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After shaky 1st inning, Zimmermann cruises

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After shaky 1st inning, Zimmermann cruises

Two batters into Wednesday night's game, Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals were down a run, a pair of Yankees having already connected for base hits. Four batters in, and the score was 2-0, as the crowd of 37,648 — at least, the portion of it that wasn't still making its way into the park — began to murmur.

Zimmermann was murmuring to himself, as well, as he stood on the mound during that potentially disastrous first frame of the night.

"I told myself: 'Gotta hold them here. We're going to score runs,'" the right-hander said later. "And I was able to do that."

Indeed, Zimmermann's ability to shut the Yankees out for the next six innings played a key role in what eventually became a 3-2 Nationals victory and a 2-game series sweep of their vaunted opponents.

Zimmermann hasn't always looked like his usual self this season, so the first-inning jam perhaps left some worried about what was to come. Neither he nor anyone in the Nats dugout, though, was concerned after Brett Gardner singled to right and Carlos Beltran doubled to right-center to open the game.

"Jordan was really good, on the corners down in the zone," said manager Matt Williams, who watched much of the game on a clubhouse TV after getting ejected in the third inning along with Bryce Harper. "Gardner got a bloop hit, and then the double. They did a good job of moving him over to third and scoring the second one. But from then on, he was really good."

Zimmermann's explanation for the brief early struggle: Not enough variety in his pitch selection.

"First inning was just ... they were on the fastball, and I just left a few over the middle," he said. "I like to try and go a few innings with just the fastball, but I had to break everything out right away after the first."

Once he began turning to his curveball and slider, especially early in the count, Zimmermann cruised. He needed only 41 pitches to complete his next four innings, leaving him with plenty of gas in the tank for the latter stages of the game. He wound up throwing 88 total pitches over his seven innings, allowing just three singles and a walk from the second through the seventh.

"I just told myself: 'You have to start mixing it up and you can't throw first-pitch fastballs to all these guys,'" he said. "They're all good fastball hitters. I started throwing the curve and the slider and got them off-balance and was able to go seven."

And thanks to his teammates' late rally, Zimmermann was rewarded with a win, his fourth in a season that on the surface has appeared a bit inconsistent but actually has been quite impressive with one exception.

Throw out his disastrous start in Boston on April 13 — he was tagged by the Red Sox for seven earned runs in only 2 1/3 innings — and Zimmermann is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 3.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio that isn't far off from his career mark.

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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