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Aggressive baserunning pays off for Nats against Braves

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Aggressive baserunning pays off for Nats against Braves

When Dusty Baker took over as the new manager of the Nationals, he made it clear he wanted to play more aggressive on the basepaths. He said it in his introductory press conference and his hiring of first base coach Davey Lopes further demonstrated those intentions.

You bring in Davey for one main reason. He's known as one of the best in the business at coaching baserunners.

A 16-year MLB veteran with 557 steals as a player, who twice led the league in the category, Lopes likes to use speed when he can to put pressure on opposing pitchers. That idea was on full display in Monday's 6-4 win over the Braves.

The Nats stole three bases in the bottom of the first, matching a team record for a single inning. Another steal in the eighth inning gave them four, which is the most they've had in a game since Sept. of 2014. The Nats are now 6-for-6 on steals overall this season.

Baker feels his decision to hire Lopes is already paying off.

"There's something you can take advantage of off everybody, and Davey Lopes is the best at picking that up. He's the best," Baker said. "Davey sees things very few people see, that the young players, young as they are, I mean Davey's been around a long time, and he was one of the best at his craft when he was playing. So coaching does come into play."

The three first inning steals began with Michael Taylor swiping second after reaching on a leadoff single. Bryce Harper then walked two batters later and both runners were then sent on a double steal against Braves starter Bud Norris. Getting Taylor to third resulted in the Nats' first run of the game, as Ryan Zimmerman cut a sac fly to center field.

"It depends on the situation, it depends on what Davey sees, it depends on the score, it depends on how the guys behind him are swinging," Baker explained. "That old Temptations song 'run away child, run away.' You don't just run, just to be running. You run to advance a base or you run to make it into scoring position to make it easier to score."

Harper also had the eighth-inning steal and now has three total on three attempts this season. He's already halfway to the six steals he had in 10 attempts in 2015. Harper said this winter he wanted to steal more and so far he's getting his wish.

"Bryce said that's what he wanted to do, and he said he was glad Davey was coming in so he could learn from Davey," Baker said.

It wasn't just steals, though, where the Nats saw aggression on the basepaths pay off. In the fifth inning Zimmerman made a heads up play to move from second to third. Jayson Werth popped out to first baseman Freddie Freeman in foul territory, allowing Zimmerman to advance on a close play. Wilson Ramos then drove him in for the go-ahead run.

"I think it’s a good thing that Zim took advantage of 90 feet right there," second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "Ninety feet is always a big deal, and I think Zim did a great job. It’s easy to stay at second right there, because it’s the second out and you feel like a base hit will score you. But if he doesn’t do that, we don’t get that run and we don’t go ahead there.”

Aggressive baserunning can be risky and the Nats may see the other side of the coin at some point this season. But on Monday they used it perfectly to their advantage and showed what taking a few chances can do if executed properly.

[RELATED: Ramos stars in Nats' win over Braves at the plate and behind it]

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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