzer is confident he can give the Nationals everything they've come to expect from their ace.

Scherzer hasn't pitched since Sept. 30 when he left his final regular-season start with what he referred to at the time as a "small tweak" in his right hamstring. The reigning National League Cy Young winner was scheduled to pitch Game 1 against the Cubs, but was pushed back to Game 3 to provide him extra time to build more strength and endurance in his hamstring.

In recent days, Scherzer has worked with team trainers to get his hamstring as close to 100 percent in order to give him every chance to work as long as Washington needs in Monday's pivotal Game 3.

"I'm very confident as soon as I toe the rubber, I'm going to be good on pitch one," Scherzer said Sunday. "It's (about) how long can I go without re-injuring this and that's where we've done everything we can to make sure I can throw 100 pitches and not have this happen.

"When I'm on the mound (Monday), I'm fully anticipating being able to throw 100 pitches."

Scherzer won his only start against the Cubs this season and is 3-1 in six career starts against Chicago.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he's not concerned about Scherzer, but said he will keep a keen eye on any signals that might be telling in how the right-hander is feeling.

Meanwhile, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he will likely add another left-handed bat to his lineup against Scherzer. Maddon referred to Scherzer as "oppressively difficult" against right-handed hitters.

The Cubs overcame being no-hit for 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 against Stephen Strasburg to pull out a 3-0 victory to take an early series lead. But after the Nationals scored five times in the eighth inning in Saturday's 6-3 victory to even the series, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber said it's just a matter of keeping the right approach against Scherzer.

"It's Scherzer -- we all know he's got good stuff," Schwarber said. "But we're not afraid of the name on the back (of the jersey). We're going to go out and execute what we want at the plate."

While the Cubs prepare to face Washington's ace, Chicago will counter with Jose Quintana, who will make his postseason debut. Quintana, who was acquired from the crosstown White Sox in a midseason trade, will face the Nationals for the first time in his career.

Despite Quintana's lack of playoff experience, Maddon points to performances Quintana made late in the regular season when the Cubs were still in a fight for a Central Division title. Like Scherzer, Quintana will take the mound looking to give his team an edge in the series.

Quintana said he feels no pressure.

"I (will) just go try and get focused, pitch by pitch (and) control my emotions every time," Quintana said. "I think that's the huge part for me -- especially when it's my first time here."

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE